A South Florida gambling expert has cracked the code for Seminole casino slot machines. He can compute the payout percentages of certain machines — and is sharing his secret.
Steve Bourie, publisher of the American Casino Guide, says he figured out how to compute how tight or loose a machine is because the Seminoles correlate machine payout percentages to the amount of Comp Dollars they award. He first pursued his hypothesis about two years ago, then completed his research after visiting not only the Seminole Hard Rock near Hollywood but also Seminole casinos in Coconut Creek and Tampa. He publishes a lengthy explanation, with charts, on AmericanCasinoGuide.com. (His guide, in its 25th year, includes information and coupons for casinos across the country.)
A couple of years ago, the Seminoles went to a reward system called Comp Dollars, which can be spent like regular dollars at hotels, restaurants, bars, lounges and retail stores. And the short version is that Bourie discovered the magic factor is 17 for each $100 cycled through. (NOT $100 lost.)
For example, if a player pushes the button 100 times on a $1 machine and receives 50 cents in Comp Dollars, that machine would have a hold of 8.5 percent. (0.50 multiplied by 17 = 8.5). Phrased differently, the machine would have a 91.5 percent payback percentage (100 minus the 8.5 percent the casino held).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Like most Native American casino operations, the Seminoles don’t have to reveal their payback percentages. Bourie says out of the almost 500 Indian casinos in the U.S., only two, both located in Connecticut, release that information to the public: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Payback percentages at racetrack casinos are posted near their entrances and are reported to the state. They average about 92 percent. The state doesn’t receive figures differentiating between, say, penny, quarter or dollar slots. Bourie played Seminole machines of those three denominations and found penny machines returned 88.4 percent, quarter machines 90.9 percent and dollar machines 91.4 percent.
“So basically, the Seminoles’ payouts are in line with what the racetrack casinos pay out,” says Bourie, of Hollywood. However, he says his formula for payback percentages does not apply to multi-denomination machines, in which players can choose to bet, say, either a quarter or a dollar.
While casinos don’t exactly know when a slot machine is going to hit, they do set the payback percentages.
“When a casino orders a slot machine the manufacturer will offer them a choice of chips to put in the machine and that chip is what controls the long-term payback percentage in that machine,” he said. “Generally, there are about six to eight different chips to choose from.”
▪ Orquesta Brava, a 12-person band led by Kenny Quintero, performs for free at 8 p.m. Saturday at Magic City Casino. The band plays salsa, merengue, bolero and Latin jazz.
▪ Cuban singer-songwriter Amaury Gutierrez and Spanish crooner Danny Daniel are set to perform a free show at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Hialeah Park Paddock Garden. The Cuban Guys will be curating a food truck selection. Gutierrez worked with Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval in Havana during the 1990s. He later relocated to Mexico. Daniel is best known for his 1974 hit “Por el amor de una mujer” (“For the love of a woman”), and his songs have been recorded by many artists, including Julio Iglesias.
▪ Calder Casino slot players can win up to $2,500 free play between 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays in December. Patrons will be selected every 30 minutes. The promotion continues Dec. 30-31, with the prizes being cash instead of slot credits.
▪ New slot players at Miccosukee Resort & Casino receive $30 in free play. The promotion runs through December.
▪ The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino gives away a total of $25,000 in cash and prizes from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday. Two patrons will be selected every 30 minutes to win their share. Meanwhile, Laura Lea & Tripp Fabulous, a leading East Coast cover band, plays from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday at the Hard Rock Café. The event is part of the series of rotating acts near the restaurant area.
▪ Gulfstream Park has a “grab bag” promotion from 6-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Three slot players each hour are selected to win prizes such as game centers, gift cards and tablets.
▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek will pick 10 people every hour from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Each person can win up to $7,500.