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Ask the Slot Expert: My casino Christmas wish list

29 December 2021

This week I'm sharing my Casino Christmas Wish List. I waited until after Christmas to share it for a few reasons. First, I wasn't entirely sure whether I was on the Naughty List or the Nice List. Second, I wanted to make sure that Santa got my list before I posted it. And third, I didn't get the idea that I could tie these unrelated items together into one column this way until today.

Of course, I have all of the perennial items on my list:

  • Plenty of high-paying video poker machines in my favorite casinos
  • Bill acceptors that accept all of my bills
  • Vibrant, in-focus displays on all video machines
  • Buttons that always work properly
  • Slot club point structures that let me play NSU at breakeven by default

I have a good chance at getting the middle three items on the list, but it's going to continue to get harder to get the first and last items because the elves can't make them in their workshop.

Another item on my list is Reliable Cash-Less Gaming. I have to add the "reliable" qualifier because I've had some experience with flaky cash-less gaming. In all fairness to Red Rock, though, I have to say that I was one of the first players to use the system and early adopters can't be upset when they experience some of the bugs that have to be worked out.

Previously on Cash-Less Gaming: I saw the STN Cash stickers on the machines at Red Rock. I googled "STN Cash" and found the website describing the system. I created a STN Cash account on the website. I went to the cage to sign the account agreement and activate my account. I used the system to transfer money to and from machines successfully until one day, my transfer back to the account wasn't reflected in my available balance in my account. That problem was fixed after a few days and hasn't recurred since. Then a new problem arose. I could transfer money from the account to a machine, but I could not transfer money from a machine back to the account.

And now, the latest episode. The transfer back problem was fixed a few days after I first experienced it. On my recent visits to Red Rock, the STN Cash system has treated me well, but the video poker machines have not.

A new procedure has to be better than the old one to catch on. Station Casino's first attempt to appeal to the TikTok generation -- No, that's too young a demographic. MySpace generation? -- was something it called Cardless Connect. Instead of inserting your players card into the card reader, you could have the same effect by connecting to the machine using an app on your phone and Bluetooth.

I used the system regularly when it was first introduced, but eventually went back to using my card. A machine sometimes just wouldn't connect with my phone. More importantly, though, using the card was faster. Put the card in the reader and in a few seconds you're ready to play.

With Cardless Connect, you had to start the app on your phone if it wasn't already running, hold your phone near the card reader, press the Connect To Machine button, and wait a few seconds to see if two devices could connect. And then have to use my card anyway if they couldn't.

You still needed your card at the kiosks and to use points to pay for meals, so Cardless Connect didn't provide any advantage over a physical card.

With STN Cash, you still have to use Cardless Connect to connect to a machine, but now doing that also connects your STN Cash account, so using Cardless Connect is worth the extra hassle. Besides, you don't have a choice.

Cardless Connect isn't better than a physical card, but STN Cash is better than physical cash.

Some casinos will cap a machine (take it out of service so a player can take a break and get back on it later). Which players they'll cap machines for and how long they'll cap a machine varies by casino. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to cap a machine for a few minutes on your own?

Santa, or rather Konami, has already put this gift under the tree. Its SYNKROS player-tracking system has a module called LuckLock that lets slot club members lock a machine for a short period of time (say, five minutes to 30 minutes) on their own. If the player doesn't return before the end of the lock period, the machine will automatically unlock so others can play it. Of course, you cash out before locking a machine.

In Las Vegas, LuckLock is available only at the new Resorts World. If it proves popular there, I would expect other player tracking systems to add the feature and other casinos to enable it at their properties.

Unless Konami has a patent on it. I looked for a patent on LuckLock, but that term would be a trademarked name for the feature and would not necessarily appear in a patent. The patent would have a catchy title like "System for enabling electronic gaming device player to temporarily disable play on device".

I have a ritual at my favorite Quick Hit Blitz machine. Card in, ticket in, volume up. Not all the way up to 11, but just a little bit louder than what the default is.

Another item on my wish list is that all machines had volume controls and all casinos enabled the controls.

Many (many) years ago at Caesars in Atlantic City, I tried my luck on the first Michael Jackson slot machine. The bonus round on this machine played clips from a number of Michael Jackson's hits. The manufacturer probably paid a fortune to license the songs for the machine. The brain trust at Caesars turned off the sound on the machine, eliminating a main feature of the bonus round.

I was playing my favorite Quick Hit Blitz machine a few weeks ago. A lady sat down at the machine across the narrow aisle from me. She asked me where the volume control on the machine was.

She was at an old reel-spinning Quick Hit machine, one that I hadn't played for years. I said that I didn't think the machine had a volume control on it.

A week or so later, the casino moved the old Quick Hit machine and replaced it with a new Asian-themed game with fireworks sound effects. The machine has a volume control. Even though the default volume level is set to louder than needed, I never saw anyone decrease the volume level when they played it.

An add-on to my wish list item for a volume control on my machine is the ability to control the volume on machines near me.

From the Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Star Trek file, remember when Kirk showed Saavik how they could control the starship that Khan had stolen from the Enterprise's console in The Wrath of Khan? It would be great if I could use my volume control to lower the volume on the machines in my immediate vicinity. (I don't foresee ever wanting to raise a machine's volume.)

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, jackpot-filled new year!


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).

Despite President Biden's initial claims otherwise, the situation with Covid tests is a nationwide failure. Haven't we been reading for nearly two years now that cheap, plentiful tests were an important tool to control the spread of the virus?

In this column on November 24, David Leonhardt reports that British pharmacies "offer free packs of seven tests that people can take at home" and that tests in Germany are "widely available and mostly free".

Health officials recommended testing before gathering for Thanksgiving. Why are we seeing lines for tests and hearing about shortages now and we didn't a month ago? What's different?

Omicron. Now people are following -- or, at least, trying to follow the recommendation.

It seems to me that the test shortage is primarily a consequence of supply and demand. Why should pharmaceutical companies manufacture and drug stores stock tests beyond what the market wants? Why should communities open testing facilities that no one goes to?

The demand for tests skyrocketed practically overnight. It will take some time for the supply to catch up with the new demand. The UK is also experiencing a shortage of tests now.

Leonhardt and others frequently complain about the length of time our government agencies take to approve drugs and treatments. None of these people have to make the decision nor do they have anything at stake in the decision. How much trust do the agencies lose when they don't follow the standard procedure and an approval has to be rescinded? (Remember that an EUA for treating Covid with hydroxychloroquine was granted in April 2020, possibly under political pressure, only to be rescinded on June 15 when studies showed that it caused an increase in deaths.)

Hindsight is always 20/20 and it's easy to criticize decisions made yesterday with knowledge not gained until today.

I've also read articles criticizing anyone who says that Omicron was unexpected. One guy in the New York Post cited an old article in the New York Times about how we should expect many variants.

These people are missing the point. A new variant was not unexpected. Dr. Jen Ashton on GMA has been saying since the first variant that "viruses mutate for a living."

Omicron itself was not unexpected. What was unexpected was having it go from about 3% of cases to being the dominant variant in one week. Whether it's 73% of cases or 22% or 59% or 85% (in some areas), no one expected Omicron to go from being a blip to the dominant variant in just two to three weeks. Delta was first identified in the U.S. on May 20 and didn't become the dominant variant until July.


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 12/28   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05   20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
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