John Grochowski

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Readers have long memories, and when they falter, the Internet is there to refresh them.

At the very least, it seemed that way in early June when a reader emailed to remind me that way back in 2010, I’d written about mining the monthly revenue reports of state gaming boards and commissions to compare slot machine payback percentages at different casinos.

The reader is an Indiana player who said he couldn’t find the information in the state reports.

Different states release different details to the public. Nevada’s monthly reports break down returns by coin denominations, but not by individual casino. You can tell at a glance that in April, the casino win percentage on penny slots in downtown Las Vegas was 11.74 percent – an 88.26 percent payback – while on the Strip it was 11.79 percent for casinos and 88.21 percent for players.

New Jersey breaks down by casino, but not by coin denomination. The May report tells us the lowest casino win percentages were 8.4 percent at Harrah’s and 8.5 percent at Borgata – the state’s highest payback percentages at 91.6 percent and 91.5 percent respectively. But it does not tell us where penny slots paid the most or where dollar slots are king.

Illinois publishes one of the most detailed reports with breakdowns by casino AND coin denomination. Casino win percentages are listed for all casinos at all denominations. A glance tells us that in April, Par-A-Dice in East Peoria led the way with 89.35 percent payback on penny slots, Casino Queen in East St. Louis paid the most on quarters with 94.80 percent and Harrah’s in Joliet gave dollar players the highest return at 94.95 percent.

That brings us to Indiana and the reader’s original question. All the information is there to yield the same data Illinois provides, but you have to do a little arithmetic.

Coin in and casino win is listed for each casino at each coin denomination, but win percentages or payback percentages are not listed.

The report groups casinos into two regions – the five northern licensees on Lake Michigan, and six southern licensees on rivers.

Let’s use penny slots at the northern licensees as an example. Blue Chip in Michigan City in May had $71,339,213 wagered on its penny slots, and the casino win was $7,589,048. Divide the casino win by the wager total, then multiply by 100 to get to percent, and you’ll see the casino won 10.64 percent of the wagers. Subtract that from 100 percent, and the payback to players was 89.36 percent.

Other northern Indiana payback percentages were slightly lower – 88.60 percent at Majestic Star II and 88.39 percent at Majestic Star I in Gary, 88.11 percent at Ameristar in East Chicago and 88.09 percent at Horseshoe in Hammond.

Those interested in the full breakdown can use the same formula at each casino at each coin denomination.

A few notes on the reports:

**Most states post monthly reports online. Search for the state of your choice and monthly gaming revenue reports. For example, you might search for “New Jersey Gaming Commission monthly revenue report

**Figures are casinowide totals and averages. A casino that returns 89 percent on pennies can have machines that pay a few percent less and others that pay a few percent more.

**Payback percentages are by no means permanent. They change month to month, whether by random chance or by design with casinos changing the mix on their slot floors. Don’t take what you see in the reports as a hard and fast guide to what you’ll get now.

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