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Deal Me In: Payment in installments or lump sum?

18 June 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: When a slot player hits a big one, for instance 10 million dollar jackpot, is it paid in installments or in its entirety? Jan S.

It depends, Jan, on the machine, although the majority, like Megabucks, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, The Price is Right, etc., are "annuity games" where you do NOT receive your total winnings up front but are paid instead in annual installments. The clear-cut way to find out which-is-which is simply to read what's printed on the face of the machine. There it will tell you straight away if it's an annuity game or an immediate full-pay win.

If you're looking for an up front payment of the entire jackpot there are exceptions, like Mega Riches or many of the TV Hits games, which come from the MegaJackpots Instant Winners line of machines from IGT. They offer awards that are paid entirely upon verification of the win.

When your casino jackpot is authenticated, a jackpot response representative will ask you to present two different forms of identification showing you are who you are, to sign tax forms like a W2G, and then present you with a check for the first of 25 annual installments, whereas, if you happen to be playing a TV Hit game like The Beverly Hillbillies, you're now a Clampett getting all your loot instantly.

Also note, Jan, that the banker, played by Milburn Drysdale, is usually NOT the casino, but a manufacturer like IGT. They pay off those "geeenormous" progressive jackpots.

With any luck, Jan, you may one day beat those long, long odds and load up the truck and move to Beverly. Or, if your prize money is paid yearly, live the 25 years to spend it. If better paying slots in heaven happen to intercede, the remaining earthly annual payments will be made to any surviving trustees or beneficiaries .

Dear Mark: If the casino has a major event, like a concert by a very popular band, do they tighten the machines to cover the cost of the band? Frank S.

The only way, Frank, for a casino to change the payback on a machine is to change one or more chips in the machine, and it's just not cost-effective for the casino to continually alter the payouts on their machines, even if the Beach Boys are playing there.

To alter the percentage return in their favor, the casino must, by law, make a hardware change. This is done by swapping out an internal component, the ROM portion of the microprocessor chip. ROM, or read only memory, is a chip the slot manufacturer provides to the casino. Besides, such surgery being labor intensive, it's very costly for a casino to have two payback chipsets for their machines.

Furthermore, Frank, some state gaming commissions won't even allow casinos to switch chips in-house. Casinos in those jurisdictions have to send the machines back to the manufacturer for any alterations.

What you may see instead is an abbreviated performance by the bands that play the casino circuit. Instead of a typical two-hour show, they will play for an hour and a half. The gate may end up making the act a loss leader for the house, but a shortened show and a captive crowd can make a big difference to the bottom line, once those showroom doors open and possessed gamblers flood the casino floor looking for a slot fix.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: In Vegas everything is done to make you gamble and forget all else. There is food and drink and music and women – who all play their part in eliminating Methodist principles from your mind. - Sir Clement Freud Sporting Life 1994

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.