Slot machines are exciting because they offer quick entertainment and a large variety of themes. They also provide the chance to play for big jackpots and cool bonus features.
However, you may have the impression that slots are terrible with regard to return to player (RTP). Slot machines in land-based casinos especially get a bad rap for offering low payback.
But what’s the real story? Are land-based slots really this bad in terms of payout percentages?
I’m going to look at a recent gaming report from Nevada to get to the bottom of the matter. You’ll find that, for the most part, slot machines in brick-and-mortar casinos aren’t as bad as they appear on the surface.
Slots RTP Figures from Nevada Gaming Report
Las Vegas is essentially the slots capital of the world. This lone city features tens of thousands of slot machines.
But if you’re in Nevada, you don’t have to visit Vegas to enjoy slots. The Silver State features over 165,000 slot machines sprinkled throughout its borders.
That said, the annual Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) report is one of the best sources to gauge how well slot machines pay. The NGC releases reports every month that detail how much is bet on their slots and what casinos make off them.
They also release a report that sums up the casinos’ slots take for an entire year. This information provides a comprehensive look at how much slots are paying.
These reports divide slot machines up based on their coin denominations. You’ll find everything from penny slots to multi-denominational games on the NGC’s list.
Here’s a look at how Nevada slot machines pay by coin denomination:
- Penny slots – 90.0% RTP (10.0% house edge)
- Nickel slots – 94.39% RTP (5.61% house edge)
- Quarter slots – 92.83% RTP (7.17% house edge)
- Dollar slots – 93.61% RTP (6.39% house edge)
- $5 slots – 94.46% RTP (5.54% house edge)
- $25 slots – 95.14% RTP (4.86% house edge)
- $100 slots – 93.80% RTP (6.20% house edge)
- Megabucks – 86.88% RTP (13.12% house edge)
- Multi denomination – 94.74% RTP (5.26% house edge)
Numbers Show That Most Nevada Slots Offer Solid RTP
You can see that penny slot machines are by far the worst in terms of how much they pay. These games only offer 90% RTP, meaning they carry a 10% house edge.
You’re essentially losing $1 for every $10 bet on one of these games. Few casino games offer this bad of a deal.
In fact, Megabucks is the only entry on the NGC’s report that has worse payback than penny slot machines. Even still, Megabucks is a huge progressive slot machine that offers better RTP as its jackpot grows larger.
Many people choose penny slot machines under the guise that they’re playing a “cheap” game. The reality, though, is that these slots are anything but cheap when considering the house edge.
You should also realize that “penny” only refers to how these games require a penny per line. You’re often forced to play anywhere from 25 to 300 lines, which means a total bet ranging from $0.25 to $3.00.
Nickel slots offer the best value based on the NGV’s numbers. They pay back 94.39% and only cost $0.05 per line.
Of course, this bet size is 5 times the amount as a penny slot per line. But you also have to consider that the payback is 4.39% higher too.
Quarter slots rated the second lowest in terms of RTP, only offering a payout percentage of 92.83%. You’d be better off sticking to nickel games in this case.
Dollar slots didn’t pay much either, offering 93.61% RTP throughout 2018. You may not find it worth betting this much when considering the relatively low payback.
$5 and $25 slots paid well at 94.46% and 95.14% RTP, respectively. It’s no surprise that these games offer high payout percentages when considering that casinos like rewarding players for betting more.
What’s surprising, though, is that $100 slot machines only offered 93.80% RTP. But this low figure can possibly be explained by the fact that fewer people play these high-roller slots. They’re subject to more volatility as a result.
Multi-denominational slots had one of the best payout percentages at 94.76%. You should consider choosing these games in Nevada, based on how they both offer good RTP and allow you to select your bet size.
Comparing These Figures to Online Slots
You can see from the information above that most land-based slot machines in Nevada don’t offer completely terrible payback. Penny slots are the only ones that have extremely low RTP at 90%.
Meanwhile, some of the coin denominations like nickel (94.39% RTP), $5 (94.46%), and $25 (95.14% RTP) offered fair payback in 2018. You’re only facing around a 5% house edge with these games.
Unfortunately, most slots in brick-and-mortar casinos don’t measure up to what’s offered at gaming sites. Online casinos typically offer the best RTP and lowest stakes.
Most online slots at least have 95% payback, with many delivering even higher RTP than this. Referring back to the NGC report, only the $25 slots had over 95% RTP.
Therefore, online casinos offer the best chance of winning with slots. This is especially true when considering that you don’t have to bet as much to achieve high payback.
While many internet slots feature fixed paylines just like their land-based counterparts, they only require you to bet one cent per line. Going further, they still offer high payout percentages when you’re wagering a penny on each pay line.
Nevada slots, on the other hand, offer drastically lower RTP for penny games. You’re facing a 10% house edge on land-based penny machines, versus a 5% house advantage with online penny slots.
You can of course pick higher denominations at online casinos. Some high rollers prefer get extra action this way.
However, the beauty of online slots is that you don’t have to bet more just to win more. You can just play for low stakes and still expect the same payout percentages.
The main downside to internet slots, though, is that they don’t feature a real casino atmosphere. Brick-and-mortar venues, on the other hand, offer unique sights and sounds as players spin the reels.
You just can’t get this same experience while playing slots through your smartphone or PC. But the upside is that you can expect high RTP no matter if you’re betting a little or a lot on each line.
High Paying Online Slots Are Easier to Find
Another advantage to internet slots is that it’s easy to find the RTP for many games. You can look up online slots payout percentages through multiple ways:
- Look at the info/help screen.
- Google the game itself.
- Google the game provider to find their slots RTP list.
- Search for articles that cover “online slots with the best RTP.”
The first method is obviously the easiest, because you can simply visit the help screen to find the payout percentage. The only downside to this route is not all online slots providers list the RTP in the info section.
You can also google the game itself along with the word “RTP.” You should quickly find the payback using this technique.
Searching for a game’s provider (e.g. NetEnt or Rival Gaming) along with the word RTP is yet another effective route. This method will bring up pages that list RTP for many or all of a certain provider’s slots.
If you’re really serious about having the best chance to win, you can search for articles that discuss the industry’ highest-paying online slots. Mega Joker (99.0% RTP), Ugga Bugga (99.0%), and Blood Suckers (98.0%) are among the industry’s best-paying games.
Keep in mind that not all developers publicly list the RTP for their slot machines. Therefore, you won’t be able to find payout percentages on every single online game.
But the good news is that you can find payback for most internet slots. This fact makes it easy to learn your chances of winning when playing online.
How Can You Find the Best Playing Vegas Slot Machines?
The problem with searching for land-based slots RTP is that it’s never publicly available information. Therefore, the average gambler won’t be able to figure out the payback for an individual slot that they’re playing.
The reason for this situation is that casinos can order different pay schedules from providers. Therefore, a Plants vs. Zombies slot machine could offer 95% RTP at one casino and 93% RTP at the establishment next door.
Contrast this to online casinos, where developers typically offer the same payout percentages across all the casinos they supply. It therefore makes sense why you’ll have such an easy time finding RTP for online slots versus the land-based variety.
Megabucks is the only exception to the rule. This progressive slot brings in so much money for Nevada casinos that it’s routinely listed on their gaming reports along with its annual payback.
Coin denominations are the only thing you have to go off of when searching for payout percentages at brick-and-mortar casinos. You can look at state gaming reports, such as the NGC’s, to get a rough estimation on the RTP for a given game.
The one big drawback, though, is that these figures are merely RTP averages for each coin denomination. Just because nickel slots pay 94.39% across the board in Nevada doesn’t mean that the individual nickel game you play will offer the same RTP.
You also have to consider that these figures can change from year to year. Dollar slots might pay 95% in Nevada one year, because a few players hit big jackpots on these games and boosted their numbers. But the collective payout percentages could fall to 93% the following year if nobody wins big.
Still, knowing the average payout percentages for coin denominations is better than nothing. You should check out the gaming report for your state to get an idea on how much you can win with each type of game.
You Must Bet a Lot to Play Vegas Slots with High RTP
Referring back to the NGC report, you can see that your best chances of winning are with the higher denominations. $25 slots offered the best RTP last year at 95.14%, while $5 games also paid well at 94.46%.
Most casinos order higher payback for the larger denominations. They want to encourage players to wager more per spin, which is why they reward them with better RTP.
You have to decide whether it’s worth betting between $5 and $25 per round just to enjoy a higher payout percentage. After all, you’re going to lose more on average with these games, even when they’re offering the best RTP.
Here’s a comparison between dollar and $25 slots to illustrate this point:
- You play a $1 slot for 1,000 spins.
- 1 x 1,000 = $1,000 in bets
- The RTP is 6.39%.
- 1,000 x 0.0639 = $63.90 in theoretical losses with the dollar slot
- You play a $25 slot for 1,000 spins.
- 25 x 1,000 = $25,000 in bets
- The RTP is 4.86%.
- 25,000 x 0.0486 = $1,215 in theoretical losses with the $25 slot
- 1,215 – 63.90 = $1,151 fewer losses with the dollar game
Even though the $25 slot offers around 1.5% higher payback on average, it still costs much more to play. Unless you’re a high roller, you shouldn’t be playing these machines just for the better payback.
Luckily, Nevada offers some games with solid RTP that don’t cost a fortune to play. Nickel slots featured 94.39% RTP in 2018, while multi-denomination games paid 94.74%.
Based on these games, you can see where it’s possible to win a fair amount with cheaper Nevada slots. But you’ll need to bet more on average to attain the higher RTP.
Make Sure to Have a Bankroll Management Plan before Visiting Nevada
Playing slot machines in the Silver State isn’t cheap. These games don’t pay as much as online slots, and they normally feature lots of fixed paylines.
You want to have a good bankroll management plan going into any Nevada trip. Performing bankroll calculations beforehand helps you properly budget for your trip and avoid losing too much money.
Of course, the hope is that you win plenty of money. But this doesn’t normally happen unless you hit a huge payout or two. You should prepare as if you’re going to lose so that there are no surprises.
Here are variables to consider when setting up your slots bankroll management plan:
- Your bankroll amount
- Average bet size
- Losses per hour
The first variable is the most important, because you want to set aside an amount of money that’s strictly for slots. These funds shouldn’t be needed to pay bills or other expenses, given that you could potentially lose everything.
Your average bet size may change from session to session. However, this figure is simply an estimate of your average wager across the board.
Losses per hour is the toughest variable to estimate here. But you can simplify it by considering that the average slots player usually loses around 250 wagers per hour. This figure assumes that you don’t win any huge payouts and steadily lose money on a machine.
Once you have these three variables worked out, you can perform bankroll management calculations to estimate how long your funds will last.
- You have a $2,500 bankroll.
- Your average bet size is $1.
- You lose 250 bets ($250) per hour.
- 2,500 / 250 = 10
- Your bankroll will theoretically last for 10 hours.
Remember that this is only a theoretical figure on how long your bankroll will last. But it at least gives you a fair estimation on how far a certain amount of money will go with slot machines.
Don’t Expect to Get Many Slots Comps from Vegas Casinos
Some slots players think that they’re going to be showered with rewards when they visit Vegas and other Nevada casino destinations. However, slots comps aren’t what they used to be.
Following the Great American recession, many casinos began redirecting their focus. Rather than heavily concentrating on gambling, they began expanding their other entertainment options.
Now, gaming establishments are also focused on their restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, and spas. They often feature comprehensive reward programs that comp players for spending money anywhere in the resort — not just on the gaming floor.
This means that gamblers are no longer the featured customer in Vegas. Instead, they’re just one of various types of customers that visit Sin City and other Nevada casino locations.
The average slots comp rate these days is 0.1%. This figure differs quite a bit from the 0.2% or 0.3% that many casinos offered in the past.
You may not think that this looks like a big difference. However, earning 2x or 3x less rewards has a big impact on your bottom line.
You should still make an effort to sign up for the player’s club at any Nevada Casino you visit. After all, it’s better to pick up some rewards than none. But you shouldn’t count on comps to help make up for lower payout percentages.
Many gamblers have heard the stereotype that slot machines in land-based casinos pay poorly. They may have even developed this notion themselves after losing badly in a few sessions.
But the numbers show that not all land-based slots pay terribly. The nickel, $5, $25, and multi-denominational games all offered payback ranging between 94.39% and 95.14% last year.
These aren’t outstanding payout percentages, especially when compared to online slots. But they’re passable and show that games in land-based casinos can offer a decent chance to win.
However, you really want to watch out for penny slots in brick-and-mortar venues. These games only paid back 90.0% last year, showing that, unlike the name suggests, they’re far from cheap.
Even when you do find a land-based slot that pays well, you have to account for the increased wager size. Penny slot machines are supposed to be the cheapest games, yet they can cost anywhere from $0.25 to $3.00 to play. The costs only go up from here.
You can give yourself the absolute best chance of winning by playing online slots. These games offer higher RTP and lower minimum bets than brick-and-mortar games.
The only catch is that internet casinos don’t have the same atmosphere at land-based establishments. You therefore need to weigh whether winning or all-around entertainment is more important.
No matter where you play, though, it’s wise to come up with a bankroll management plan. Doing so gives you a solid idea on how long your bankroll will last.
In summary, slot machines are all about having fun. But it never hurts to also know your odds of winning, whether in Nevada or beyond.