John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. There's been a big change in video slots that really bothers me. You don't get to choose the number of paylines you play anymore. At least you can't on a lot of the games. They're set up so you have to play all the lines.

I like it when I can choose the number of lines, and I like to play just one line. I'll make the maximum bet for that one line.

To me, that's the most exciting way to play, all or nothing. I win a lot less often, but when I do win, I get several times my bet. There's none of this losing money on a "winning" spin. If a combination pays seven credits (per coin wagered) for a one-line win, why should I lose money by paying for 29 other paylines?

To me, that's more frustrating than winning less often but actually winning money every time the game does pay off.

A. It sounds to me like you should be playing three-reel, one-line slots. That's how they work, with nearly all wins worth multiple times your bet.

But from a casino perspective, allowing players to wager one payline presents a problem, especially since the rise in penny slots.

From the time video slots began to capture popularity in the late 1990s, most players wagered on all paylines, with only a few choosing to bet one line. At that time, the most common video slot denomination was 5 cents, so the smallest possible wager was a nickel.

Now the most common games are pennies, and the smallest possible wager would be 1 cent. Perhaps you bet the max on that one line, pushing your wager to 5, 10 or maybe even 20 cents, but penny-at-a-time play remains possible on some machines.

At very low levels, the casino take is small enough that it doesn't pay for electricity and upkeep. In addition to that, if you're playing a machine for such small amounts, it means the game isn't available to another player who would bet more.

That's a problem for casino operators, and slot manufacturers have responded with "forced bet" games. On a 40-line penny game, the casino knows it will be getting a bet of at least 40 cents per spin.

It seems likely that before long, all new slots will have forced minimum bets. I don't have a real problem with a casino refusing to accept a slot bet of less than 40 cents any more than I have a problem with a casino refusing to accept table bets of less than $5.

I do have qualms about terminology. It seems misleading to call a game with a 40-cent minimum a "penny" or "1-cent" game.

Q. With the Supreme Court legalizing sports wagering nationwide, the local newspaper said we might see betting terminals at pro sports stadiums. The pro sports leagues opposed legalization. How can they jump headlong into betting at the arenas?

A. Whoa .... slow down here.

The court did not legalize gambling nationwide. It ruled the federal government can't favor some states over others by preventing most states from legalizing an activity that is legal in other states.

The process of legalization remains with the states, and those that legalize will set up their own restrictions and policies.

The suggestion that there will be betting terminals at sports arenas is speculative. Will state regulations permit such stadium wagering? Will the sports leagues, teams and stadium authorities accept it in their facilities?

If you want to go speculative, I'd suggest that when legalized, most sports wagering will be done via phone apps, with betting terminals a smaller piece of the puzzle.

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