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Ask the Slot Expert: My account was suspended for sharing free play

19 August 2020

Question: I hope you can help me out. I won $100 slot play at a locals casino in Las Vegas, NV. I used some at the time of winning it. Later that night, I returned with my roommate, and I downloaded some of my slot play to him. Then I took my players card out and he was able to play on what I had given him.

The next day I returned to the casino to play and was informed that my account had been suspended because it was not allowed by gaming.

Is this true?

Answer: I don't think so.

It's sometimes difficult to determine what Nevada's regulations are for an issue. There is the regulation document itself (well, 30 of them actually) and there are technical notices that explain, expand upon, implement, and maybe even supercede the regulation.

Terminology is another barrier. Players may call what you won free play. The regulations however may refer to it as promotional credits or non-cashable credits.

I've read most of the gaming statutes and regulations on the Nevada Gaming Control Board's website. The document Internal Control Procedures: Slots has a section that deals with Player Tracking Systems. The procedures listed deal with maintaining the integrity of the system by controlling who has access to it and who can make changes to player accounts and who can make changes to system parameters (e.g., dollars per point). The procedures also deal with ensuring that events such as adding the free play that you won to your account are authorized and documented. Other documents deal with how free play should be tracked and reported.

The regulators are concerned with ensuring that all the points and free play added to an account are appropriate and not the result of a rogue slot club rep giving points and free play to his friends and splitting the winnings. The regulators are also concerned with ensuring that players are awarded the points and free play that they've earned. Once it's on your account, they step back and let the casinos place restrictions on the accounts. They let casinos handle the marketing decisions.

Some casinos let couples have a joint account, some don't. Some look the other way when couples (or even friends) play on the same account, some don't.

Different slot club systems take different actions when you pull your card with non-cashable credits still on the meter. One system deducts the non-cashable credits from your meter and puts them back on your account. In your case, it looks like the credits stayed on the meter -- but if it's the system I think it is, I could have sworn that non-cashable credits reverted to your account when you pulled your card in the past.

One other system never adds the free play to your credit meter but treats free play as a rebate. You activate it, but the system only adds it to your meter after you've made a bet and the amount added is equivalent to your bet. With this system, all credits on your meter are cashable. You can pull your card at anytime and you can activate your remaining free play on another machine.

I'm surprised that the casino would take such draconian measures for a transgression under $100 (you had already used some of the free play). Don'tcha think a warning would have been more appropriate? "We gave the free play to you. No re-gifting."

You have three options. One, never go back to that casino.

Two, play dumb. You go back and your card still does not work. Go to the booth, tell them your card doesn't work, ask if they can help.

And three, throw yourself on the mercy of the court. You go back and your card still does not work. Go to the booth, tell them that you made a mistake sharing your free play with a friend, you didn't know you were doing something wrong, ask if they can please reactivate your account.

I lean towards option three. I've had a few problems with slot club marketing in the past. ("You know how to work the system and you worked it too well.") I'd be surprised if there isn't a notes field associated with each account so reps can share information about an account holder. One time a rep spent what seemed like an eternity looking at the screen after pulling up my account. I know she was reading something because her eyes were going back and forth and she was tilting her head to keep the line she was looking at in the reading section of her bifocals.

I assume there is a note on your account and it says why your account was suspended and that the reason was explained to you. Might as well fess up right from the get go.

On the other hand, when I had a similar problem, a couple of friends who have been working slot clubs for decades recommended option two. I would add, don't lie. Don't say you don't know why your account was suspended and don't say you do know why. Just ask for help. If they explain your sin to you again, switch to option three and ask for forgiveness.

Question: I work in the space industry (and have done so for over 4 decades, most of that time directly for NASA), so my reaction to the SpaceX astronaut suits is somewhat informed... and somewhat bemused. The SpaceX suits are certainly more "stylish" than the older suits worn by astronauts in the Shuttle era (when I first started working), but as far as I'm concerned as long as they are functional, easy to get in and out of in Zero-G, and offer the necessary protection from the space environment, I don't care what they look like. Fourth grade Halloween costumes? Man, I wish that the costumes available to me in the 4th grade looked that good! ;-)

The real reason for my note is an update on casino conditions here in Colorado (in the Black Hawk - Central City, metro-Denver market). The casinos are still for the most part doing everything they can to remain compliant with the rules for opening, including enforcing mask wearing, but some properties have become a little lax on enforcement relative to what things were in the first couple of weeks after reopening. Case in point - in one of the smaller Black Hawk venues a regular high roller (I've seen him there often, and I've seen some of his bets - wish I had that kind of disposable income!) enjoys personally flaunting his interpretation of the mask rule. He's got one on, but as soon as he thinks nobody on security staff is watching, it gets pulled down around his neck. Recently a floor person did approach him, talked with him about it for a bit, and he pulled up the mask to cover his mouth (not his nose) while the employee was within sight, and then he promptly pulled the mask down again. Unlike my experience several weeks ago with the belligerent guy at the bar (at another property), this guy was allowed to continue to play. Guess the interpretation of that staff member was that short term revenue for the casino was more important than the risk of a Div of Gaming inspector noticing the flagrant rule violation. I admit that I left that property shortly thereafter and haven't been back to that casino since.

We don't yet have bars and bartops completely closed at the casinos here in Colorado as you now do in Nevada, but our governor has instituted a 10 PM Last Call rule applicable to bars state-wide, which means that all the casino bars stop serving right at 10. That has clearly cut into bar-based revenue, whether drink sales or video poker revenue (and overall casino attendance is also suffering with the implementation of the new rule), so I have to say that I feel bad for both the business operators and the bar employees - nobody's really making anywhere near the money relative to "normal" in any of the venues in Colorado. I don't know if they're operating at a real loss, but it has to be close and all the servers and bartenders that we know personally are suffering greatly - you can't pay your bills on the income you get from a 3-4 day work week, with tip revenues down by more than 75%. I guess that it beats unemployment, but not by much.

Answer: I've seen a few programs on the history of spacesuit design. This is one area where function always trumps form.

My parents were in Germany, on a train, when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. My mother was concerned that she didn't use the polite form of address when attempting to speak to the conductor in German. According to what she overheard the conductor say to some German passengers, he was concerned that the Americans can land on the moon but "we can't run this train on time."

There's an apocryphal story about Jack Nicholson smoking in a golf pro shop. The clerk asks him to put out his cigarette and Nicholson just ignores him. Maybe the clerk says he can lose his job. Jack continues to puff away. Nicholson may be a great actor, but he's not exempt from the no-smoking rules. Some people think the rules don't apply to them.

I tried to verify this story by searching "jack nicholson smokes in golf pro shop". Only one result was actually about Jack Nicholson and it was for a print of him smoking while sitting on a car at the US Open in Queens.

I guess Google thought I had misspelled his name. All the other results were about Jack Nicklaus, who apparently was a chain smoker. I'm surprised that Google didn't show the "showing results for A, which is what we think you meant, click here if you really meant what you typed" message at the top of the results.

In any case, there's an easy way to be exempted from the mask rule in Nevada. All you need to do is have something to drink or a pack of cigarettes near you. You don't even have to touch them. The slot floor people and security will just assume you're about to take a drink or light up and won't ask you to pull your mask up. With a lit cigarette or a vape pen, you can walk all around the casino with your mask on your neck.

As for allowing the unmasked player to continue to flout the rules, I guess it's always a problem that fines for violating regulations can be seen as a cost of doing business.

I've always avoided playing near smokers. Now I'll also go elsewhere if there's someone not wearing a mask or wearing it improperly (If I'm covering my nose and mouth, you can too.).

Last week I presented a "mind-reading" trick shown on Penn & Teller: Try This at Home Too and asked if you can figure out how it works. I was afraid that describing the screen shown in the first step in writing would give the secret away and it did.

Here is the trick:

  1. Choose a major team sport. The screen showed drawings of a soccer ball, hockey stick and puck, football, baseball, basketball on his right and a baseball bat on his left.
  2. Note the second letter of the sport you chose.
  3. Now think of a fruit that begins with the letter.
  4. What is the last letter of that fruit?
  5. Now think of a breakfast food that begins with that letter.
  6. Were you thinking of eggs?

Maybe I should have left out the description of what was on the screen in the first step. In any case, in the United States the only major team sports are: baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey.

Concerning the "magic trick", the options for choosing a 2nd letter are only "A" and "O". That limits the choices of fruits down to the most likely: apple and orange. Both end in the letter "E" and "eggs" is unquestionably the breakfast choice. It's not that difficult to see how it works.
  1. All the sports' 2nd letters are either A or O. (bAseball, bAsketball, sOccer, fOotball or hOckey)
  2. Those who chose "O" would almost have to pick orange for the fruit.
  3. Those who chose a sport with "A" would usually pick apple (those that choose apricot are in a very small minority)

Both apple and orange end in "E" so the obvious choice is eggs. (The few who picked apricot could say toast for their breakfast food)

That's it, he'd get a very high percentage of the people to say he was right.

Good point. We never hear from the people who didn't choose eggs, for whatever reason. I read once that the tricks done for a street magician's TV special don't always work and those performances, of course, never make it to air.

I hadn't considered that someone might choose apricot in step 3. How about if a person chose avocado? And then omelet for the breakfast food. Would that be a match for eggs?

At the end of the program, Penn did a remote card trick with the cast of Nancy Drew. The instructions for the trick follow. See if you can figure out why this trick works.

  1. Get a deck of cards.
  2. Take out the four aces and 16 other cards.
  3. Turn the aces face up and the other cards face down.
  4. Distribute the aces randomly among the other cards.
  5. Do an overhand shuffle (you know how to do it even if you don't know what it's called).
  6. Count 10 cards into a pile.
  7. Put the remaining cards in another pile. You have two piles of 10 cards now.
  8. Turn one pile over.
  9. Perfectly interlace the cards (take a card from one pile, then a card from the other pile, and so on) back into one pile.
  10. Cut the cards.
  11. Deal the cards into four hands of five cards each.
  12. Combine piles 1 and 3 by putting one pile on top of the other.
  13. Do the same for piles 2 and 4. You have two piles now.
  14. Turn one of the piles over.
  15. Shuffle the two piles together.
  16. Spread out the cards.
  17. The aces will be face up and the other cards face down, or vice versa.

My reduced play since reopening was reflected in my offers for August. I expected that, but one acquaintance told me that his free play offers actually increased, even though he is playing less. I think it's due to the games he's been playing. He used to play a lot of full-pay deuces, but now he's been playing more NSU and 9/6 Jacks to maintain his tier status.

Even though casinos are cutting back on promotions, I didn't expect my two main casinos to ignore my birthday. They used to let me play a kiosk game to win points, free play or dining credits. This year I didn't even get a postcard. Or an email!

So many things are changing with slot clubs, it's more important now than ever to check calendars and rules. The way things used to be may not be the way they are now.

One change that seems to be more common is limiting the number of promotions offered to a player per day. One chain used to have 3x points every day, even if there was a gift or you had free play. That was their standard, everyday multiplier. When it first reopened, I had the standard multiplier every day unless there was a bonus multiplier. In the latest mailer, I don't have the standard multiplier on the days with a gift or kiosk game. It's only 1x points on those days. At least I can still redeem a free play offer on gift day, kiosk game day or bonus multiplier day.

I was able to double dip on free play offers at another casino in June. I had one set of free play offers that many other people also received, and another set of offers that not everyone got. The days overlapped, so I could redeem two offers on one day.

In July, offers realigned so the redemption periods did not overlap. In August, I have no free play on weekends, but I can get a point multiplier or play a kiosk game.

Of course, limiting promotions always happened before, but it seems like the marketing philosophy is moving towards giving the player one reason and one reason only to visit on a given day.

With social distancing and more people visiting the casinos, I find it is getting more difficult to get a seat at a good video poker machine. One casino has six NSUs, two rows of three machines back-to-back. Two men were playing the end machines on one side. One man's wife was playing on the other side, on the middle machine -- making it impossible for another person to play on that side.

Tell me what's new in your casino in the COVID era. Did it cut back on promotions? Did your birthday come and go without the usual acknowledgement from your casino? Has your casino tried a need not be present drawing? Has it taken any steps to decrease -- or increase -- the number of times you have to interact with a slot club rep or use a kiosk?

What's the best way to ensure social distancing at the machines? Do you like having all the machines active, but half as many slot chairs, so people together can play together? Or should the casinos ensure social distancing by disabling machines?

Here are the latest figures from

Click here for the latest Covid data.

A writer last week wasn't sure if he should visit Las Vegas. This article, Cellphone Data Shows How Las Vegas Is “Gambling With Lives” Across the Country may keep him away for a while.

Returning to the space theme, perhaps someone can explain to me why the United States could land a dozen men on the moon and bring them back safely, but we are in the top 10 of countries with the most deaths from COVID-19 per capita (Cases and Mortality By Country table).

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