Data from 16 states across the country has been analysed and it is reported that the slot hold percentage - the amount casinos hold on to as profits rather than pay back - has increased in 12 of those states. The association’s executive director, Marcus Prater, says it is an important issue for casinos to consider, telling the Ohio-based Toledo Blade: “There’s many, many variables. They vary by market and all sorts of different things, but slot hold clearly is one of the things that impacts the players directly at the machines.”
Ohio was one of the four states where payout percentage actually went up, although Prater is not sure whether that is just because the gaming market is still fairly new to the state. Ohio law dictates that casinos must pay out at least 85% of slot wagers they take and in 2014 the state’s four venues are reported by the Ohio Casino Control Commission to have actually paid back 91.6%.
A key factor behind the overall decline across the US may be that slot machines have become more costly due to the continuous development of sophisticated software and expensive graphics, leading casinos to hold on to more of the profits. Alan Silver, a casino expert and assistant professor at Ohio University, said: “Higher costs are passed on [to] the consumer, and the consumer in this situation is the player.”
Casinos in Toledo and Columbus are operated by Penn National Gaming Inc., and Bob Tenenbaum, a spokesman for the the group, insists that slot players will not only consider payout percentage when deciding where to go. He said: “Some people think that’s the only factor in where people go. We think the kind of atmosphere and the amenities you offer are also an important factor. It’s a question of balancing business versus competitive considerations.”
The casino industry has not been growing as quickly as officials would like over the past few years as the economy has bounced back, and it will be fascinating to see whether the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers’ findings into declining slot payouts are taken on board.