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Ask the Slot Expert: Broken bet buttons: maintenance issue or meant to be

24 April 2024

Question: In today's article (04/17/2024) about not all betting choices being available on a slot machine, my take is that the machine needs maintenance, like maybe some connections need cleaning or something like that.

The question was pretty sketchy. It didn't say "I go to this place often and the machine is like this" or just that he/she wanted to play a certain machine and ran into this problem, so we don't know if it is chronic or not.

I have often sat down at a machine where a button, usually the one for the amount I want to play, didn't work. My feeling was it needed repair but the casino hadn't been made aware of it and therefore did not shut it down until repairs could be done.

Certainly when a location has limited machines and repairs (or replacements) are done by an outside source, they either may not want to shut it down or may not be able to shut it down.

All things considered the casino should be told. Maybe they can or will take quick action. In any case, it doesn't seem illegal. As you said, as long as the results are legally determined by the RNG, it looks like a legal machine.

Answer: As I said last week, this was one of the questions where I wished the writer had given more details. Here is the entire letter, to refresh our memories.

We have slot machines that have 30-cent, 60-cent, 90-cent, $1.50 and $3.00 buttons but only the 60-cent and $3.00 buttons work. Is that machine legal?

Last week I wished for more details about where the machines were located (state, casino or bar). This week I wish that the writer had been clearer about how many machines were affected.

The first sentence says "machines" and then the question says "machine". I can hear my editor saying, "Which is it? One machine or multiple machines?"

I had the same thought as you when I first read the message. Probably just a maintenance issue. A spritz of contact cleaner or a quick replacement is all that is needed.

But the first sentence says that they have multiple machine where only two buttons work. One machine, maintenance. Multiple, deliberate.

Why don't I ask write back and ask for more details? I've done that and I've rarely received an answer. Even when someone asks for my help with a problem, they don't reply. Also, I think some people use burner email addresses that never check.

I agree with you almost 100% that the casino should be told if there is a problem on a machine. There may be no other way for them to know that there is a problem.

The only time I think twice about telling the casino about a problem is when the problem is on an old machine that I like to play and I can work around it. Let's say one of the Hold buttons is a little flaky on an older video poker machine with a good paytable. Rather than reporting it, I'll just be extra careful.

I used to like to play some old 3-coin max $5 machines. Normally, $5 video poker is not in my budget, but I would frequently play these machines when I hit deuces playing dollar NSU. After a couple of years of playing these machines, one of the Hold buttons on one of them was not always registering when I pressed it. I told one of my friends who worked the slot floor. He told me that they couldn't get replacement buttons for those machines anymore. It seemed strange that replacement buttons would no longer be available. The buttons looked just like the buttons on newer machines.

The machines were gone not long after I made my report. I know my report and their disappearance are not related. My friend said the machines had been on the replacement list for some time. Nevertheless, I don't want to give the casino a reason to remove or hasten the removal of a machine I want to play.

Let's take a moment to thank the buttons on our machines. Today I hit the Deal button on a video poker machine 1999 times (1000 hands; twice per hand; minus the first hand, on which I het to hit Bet Max). Worked perfectly every time.

How many times have players tapped, hit, or smashed these buttons and still they almost always work exactly as expected? We only notice them when they don't work.

Three cheers for the overlooked heroes of the slot machine!


If you would like to see more non-smoking areas on slot floors in Las Vegas, please sign my petition on change.org.


John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots