Darryl McEwen

{standaloneHead}Darryl McEwen{/standaloneHead}

We’ve all heard them — or maybe even said them ourselves:

“Slot machines adjust themselves based on how many times players win or lose.”

“Casinos remotely change how games pay out while you’re playing them.”

Olaf Vancura, vice president of game development for IGT, claims emphatically that slot machines don’t — and can’t — keep track of wins and losses and then adjust themselves.

“In the United States, this is illegal,” Vancura says. “Each win is a separate event.”

As to those special rooms that overlook the casino floor: yes, in some cases, a portion of the inner workings of a slot machine is handled on a central server. In most cases, though, the workings of the game are determined by a computer in the slot machine itself.

However, in no case can casinos change the workings of a slot machine by flipping a switch in some secret location within the casino.

“There’s all sorts of lore out there,” says Steve Walther, a senior director at Konami Gaming. “If you push buttons in a certain combination, if you pull your players card for a couple spins, if you pull the handle — assuming there is one — periodically ... and the big one is that there is a magical control center that can update games at a touch of a button.”

Vancura concurs.

“Some people believe a slot director off in a room somewhere is sitting at a computer and can change the machine right out from under you,” he says. “So if you are playing a ‘good’ machine, someone can ‘tighten it’ and you will run into a cold streak.”

This also is prohibited by state gaming regulations.

“It’s not possible for the casino to pull the rug out from under you,” he adds.

One of the biggest myths concerning slots is why there is any mystery about them at all. After all, game play is determined by math and the business rules are governed by strict gaming regulations. But the uncertainty about how slots and other games work may be one reason why they have been so successful.

“We don’t always want to dispel all the myths because there’s a mystique around gambling,” Walther says. “The machine can’t be controlled from any external source, but the player has to approach the machine at just the right time and push the button at just the right time. So there’s got to be a bit of luck involved in that, and that is all controlled by the player.”

Recreational gambler Darryl D. McEwen, a former professional journalist, is president of his own consulting firm that manages several small national and international trade associations, and provides public relations and fundraising services for a number of charitable organizations. Have a comment on this or a question specifically related to an Atlantic City casino, players club or other promotion? Email Darryl at MrACCasino@gmail.com and he’ll try to respond to you personally. Your question — without your name — may appear in a future column.