Revisiting the RTP Do higher

Theoretical hold percentages on slot machines risk chasing players away?

There was a time when the function of slot operations involved the same priorities as elsewhere in the casino: cater to gamblers by enticing them to gamble more.

For decades, it was a simple pricing formula:

Those willing to gamble the most money got the best overall return-to-player percentage, aka RTP, aka payback percentage.

Games with denominations of a dollar or more in two-coin and three-coin reel-spinners returned 95 percent or more to the players.

Those old-time slot managers knew that advertising a higher theoretical return was the same as advertising a fair gamble..

These were volatile games,

after all, and the thousands of players aiming for the big win more than compensated for the few who actually hit it.

Then came the pennies, and a new kind of math.

The recession that began in 2008 made this type of game math even more popular with operators.

Theoretical holds went up, RTP went down.

Frequent players felt the pinch in the way of less time on device.

The most vocal among those who answer “yes” to that question are slot professionals who have experience with both the old and new ways of doing things—people like

Charlie Lombardo, who started operating slot machines in the early 1970s and was senior vice president of slot operations for Caesars’ Strip properties and head of casino operations for Seminole Gaming before retiring to become a consultant.

Rising slot hold is one of the topics about which Lombardo has been most passionate in recent years.

As a panel member at the first session of the UNLV Gaming and Hospitality Education series last year,

he argued that too many of today’s slot operators are substituting profit for customer service when gouging players with high slot holds.

He has appeared in the audience of most other industry panels on the subject, to challenge the notion that players don’t notice.

The difference between a high-hold slot program and a low-hold or “loose” game.

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