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Sheraton Tunica #1 Loosest Slot House
2002

by Marsha Ness 8/31/02 2002, all rights reserved

Since May 2002, Tunica's Sheraton Casino has upgraded their slot payouts. Independent tests confirm that they now lead not only Tunica, but the entire country in overall returns. Tunica's Fitzgerald's Casino holds the # 10 spot nationally of the casinos tested. (Nationwide Rank List)

This spring an 18 year casino monopoly on the knowledge of individual slot machine payouts was broken. For certain types of machines it is again possible for an analyst to determine the payout on a particular machine by playing it. Now independent investigators can verify or refute casinos' payout claims.

Late last year, gaming math expert Michael Shackleford (a.k.a. the Wizard of Odds) got hold of the specification sheets for several different video slot machines. A specific machine's payout level is determined by which of 6 to 9 available programs is loaded into its internal computer. The program determines the frequencies and combinations of symbols (cherries, bell, etc.) that are displayed. Shackleford developed a list of the symbol combinations displayed by each different program. Using this key, he and his associates are able to examine the symbols displayed when they play a given machine and to determine the payout program its computer is running.

Armed with these keys, the team hit the casinos. After hundreds of hours of testing, the results were published on the web in April. In May, the Las Vegas Advisor broke the story "Las Vegas' Loosest Slots". The results have been a marketing boon for the top casinos ever since.

Each Tunica casino was also tested during this period, although the results received much less attention. In May, Tunica's slots compared poorly overall to those in Vegas. The Las Vegas Strip average nickel payout was 91.47% versus an average of 90.80% in Tunica. However, Tunica had a wider range of results. Fitzgerald's, Sam's Town, Gold Strike and Sheraton had nationally competitive payouts, but poor results at the other casinos damaged the overall average. In particular, the Horseshoe had the lowest payout average of any casino tested anywhere, higher only than the Las Vegas airport.

Since those initial tests, the Sheraton has advertised even looser slots, while billboards for Fitzgerald's also claim the top spot and brochures from Hollywood say they beat anyone in the market. These three casinos were retested mid-August to evaluate their claims. As you already know, the Sheraton lived up to its advertising and more. Fitzgerald's payouts increased minimally on one type of machine. Hollywood didn't change its payouts, but the additional testing did uncover some better-paying machines that raised its overall average (latest Tunica ranking).
The tests described here are only applicable to video slots, and the vast majority of those are set at the nickel denomination. To compare casinos fairly, the averages given are for nickels only, although quarter and dollar slots were also tested (higher denomination table). Since most casinos have proportionate payout policies, it is reasonable to infer that those with looser nickel slots should also have looser quarter and dollar slots.

In general, higher denomination video slots do have much better payouts than nickels, although the sample sizes are too small to make definitive statements. The Sheraton also ranks highest in the nation for quarter video slots. In fact, Tunica did better than Nevada overall for higher denomination video machines.

The bottom line is that Tunica offers some very competitive slot payouts, but the penalty for not knowing which casinos to play is higher in Tunica than in Las Vegas.

Tunica Survey Note

Because of the limited number of casinos in Tunica, the local investigator was able to do more exhaustive testing. Approximately half of the 468 available machines were tested, and the averages were calculated exactly by using the actual number of machines in each casino. In addition, most quarter machines and all but one dollar machine were tested.

Further Reading

How virtual reel slot machine payouts are calculated

How the video slot EPROM keys were developed

Specifications, computing help crack payoff code, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Independent Researchers Analyze Tunica Video Slots

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