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A little information about server based slot system machines

August 23, 2011 3:08 AM by Brad Fredella

"Stay away from any server based slot system machines! These systems are put in place to lower your odds and steal your money!"

This quote was taken directly from a discussion board on the Internet. I would love to give credit to the person who posted it, however the comment was made anonymously and listed as untrustworthy by the site on which it was posted. I couldn’t agree more with the untrustworthy classification.

For those of you who haven’t heard of them before, server based slot systems are the latest and greatest thing being offered by slot manufacturers. These systems allow games to be downloaded to slot machine cabinets on the floor via a central computer server that runs the games.

Among other things, these server based systems allow the casino to offer more games and a greater variety of denominations on each machine. It takes a minimum of two people and about 20 minutes to change the game offerings or to tighten or loosen a paytable on a standard machine, but with server based technology these changes can be made almost immediately. It’s about as easy as flipping a switch for a casino to change the game, the denomination or even the payback percentage on a server based machine.

Scared yet? The person who made that post sure is, and so are many other players who are only partially informed about the chilling possibilities inherent in any centrally run computer system that can control things like machine payouts and percentages in real time. To make matters even more daunting, most people can’t tell a server based machine from a traditional one. They’re virtually identical to the untrained eye.

I agree that having someone lower your odds from a control room as you play would be like stealing, especially if you didn’t even know it was possible. There are two very big obstacles in the way of casinos using server based slot systems to "lower your odds and steal your money" though – paytables and gaming regulations.

Paytables protect video poker and keno players already because they can simply look at the paytable to see how loose or tight the machine is set. You see, just like in traditional video poker and keno, server based games must be completely random. The only thing a casino can adjust on any video poker or keno game to alter the payback percentage is the paytable. They cannot alter the randomness of the virtual cards or keno balls at all, no matter what any superstitious player might tell you.

If you play only a couple of different varieties of video poker or keno regularly, you’ll usually be able to tell with a quick glance if you’ll be getting paid less than usual on every full house or 5-out-of-6 hit, etc. before you even start playing. It’s tougher if casinos can switch in the middle of a play session though, because who wants to look at the paytable after every poker hand or keno draw? Still, if they changed the payback while you were playing, you’d be able to tell via the paytable if you did take the time to look at it after each hand.

Slot players wouldn’t be able to tell at all though, because paytables are far more complex in slots – too complex to compare in most circumstances. Also, things like the hit frequency of bonus rounds or the number of free spins granted during a hit can vary among different payback percentages on slots, not just the base paytables.

And that’s where gaming regulations come in. In Nevada, regulations dictate a server based machine must be idle for a minimum of four minutes before it can be altered. After four minutes of inactivity with no credits, it is assumed no players are physically playing the machine and the casino can change whatever they’d like. A message appears on the machine as its being changed, and it still takes a bit of time to finish the alterations.

Regulations in Nevada even prevent casinos from offering one player a better chance of winning than another, so server based machines can’t alter paytables based on whose player’s card is inserted for instance. In truth, casinos already play favoritism with better comps going to bigger players and through tiered slot club offerings, but they’re still prohibited from offering certain players better odds on machines than other gamblers regardless of what type of machines are in use.

You don’t have to be a server system expert (and I’m not) to know they would never be used to cheat players out of their money. Just use common sense. Not only would it be bad business to cheat players, gaming regulations make it illegal.

No casino would risk their gaming license to cheat players out of their money simply because it wouldn’t make financial sense to do so. The odds are always in the casinos’ favor anyway, making a gaming license tantamount to a money printing license. It’s not something you intentionally risk losing by cheating or ignoring regulations. Not only would it be unethical and illegal, it would be incredibly stupid. And if there’s one thing casinos aren’t, it’s stupid.

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