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Deal Me In: Are casino-style social gaming slot machines trustworthy?

5 July 2013

Dear Mark: My wife has taken to the casino slot games on the Internet, not the money games, but the FREE games. Are these games regulated as to wins and loses similar to actual slots in a casino? John M.

For anyone who likes the thrill of playing slot machines, the Internet offers you the opportunity to play any type of casino game that you can think of. All things being equal, online slot machines are only fair when each player has the same opportunity to win.

Unfortunately, with any online free play game, there is no way to know with 100 percent certainty if the video slot your wife is playing on is an unbiased video representation of a slot machine. Even-handed play only exists when the website is using a random number generator (RNG) software algorithm to determine the game's outcome.

That said, both the website and the software engineer have a stake in making sure that the games provided are on the up-and-up, since they have their own reputation to protect in the marketplace.

Many betting portals are certified by online gaming commissions and are audited by major firms that review the fairness of their random number generators, shuffles and payouts. When a site is found to be involved in fraudulent behavior, these fly-by-night operations are typically shutdown or are blacklisted. Likewise, some Internet gambling sites are licensed and regulated by specific governments, and some are even publicly traded companies.

There are also online watchdog entities that offer a seal of approval for online gambling websites. Seeing some form of seal awarded for any particular site might make you feel more secure. Still, when it comes to exposing your own hard-earned money to an online casino in a country you've never heard of, it's still a buyer beware marketplace.

Your wife, who is playing purely for enjoyment, doesn't have a one-armed video slot draining the piggy bank. The machines she is playing on are for fun, but the ulterior motive for most free casinos is to induce play for that particular website's pay-for-play online casino.

Many players take advantage of this free forum of play not only as a form of entertainment to occupy their leisure time, but also as a way to improve their video poker or blackjack skills. One of the best ways to acquire some expertise at your chosen game without the expense of a live game is playing online. Free online play allows you to practice basic strategy at no financial risk. This will enable you to spot costly mistakes that you might be making on a cash play machine. The key here is that any knowledge obtained without a casino outlay will make you more money down the road.

IGT, a leading slot manufacturer, has placed a colossal bet that these social games are the next frontier to the gaming business. They bucked up some serious ka-ching by acquiring DoubleDown Interactive for $500 million. DoubleDown Casino is the world's largest virtual casino, which attracts 1.4 million daily users who play their virtual slot machines with virtual (FREE) money.

As online gambling goes legal at the state level (currently allowed in Nevada, authorized in New Jersey and Delaware), companies like IGT are hoping to turn these same daily users into paying customers.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: The sad truth is that many players view the casino as an adult theme park, with their gambling stake being the price they pay to be taken for a ride. – Marvin Karlins Ph.D.
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.