CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: Why would a casino remove a popular machine after only three months?

30 March 2022

Question: Do you know how a casino chooses which slot machines to have on their gaming floor?

Do you know why a casino would remove a seemingly popular slot game after only 3 months on their gaming floor?

The slot game in question is an IGT game called Zodiac Lion and because of the way the game plays, not like any I have seen up till now, it allows smart players to win repeatedly by "cleaning up" potentially winning screens left by other less experienced players.

Answer: Casino execs work with their manufacturer's reps to pick games that they think will appeal to their players. They also listen to their players and if enough players request a particular game, it may appear on the slot floor.

To answer your second question, I prepared a list of all of the reasons why a slot machine would be taken off of the slot floor. Looking over the list and considering the short time frame in your question, I realized that there are really only two reasons why a machine would be removed after only three months.

The first reason is that the machine is on trial. Here in Las Vegas, we sometimes run into new games that are on the slot floor so that the gaming commission and manufacturer can get real-world experience for how the game operates and get public opinion.

For a few months before it closed for the pandemic, Red Rock had a carousel of machines from Synergy Blue. The games on these multi-game machines were all skill based. I tried them all and settled on the Mahjong game. Well, the only thing this Mahjong game had in common with the four-player Mahjong game is the tiles. The slot-based Mahjong game was the tile-matching game that I think is called Mahjong Solitaire to distinguish it from the four-player game.

I found some glitches in their programming. There were sometimes problems with the card readers and sometimes a machine would get stuck on a particular game. You could play that game, but you couldn't switch to one of the other ones.

There were five or so levels at which you could play the Mahjong game. The higher levels had more tiles and more complicated patterns. The object of the game was to pick matching tiles, which would then disappear, and clear the board to advance to the bonus round.

I was frequently able to clear the board and go to the bonus round. In the bonus you had the option of taking a guarantee or taking a shot at a larger bonus by picking an icon. The guarantee, the number of icons, and the range of values all increased with the higher levels. The highest level was something like seven gongs with a top value of $10,000.

When I took a chance on the big bonus, I always ended up with am amount that was equal to the guarantee or lower. I came to the conclusion that improving on the guarantee happened so rarely that it wasn't worth playing the bonus game. (The Expected Value of picking was probably the same as taking the guarantee, so the casino didn't care which option you chose.)

There was frequently a rep from Synergy Blue at the games, showing people how to play them and getting their reactions. The reps got to know me because I was a regular. Talking with one rep about the bonus game, she said that they agreed that the way the bonus was working was not working and they were going to redo it.

Red Rock put the machines in a particularly bad place. They were right in front of the entrance to the buffet. Perhaps they thought that players in this high-traffic area would see them and give them a try. What really happened was a lot of people sat in the seats at the games while waiting for the rest of their party to arrive.

The machines were gone when Red Rock reopened. I believe Synergy Blue is gone too.

Game on trial is a rare event. What's the most frequent reason a game would be removed after a short period?

They think another game would make more money. Why replace a machine with one that you think will earn less?

Wheel of Fortune being the exception, machines based on movies, TV shows and celebrities tend to have a short shelf life. The Game of Thrones-themed machines at Suncoast are always gone before I'm finished with them. A few weeks ago, I was very disappointed to find the Red Keep machines I wanted to play replaced by Crazy Rich Asian machines. I saw the flick, but I'm not compelled to play the game.

The machine you mentioned is not a machine based on licensed Intellectual Property. Still, the machines may not have been as popular as you think they were and the execs thought that other machines would do better.

There's another possibility. The casino may have decided that the games were too disruptive.

About 20 years ago, slot manufacturers created banking slot machines. The machines would occasionally add credits to a bank, which would then be won by a player. It was kind of like a mini progressive that hit more frequently and at lesser amounts than its bigger brothers.

These games led to jackpot vultures. Some Advantage Players would check the games and play them only when the bank was above a certain amount. Vultures, on the other hand, would stand near the machines and try to intimidate players into leaving them when the bank was high enough for the vulture to swoop in. Some casinos decided that the games weren't worth the hassle.

Piggy Bankin' and Fort Knox are two banking games that I remember playing. In fact, I think it was a Fort Knox game that was involved in a situation I witnessed at the Desert Inn.

A man was playing the game and the bank was large. He ran out of money and wanted the casino to disable the machine while he went back to his hotel to get more money. He didn't want someone else to win the bank that he thought was ready to hit and should be his.

I believe that the DI wouldn't disable the machine because he was not a member of the players club and he wasn't staying at the DI and who knows how long it would have taken him to return.

The man was just sitting at the machine -- he had run out of money -- and telling his story to everyone who passed by. He got more agitated with each retelling.

I saw my friend who was the Slot Director at the DI and told him the situation and that he might have a problem brewing. He and another suit stood near the machine, in plain view, but otherwise didn't do anything but stand there and talk to each other. The man eventually left without creating an incident. And, no, I did not swoop in after he left and win the bank.

I thought that manufacturers had stopped making banking slot machines, so I was surprised to see books and articles on advantage-play slots again a few years ago.

In the broadest definition, a banking slot game is a game in which some aspect of the game is maintained from one spin to the next. In the old days, it was usually some credit amount in a bank. Today it could be coins or wild symbols or some other symbol that remains on a reel. It could be some column that grows with play until reaching the top and triggering some bonus.

I used to be very fond of an IGT game called Scarab that is very similar to Zodiac Lions. It even has similar graphics and the same music for some events.

On Zodiac Lions, when a lion symbol lands on the screen, it leaves behind a frame that could turn into a wild symbol. The scarab symbol on Scarabs does the same thing.

On Scarabs, though, all of the frames turn wild every 10th spin. On Z-Lions, a frame turns wild when a lion symbol lands in it and it turns any frames that touch it wild too.

On both games, it can be advantageous to play them when there are many frames displayed on the screen. Some players may run out of money or patience and leave a machine even though there are many frames on the screen. Others don't know what the frames mean. Both scenarios can be profitable for the smart players, as you say.

Just be careful about playing machines in what you think is an advantageous state. Slot Player Banned at Bellagio

Your casino may have decided that these machines are more trouble than they're worth. It's also possible that the machines were profitable and popular and they were just moved to a different spot on the casino floor.

Casino love to move machines around once in a while to make the slot floor look new even though the machines are old.


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.

There must be something wrong with the latest case count from Nevada. Our test positivity rate has been steadily falling the past few weeks, but the number of cases reported this week is huge increase over the number of cases reported last week. The Nevada site has only 688,054 total cases as of 3/10, an increase that is more in line with the prior weeks' increases.

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/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   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 
 12/29/20   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 
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