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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Do casinos monitor how much you get when you “cash out” at the slots?

29 July 2013

By Alan Krigman

Question: Is it true you can remove your players' card from the slot machine reader before you press the "cash out" button, and the casino won't know how much you won or lost?

Answer: Slot player "tracking" systems normally do work this way. The casinos monitor the totals bet and actually paid out, but not the intermediate wins registered on the credit meter.

For marketing purposes, casinos care chiefly about how much you bet. They multiply this "handle" by "percent hold" to gauge your earnings potential to them. Freebies like meals, rooms, show tickets, tacky merchandise, and exclusive club memberships depend mainly on such theoretical estimates, because they reliably average the chance effects of individual wins and losses. Your cash-out doesn't really show your net, anyway, since there's no way to tell how much of the handle was intermediate winnings as opposed to money you brought from home. In general, therefore, it doesn't matter whether or not the casino records your net payout.

There are at least two possible exceptions. First, some casinos consider losses and offer extra perks to frequent players who run into bad luck, trying keep unhappy campers from going elsewhere next time. Second, casinos occasionally have special promotions where they refund part or all of players' losses at the machines. You can get some systems to register a loss for these purposes by recording your bets but not your returns if you pull your card. However, most casinos that use such information now have tracking systems programmed to capture the data they need on the fly.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns were focused on those interested in gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.