Slot machines (also referred to as fruit machines, poker machines and pokies) are gambling machines designed to create games of chance for their customers. Although seemingly simple in operation, slot machines actually involve sophisticated engineering that combines mathematical knowledge and psychological deceit – giving rise to many myths about them, with one popular belief being that increasing denomination will improve chances of winning.
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Justin Beltram of Treasure Island Casino here is leading an effort to radically revolutionize slot machines. From his small back office he can reprogram each of the 1,790 machines on the casino floor – changing denominations, payback percentages, game themes and much more at just the click of his computer mouse.
Before, tinkering with a slot machine required taking it off the gaming floor and opening its cabinet to replace its computer chip that powers its random number generator – an expensive and time-consuming task which casinos were reluctant to undertake without proper justification. Now however, rapid innovation in slots machine design means casinos no longer need to risk gambling on short odds by changing them quickly and often.
But intense competition among slot machine players has inspired some Las Vegas casinos to take more proactive steps. Over recent years, some have modified machine odds in order to increase revenues – about $7 billion per year is collected through slot machines in Nevada versus only about half as much from table games.
Many of these changes have been minor, such as increasing payout symbols in size or adapting the theme of games, while others have been more dramatic, like lowering maximum payout or increasing odds of hitting jackpots. Some casinos are even altering denominations of machines according to statistics released by Nevada Gaming Commission; yet some have raised eyebrows.