Tighter Slots
By Paul
The odds offered by slot machines on Iowa's riverboat casinos have been getting worse for players, but according to casino officials, it’s all a matter of players’ preferences for new, multi-coin machines.

Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission records show that riverboat casinos have tipped the odds in the favor by 7.7% since 1999, adding $62.3 million in revenue. That coincides with the addition of more multicoin slot machines, which give players the worst overall payout percentages, but allow them to bet as much or more than machines with better odds.

Predictably, Scott County riverboat casino representatives denied any conscious decision to make the odds worse for players, said.

Their explanation for the worse odds is player demand for new, multi-coin nickel slot machines, even though players are less likely to win.

``The players have voted with every pull on the arm or push of a button on nickel slots”, said Michael Hirsch, general manager of Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf.

The payout percentages for slot machines are controlled by computer chips inside the machine, which program the slots to release only a certain percentage of coins played as winnings. The rest are held back for the casino.

`For example, a machine with a 'hold' of 10% will, on average, return $90 of every $100 played to the player and keep $10 for the casino.

`That percentage has increased from 6.17% in 1999 to 6.65% in 2002.

Iowa's number of nickel slot machines has steadily increased by 152%, from 1,392 in 1999 to 3,503 in 2002.

However, on the flip side of the coin, online slots are getting looser as competition stiffens in the cyber-slot market. Will Iowa residence take this opportunity to play online despite the Department of Justice's recent opinion on online gaming? Only time will tell.

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