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Ask the Slot Expert: Slot handpays starting at $300?

24 May 2023

Question: Here at the the tribal casino in Prescott, AZ, they require a handpay for hits of $300 and up. In addition, anyone within hearing distance of the machine involved knows about it due to the loud tune played until the attendant turns it off. Don’t think that will go away very soon, if at all. At least the hand pays are relatively quick. Had one yesterday for another Royal.

Answer: First things first. Congratulations on your Royal!

I'm always amazed at the different rules in different jurisdictions. I can't imagine the casinos in Las Vegas (or Atlantic City or Tunica) being able to operate if they hand paid hits starting at $300.

Actually, I can imagine it. The ticket system at the Palms was down one day. Every cash-out required a hand pay. Scores of players just had to sit and wait to get their money while the slot floor attendants ran from machine to machine to pay off players.

It's too bad they didn't have any Good Humor man change dispensers on their belts. The attendants used whatever they had to carry coins. One used an Altoid tin.

The Palms' slot floor, which usually just hummed along, ground to a near halt.

I left.

I've had handpays for less than $300. The Flamingo Hilton used to have a bank of progressive machines in an area near an entrance from the Strip. The top jackpot on the quarter machines, as I recall, was usually around $275 and I hit that once. A handpay was much better than a tray full of quarters. This was before tickets.

I'm glad your handpays are quick. The casino must have a higher attendants-to-machines ratio than a casino that handpays $1200 and up only.

Some machines stop playing the jackpot music after a few minutes. On others, the volume of the jackpot music might respect the volume setting on the machine, if the casino has enabled user control of volume. Players might also be able to silence the machine by hitting a button. You might have some self-help remedies for the loud jackpot music available.

I'm also amazed when people write me to say that something they did got them banned from a casino when the exact same action wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in Las Vegas.

These actions almost always involve credits left on a machine.

I sat down at one of my preferred NSU machines a few days ago. I put my bill in the acceptor and -- It didn't grab the bill. I tried inserting the bill a few more times, but the acceptor wouldn't do anything.

Paying more attention to what is going on, I realized that the acceptor wasn't lit. Hmm. Now I noticed that there was a message saying "Remove ticket" occasionally appearing on the screen.

The machine thought it was still trying to complete a cash-out transaction. As I wrote last week, you have to be aware of the state your machine is in. Sometimes it isn't in the state you think it is in.

Another message on the screen said that the machine paid out $0.17. There was no ticket sticking out of the dispenser. Something happened to the ticket it printed and the player didn't feel like waiting around to get his or her small change.

The candle wasn't flashing. "Remove ticket", no matter how long it lasts, isn't a tilt condition. The machine was never going to send a message saying that it needed help.

I figured that it would be a long time until they discovered the problem on the machine, so rather than switching machines, I hit the Service button. As I wrote last week, I almost always alert the slot floor to problems on machines.

A slot floor suit came by a few minutes later. I showed him the situation. He tried to open the machine, a slant-top, but the cover wouldn't open. He said he that he would be back in a minute with some persuasion.

He came back with a screwdriver, which he used to pry open the cover when he unlocked it. I don't remember exactly what he did with the ticket path. He may have re-threaded the tickets in the path or just reset the ticket printer. The end result was that the machine dispensed a ticket for $0.17 when he closed the cover.

He ripped off the ticket and checked it. He looked at the machine to ensure it was back in Game Over mode. He said, "All fixed," and dropped the ticket on the machine.

"That's not my money," I said.

He shrugged his shoulders and wished me good luck as he walked away.

Players have written to me to say that they got into trouble for "appropriating" found amounts not much more than my windfall of $0.17 -- even when the amounts were so small that it was unlikely that anyone would try to recover them.

I did the right thing with found credits a few years ago and got a hassle in reward for my effort. I don't remember whether I found credits on a machine or a ticket sticking out of machine or sitting on top of machine. In any case, I found about $80, which was now in a ticket. I figured this was an amount that someone might come back for.

No one came back to claim the money while I played, so I went to the cage to turn it in when I was done.

"So you want me to cash the ticket?" the cashier asked.

"No," I said. "It's not my money. I'm turning it in in case the rightful owner comes back for it."

She looked at me as if she were asking if that was really what I wanted to do. She said, "Okay." Then she looked at the ticket again. I could almost hear her thinking that she wasn't sure how to handle this.

I said, "Thank you," and walked away.


Preliminary data from the CDC's National Health Interview Survey estimates that only 11.1% of adults report being current cigarette smokers.

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