Are Slot Machines Rigged?

After a long dry spell on the reels, do you question the legitimacy of the games and the randomness of the spins? If so, rest assured that you’re not alone. Every casino goer probably had these doubts after a major losing streak, whether it was on slots, blackjack or baccarat. For as long as the gambling industry has existed, casinos have faced accusations of manipulating game results.

Slot machine-related skepticism is largely a result of not understanding how slots work. In this guide, we’ll shed some light on the matter and hopefully put an end to the age-old question “are casino slot machines rigged?”

How slot machines work

To start with, you set a wager and spin the reels, hoping that more of the same symbols land on successive reels and within a single payline — a predetermined pattern where the symbols should line up in sequence to form a winning combination.

Old slot machines had three mechanical reels with 10 symbols each. You needed to physically pull a lever attached to the slot to spin the reels. The reels will land on one of the stopping points after the kinetic energy that spun the reels has ended. The machines achieved the randomness mechanically.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, slot machines transitioned from mechanical to digital systems that used video screens to display moving images. Two hundred and fifty-six symbols (stops) can appear on the reels on a modern real money slot, which generates millions of possible combinations after each spin. Only a few of these combinations pay out.

A computer determines digital slots’ outcome. The reels are there just for show. The machine already determined your result when you pressed play. The spinning animation was just to increase the suspense and excitement.

Next, we’ll explore two parameters closely tied to the game’s core mechanics.

How slot machines make the casino money

The nature of all casino games, including slot machines, is to pay out less than what the player has wagered. Having this built-in advantage is the be-all and end-all of the casino industry — a guaranteed way for casinos to make money in the long run.

Does that mean the slots are rigged? Not really. It’s not illegal for casinos to pay out at lower odds than the odds of winning, and they are usually quite upfront about your winning chances.

Return-to-player percentage is the metric that expresses the estimated payback to players. This figure shows how much money people can expect to receive over a lengthy stretch of playing the game. For a slot with a 96% RTP, for instance, you could expect to receive around $96 for every $100 you wagered. The remaining $4 that the casino keeps represents the house edge. RTP and house edge are, therefore, two sides of the same coin.

Because it’s calculated over many spins, RTP is not a clear-cut predictor of what you’ll win at any given time. For example, Player A may get back $80 from the $100 he spent playing a slot, while Player B may win $120 from the same wagering amount while playing the same game.

How RNGs work

The random number generator is a program that ensures the randomness of every spin at a slot machine. This mathematical algorithm creates random sequences of numbers based on the “seed number,” which is the starting number that the system uses to create new numbers.

When you press the spin button on your slot machine, the random number generator selects the most recent number the machine generated, ranging from one to a few billion. The machine then translates that number into a sequence of numbers corresponding to the reel symbols, which then dictates whether a spin is a win or a loss.

It’s important to understand that the process of creating random numbers occurs separately from the slots. The RNG is in perpetual motion and performs its function even when the casino is out of use. That is how the outcomes of each spin remain truly random.

Psychology of slots

One of the reasons why slots are so enticing is their luck-based gameplay. They require little effort and concentration, and you do not have to worry about strategy or tactics when playing.

The element of randomness accounts for much of the appeal. In contrast to games of skill like poker, where you can somewhat predict how the hand will play out based on the cards, slots are unpredictable. Players will receive random prizes at random intervals, and this plays to two emotions that increase engagement — anticipation and uncertainty.

Paradoxically, the randomness factor can make the player feel as though the game is rigged. Those who consistently lose money and never receive a lucrative payout may be especially skeptical. But here’s the cold hard truth — casinos are not out to rip you off. Casinos don’t have to cheat to make a profit since the games are programmed to give them an edge over players. The odds are skewed so that a very few lucky players actually hit big payouts while the vast majority lose.

The near-miss effect in slots

Near misses in games of chance refer to losing situations that come close to being wins but miss the mark narrowly. In real money online slots, for example, landing four of the same symbols on a five-reel slot but coming up just short of a massive payout triggers the near-miss effect.

This cognitive distortion can be deceptive and urge the player to continue gambling based on the belief that a big win is just around the corner. It can also be one of the major triggers for problem gambling.

Slot player superstitions

Here we’ll debunk some of the most common myths about slots now that you are familiar with their inner workings:

  • Hot and cold slots: As we discussed earlier, RNGs operate in unpredictable patterns. A spin is not linked to the previous or subsequent ones. You may have 20 straight spins without a win, and then you could win big for ten consecutive spins — it’s all random.
  • Slots pay after a long dry spell: Some players mistakenly assume the slot machine will hit after several winless spins or go on a cold streak after a big payout. This links to the gambler’s fallacy — the irrational belief that past events will not repeat themselves in the future.
  • Loose slots: This also stems from the notion that a slot will be loose just because it hasn’t paid out for a long time. Wrong, again.

Regulations for slots

In each state with legal casino gambling, a regulatory agency is responsible for licensing and monitoring the providers.

In most states, gambling regulatory bodies require their licensees to transparently publish the payback percentage of their slot machines. Additionally, gambling jurisdictions often impose higher and lower limits on slots’ RTPs, and casinos have to comply with these requirements to maintain their licenses. Casinos that adjust RTPs without notifying state regulators can face severe f
ines. In most markets, online casinos follow the same rules.

Third-party audits

Most gambling brands submit to third-party audits, which verify that the games on their platform are indeed fair. Essentially, these organizations test the RNG’s authenticity and whether it is working properly. The process entails game and mathematical evaluations and payout assessments of all casino games, including slots.

Best regulated casinos for slot machines

If you’re on the lookout for great casino sites with slots, you should consider Caesars Casino, BetMGM Casino and DraftKings Casino. All of these brands have a diverse slot portfolio with hundreds of titles (depending on the state) from elite software providers such as NetEnt, IGT and SG. Demo versions of the games are available, so you can test the slot you’d like to play before committing for real cash.

Slot machine FAQ

Can slot machines be hacked in any way?

Someone could hack any machine or program in theory, and slots are no different. If someone had a particular set of skills and somehow gained access to the machine’s source code, that person would be able to hack a slot machine.

Are some slots looser than others?

Yes, in the sense that they have a higher return-to-player ratio than most other slots.

What are the highest RTP slots online?

Slots like Bloodsuckers, Rainbow Riches, Pick ’n’ Mix and Mega Joker all have over 98% RTPs.

Are there any tips for winning more at slots?

Proper bankroll management, claiming big casino bonuses, picking high-pwinaying slots and playing the game in demo mode beforehand can all be advantageous, but remember — slots are random, so there’s no slots strategy that will increase your chances above and beyond a particular slot’s RTP.