Introduction to Las Vegas Visit
In June of 2019, 3.6 million people visited Las Vegas. Perhaps you were one of them? Or maybe you’ve yet to have your first Las Vegas visit. Whether you’re a frequent traveler to Las Vegas or a newbie, you want to be better prepared at playing slots in Las Vegas.
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1. Nevada Payout Return Limits
Nevada state gaming regulation #14 places a minimum legal limit on payout returns for slot machines. This minimum payout limit is 75%. Further, this lower limit applies per wager.
“All gaming devices must: Theoretically pay out a mathematically demonstrable percentage of all amounts wagered, which must not be less than 75 percent for each wager available for play on the device.”Regulation 14.040: Minimum standards for gaming devices
What does this 75% minimum mean? Does it mean the player gets back 75 cents if they make a $1 bet on a slot machine? No, it doesn’t.
What it means is that the statistical average is at least a 75% return over many, many bets. The additional use of the words “per wager” in Regulation 14 means the slot machine must never be set less than an average 75% return.
For example, an unscrupulous casino operator might set a slot machine to have a 70% return for some time, then later set the payout return to 80% for an equal number of bets. Such a setup would also result in an average 75% return over both periods combined but wouldn’t meet Nevada’s legal requirement.
Another close examination of the regulation shows something missing, which is well worth noting. What’s missing? There’s no mention of a maximum legal limit, which some states have put in place.
Without an upper legal limit on payout returns, casino operators in Nevada can offer the occasional slot machine which, on average, wins. Of course, casinos would lose money on slot machines set up this way. But there are still good business reasons to do so.
I go over these reasons in How to Win at Slots in Older Casinos Built Before 2012. Suffice to say now, Nevada gaming regulations make doing so legal. Two questions naturally follow:
- Do Las Vegas casinos set up the occasional slot machine to be winners?
- How can a slots player find these winning slot machines?
The answer to the first question is yes. Casinos often decide to set up an occasional slot machine to win for promotional purposes. It’s a silent casino promotion because casinos choose to do this on slot machines situated to be easily visible to passersby.
It’s also worth noting that, like any business activity, it’s on a careful budget. Casinos can’t afford to do this often because, like everyone else, they are on a budget. But they do it. I know because I’ve found them before.
Later in this post, I’ll share some recent experiences from my fan base regarding candidate winning slot machines in Las Vegas for your consideration. But knowing they exist, and why they exist, is a necessary first step to finding them.
2. Know Your Nevada Gaming Stats
The Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission regulate the gaming industry in Las Vegas. This state gaming commission’s website is both thorough and comprehensive. The site offers several useful resources, but let’s consider the other side of payout returns: Actual payout statistics.
Legal limits and reported statistics are like the difference between a plan of attack and an actual battle. Remember the adage, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Or, in more normal circumstances, having a budget isn’t the same as paying bills.
In terms of slots gameplay, we know that Nevada gaming regulations have set a minimum payout return limit of 75% per wager on their gaming machines. That’s the law. But what happened? How did it work out in the real world?
Some states, including Nevada, do more than define a theoretical payout return limit. Nevada provides comprehensive payout return statistics. Each year, I review these actual statistics in Nevada Slot Machine Casino Gambling.
Rather than repeat myself fully, I’ll point you toward the Payout Returns in Nevada section of the Nevada post just mentioned. For now, I’ll say Nevada provides actual payout return statistics by:
- State region, including Downtown Las Vegas versus the Strip
- Slot machine denomination, including most common amounts but also multi-denomination, Megabucks, and other
- Duration, including the current month, last 3 months, and last 12 months
- Casino revenue range, including all casinos, over $1B, $1B to $12B, etc.
While past statistics never predict future behavior, a truism from the study of statistics, we can look at the available actuals to see if we can spot business trends.
Maybe, just perhaps, we can find a slot machine denomination with the best odds of winning last week. And perhaps they still have high odds this week.
Why? Because, in general, casinos are businesses as described and slots aren’t table card games. The odds of winning at table card games can’t change unless someone cheats or the game rules change.
Slot machines are electronic devices. Yes, they have random number generators – but RNGs are adjustable as a tool by the casino operator trying to control their financial performance metrics finely.
3. Check the Most Recent Payout Return Statistics
Before your next trip to Las Vegas to play slot machines, visit the Nevada Gaming Commission’s website. Under Statistics & Publications, you’ll find an entry for Gaming Revenue Report with PDF files available for download.
At the time of this writing, the most recently available monthly gaming revenue report from Nevada is for June 2019. These reports include the gaming statistics for slot machines, table games, and sports betting. Further, the left-most columns are for the most recent month with the remaining columns for a combined three months and twelve months.
Page 1 is a state-wide summary. Since we are discussing a Las Vegas visit, we need to find two specific state regions in the report: Downtown Las Vegas and Las Vegas Strip. Both are situated in Clark County.
The gaming revenue statistics for downtown Las Vegas begins on page 8:
- Page 8: All downtown Las Vegas casinos combined
- Page 9: Downtown Las Vegas casinos with over $1 million in gaming revenue
- Page 10: Downtown Las Vegas casinos with $1 million to $12 million in gaming revenue (none currently exist)
- Page 11: Downtown Las Vegas casinos with over $12 million in gaming revenue
The gaming revenue statistics for the Las Vegas Strip are on pages 12 through 17:
- Page 12: All Las Vegas Strip Area casinos
- Page 13: Las Vegas Strip casinos with over $1 million in gaming revenue
- Page 14: Las Vegas Strip casinos with $1 million to $12 million in gaming revenue (none currently exist)
- Page 15: Las Vegas Strip casinos with $12 million to $36 million in gaming revenue
- Page 16: Las Vegas Strip casinos with $36 million to $72 million in gaming revenue
- Page 17: Las Vegas Strip casinos with over $72 million in gaming revenue
Since the format is common on all these pages, let’s review how to read and understand one of them: Page 8 – All Downtown Las Vegas Area casinos combined. The current month columns are:
- Number of Locations
- Number of Units
- Win Amount in 1000s of dollars
- Percent Change from the last month
- Win Percent
Note that Nevada reports the Win Percent for the casino, not the player. In most other states, this percentage is the casino hold percentage or Hold%. Subtracting it from 100% provides the percentage of winnings retained by the player. Further, negative numbers are in parenthesis.
The lowest casino Win Percent, i.e., highest player return, in June 2019 was the $25 denomination slot machine with a negative 7.57 Win%. There were nine of these slot machines at three locations with an overall monthly player return of 107.57%
Why so high? Quite likely, someone won big on one of these $25 denomination slot machines. That big jackpot pushed up the overall monthly average on all nine machines with this denomination in the downtown area.
Looking on the same line under the 3-month entry, it was 100% minus 4.77% equals 95.23%. The 12-month average was even smaller, at 92.44%. This abrupt change indicates playing $25 denomination in downtown Las Vegas is not the advantage it might otherwise appear.
Otherwise, slot machine denominations with the highest-to-lowest player returns for June 2019 in all casinos in the downtown Las Vegas area were:
- Multi-denomination: 100% minus 5.44% equals 94.56% return to the player
- 25-cent quarter slots: 100% minus 5.49% equals 94.51% return to the player
- 1-dollar slots: 100% minus 5.59% equals 94.41% return to the player
- 5-cent nickel slots: 100% minus 5.75% equals 94.25% return to the player
- 5-dollar slots: 100% minus 7.49% equals 92.51% return to the player
- 1-cent penny slots: 100% minus 11.03% equals 88.97% return to the player
- Megabucks: 100% minus 14.02% equals 85.98% return to the player
I understand that this is a lot of statistics. But consider what we learned even with this simple research of statistics from downtown Las Vegas casinos for June 2019:
- The worst payout returns are on Megabucks
- The second-lowest payout return is from penny slots
- The third-lowest payout return is from $5 and $25 slot machines
- The best returns, all very similar, are nickel slots, dollar slots, quarter slots, and multi-denominational slot machines
A further detailed analysis would be to perform the same straightforward payout return study on downtown Las Vegas casinos separated into three ranges of gaming revenue.
I’ll save this further analysis for another time. We’d need to run down the monthly gaming revenue for each casino, likely from their casino operator’s financial reports filed with the Security Exchange Commission.
4. The Many Wonderful Las Vegas Gambling Podcasts
So far, I’ve talked about gaming regulations and gaming revenue reports available from the state of Nevada. These topics were based on official information from the government. But that’s not everything we have. There are also people like you.
More specifically, there are people like you that have enjoyed Las Vegas so much that they started a podcast about it. There are more than a few such Las Vegas gambling podcasts. In preparation for your next Las Vegas visit, start listening to them to learn a lot of tips and tricks from these Las Vegas experts.
Each show is more-or-less available anywhere you find podcasts. Some shows are former or current radio shows which distribute as a podcast so, again, look for them wherever you find podcasts.
If you’ve never listened to a podcast before, you might wonder how to start doing so. Here’s how. There are a selection of podcast apps and services on this webpage. It’s on the right side if you’re at a computer or at the end if you’re on a mobile device.
Those linked images go to my podcast show at those sites. After subscribing to my show, of course, use their search tool to find any of the following podcast show names:
- Five Hundy by Midnight
- Vegas Never Sleeps
- 360 Vegas
- You Can Bet on That
- Gambling with an Edge
- Vegas Confessions Podcast
- Vital Vegas
The longest-running Las Vegas gambling podcast is Five Hundy by Midnight: The Original Las Vegas Podcast. They’ve been at it since January of 2005 providing weekly episodes since then. At the time of this writing, they are up to episode #702. The hosts are relatively focused on Las Vegas news stories.
Vegas Never Sleeps by Steven Maggi is a former radio show now distributed as a podcast. He’s been broadcasting since 2008. His show is mostly thoughtful interviews with various Las Vegas entertainers and others. I was one of those other interviewees in March of 2018.
360 Vegas is a popular podcast about all things Las Vegas. They also host an annual meetup called 360 Vegas Vacation. The 2019 event, Twitter hashtag #360VV9, is on September 1-3, 2019. At the time of this writing, it’s still about a month away.
Gambling Podcast: You Can Bet on That, a podcast for the recreational gambler, is hosted by Mark and Dr. Mike. They have great chemistry and produce a fun and friendly show. While they are physically located in San Diego, they are so near Las Vegas and visit so often that they often talk about it.
Gambling with an Edge is a weekly live radio show in Las Vegas found afterward as podcast episodes. It’s hosted by Bob Dancer and Richard Munchkin of video poker fame. They interview professional gamblers, authors, and casinos insiders.
Vegas Confessions Podcast is all about the casino and gambling lifestyle. The three hosts are often in Las Vegas. They cover Las Vegas topics as well as gambling superstitions, casino games, food reviews, trip reports, and more.
Last but certainly not least is Vital Vegas by Scott Roeben. His blog, twitter feed, and podcast are incredible. He loves Las Vegas. Here you’ll find essential Las Vegas news, tips, deals, and (as he says) WTF. In my opinion, out of all the Las Vegas podcasts I mention here, pick Vital Vegas. You won’t regret it.
None of these podcasts have paid me to promote them in this blog. I like to listen to them and thought you might find them useful in preparing for your Las Vegas visit.
I should further note that this is not a comprehensive list of Las Vegas podcasts. For instance, I haven’t yet listened to the Faces and Aces Las Vegas podcast. Again, the podcasts listed are merely those I have discovered and enjoyed over time.
5. Downtown Versus the Strip
Las Vegas is famous for the Strip with its world-famous mega-resorts, shops, five-star dining options, and entertainment venues. But there is also the smaller and lesser-known historic downtown Las Vegas with its venerable casinos, museums, and zip line.
Comparing the Strip to Downtown is like comparing apples and oranges. Each location is a unique experience with different options. At a high level, I could perhaps best describe Downtown as where many locals go while the Strip is where out-of-towners tend to be.
How do I know this? Because of reported gaming revenue for the two areas. For 2018, the Las Vegas Strip had $6.6 billion in annual gaming revenue. Also for 2018, Downtown Las Vegas had less than 10% of that annual gaming revenue or $650 million.
The Strip has big casinos, big acts, and big everything else. Again, it’s world-famous and hardly a secret. Downtown Las Vegas is known as Old Vegas or merely Fremont Street. For many visitors, Old Vegas is the secret worth sharing.
Old Vegas is more than one secret. It is perhaps as many as 15 secrets, all by itself. In advance of your Las Vegas visit, consider reviewing this post from The Crazy Tourist, 15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Las Vegas.
If you are staying on or slightly off the Las Vegas Strip but want to visit downtown Las Vegas or vice versa, how do you get there? How far apart are they?
Downtown and the Strip are about two to five miles apart. With light traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, it takes 15 to 20 minutes to drive from mid-Strip to the Fremont Street Experience. This time applies to driving your car, or taking a rental, including finding a spot to park.
Otherwise, there’s taking the bus, walking, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, and taking a taxi. It’s a two-mile walk from the Stratosphere on the north end of the Strip.
6. When to Visit and When Not to Visit
Whether you visit the Las Vegas Strip, downtown Las Vegas, or both, winning at slots in Las Vegas means considering when to visit. This question has to do with the number of visitors in Las Vegas at any given time.
In 2018, over 42 million people visited Las Vegas. In June of 2019, 3.9 million people visited according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. Only 514,000 visitors, about 13% of the monthly visitors, were visiting in June to attend a conference.
Per month, most visitors are in March at less than 3.8 million while the least visitors were in February at 3.2 million individuals. Conference attendance is meager during December.
What I’m trying to do here by digging into these statistics isn’t to examine the number of visitors in a month or a year in the city of Las Vegas. What I’m trying to dig into relates to experiences my fanbase has been having when visiting Las Vegas.
What happens to them? Whether they are on the Strip or Downtown, they have been reporting that they win at slots on weekdays and lose playing slots on weekends.
Why? I can explain why, and touched on why above, but it hardly matters. This pattern exists, whatever its cause. And I want that you should know about it when planning your Las Vegas visit.
I touched on why this is above, about casinos being a business with fine control over their payout return statistics for slots. This control is now daily due to technological advances in casino operating systems. At most modern casinos, central computers control slot machine odds of winning.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, casino operators have been seeing an unprecedented number of casino visitors. To manage such large groups, casino operators needed to automate their casinos. Doing so allowed them to reduce their workforce while also providing them the ability to achieve their daily financial performance metrics.
Both changes resulted in significantly reduced operating costs. However, automation means casinos can quickly adjust the odds of winning on all their slot machines. When would they need to do this?
It’s a business decision. Casino operators universally decrease the odds of winning on slots machines during the weekends when hotels have higher occupancy. To keep some balance, they’ll also increase the odds of winning on slots during weekdays.
Nevada gaming regulations require a monthly revenue report from each casino. That’s a monthly report. Even if it was a weekly report, this difference in weekday and weekend payout returns is unnoticeable.
Both a weekly and monthly report shows the payout return average over their respective periods. Only a daily report would show the casino’s behavior of changing slot machine odds within a week.
But the Nevada gaming regulations don’t show daily gaming revenue reports. No state does. So, casino operators can do this without breaking any laws.
Based on experiences shared by my audience, there are lower odds of winning on slot machines starting by 10 a.m. on Friday through around sunrise on Monday morning. Further, the same reduction occurs on significant holidays or whenever Las Vegas has more extensive than usual crowds of visitors.
Please plan your Las Vegas visit accordingly, especially when choosing which day or days you plan on playing slot machines while there. In general, if there’s a crowd then be very cautious about risking your bankroll.
7. Candidate Winning Slot Machines in Las Vegas
Scott Roeben first mentioned the best slot machine I know about in Las Vegas. He runs the Vital Vegas blog, Twitter feed, and podcast. This slot machine is in Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas over by the cashier’s cage.
Scott posted a photo of this “Old Faithful” slot machine on Twitter along with its general area within the casino. It’s a 2-credit, $5 denomination Progressive Wheel of Fortune machine.
Being a $5 denomination slot machine, it’s high limit. I don’t recommend playing high-limit slots unless you can afford the relatively large bankroll required to make 100 to 120 bets of $10 each. Don’t ever bet with any amount of money you can’t afford to lose.
Remember, winning by luck isn’t something with which I can help you or anyone else. Instead, winning because you have an excellent plan is something with which I can and do help.
Thanks for reading so far into this rather long post with so much statistics. You deserve a reward. And so here it is.
Less than two months ago, audience member James reported from the Four Queens Casino in downtown Las Vegas. Based on his experiences, they’ve set up their slot machines to provide a quick win or “taste” followed by no wins.
The advantage play to use in response to this casino setup is what I call my “Five Pull” approach. For slot machines there, make only five bets before moving to another slot machine. If you win anything at all, move on without making any remaining bets.
Optionally, if you can, try to play slot machines not played for at least a few minutes or longer. Of course, finding an idle slot machine isn’t possible on busy nights at the casino.
I explain this specific winning strategy in detail in my blog article Winning Strategy 1: Only Win Immediately.
Summary of Las Vegas Visit
In June of 2019, 3.6 million people visited Las Vegas. Next month, you might be one of them. Whether you’re a frequent traveler to Las Vegas or a newbie, this post helps you be better prepared for playing slots in Las Vegas.
Related Articles from Professor Slots
- Nevada Slot Machine Casino Gambling
- Five Ways Nevada Leads the World Gaming Industry
- Top Financial Benefits of Slot Machine Payout Returns
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