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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Is free slot play rigged?

14 August 2015

Dear Mark: When a casino gives free slot play, does the slot machine “know” you are playing with the casinos free given “money”? It seems that spins on the slot machine change when I put my money in the machine. Say, for instance, I get $5 free play. With ten spins at $.50 each, I don’t seem to win anything. As soon I put my money in, the machine seems to change and starts to pay with some credits. Gerry L.

More and more casinos are rewarding slot players with free slot play, giving slots players a chance to win without having to drop a dime into a machine. Slot aficionados see it as getting something for nothing.

Then there are other casinos that offer something less called matching play, whereby you are rewarded with $10 in free play after playing through $10 of your money. Obviously, this offer is not as good a deal as a "something for nothing" promotion.

Your $5 free play offering is a cash reward for your play. Sad to say, that compensation must be used within the casino. That, Gerry, is the drawback of free play; you can’t take the money and skedaddle. In contrast, with cash backs for your action, there is no requirement that you play your cash reimbursement. Like winnings, it is your money, not the “house’s,” and you can always pocket it to use as you please.

All things being equal, Gerry, I would rather have cash-in-hand that I can spend as I wish. Moreover, with free play, most players do get something, but end up with nothing because they tend to play back their free play allowance before they cash out.

The biggest challenge any casino has is getting you to walk through the front door. Free slot play – something for nothing – is one such Pavlovian offering that triggers saliva amongst slot jockeys.

I have always been amazed at how just $10 in free slot play brings in the slot masses. Unfortunately, once forward-facing a slot machine, you can easily run through that $10 in but a few spins if you’re playing max coins and max lines. Now the casino has you captured within their friendly confines for a total outlay of $10.

The up and up, Gerry, is that the random number generator doesn’t care one iota if you are playing the free play or with your hard-earned money. What might be happening is that you are the victim of your own selective memory along with a shortened gambling timeline.

Your assumption is that the machines hit less frequently when you are playing free play versus when you're playing with your money. Consequently, you tend to remember the times that you don't hit on the free play and forget the times that you did. I would suggest, Gerry, that you keep track of your play and not rely on discriminatory impressions.

So, Gerry, in the future as you play free slot play promotions, humor me and keep track of the number of spins and the number of hits that you get from free play. Then, actively track the same number of spins with your money. As your gambling timeline extends, your returns should be relatively close.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Gambling heats the mind like an oven.” – Henry Ward Beecher, Gamblers and Gambling (1896)
Recent Articles
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.