In a recent column you stated, "Some states do allow casinos to make variations to slot machines under that state's regulations."

I play in Reno. What variations can the casino make in Reno to their slot machines? — Nancy C.

ANSWER: As I stated in that column, "Different jurisdictions have different rules regarding changing payback programs on slot machines."

In Nevada, to change payback programs on a slot machine, you need a manufacturer's license.

Since every casino has a manufacturer's license, each can change its payback programs at will. That said, I must also state that it is hardly ever done, especially across the board.

For a Nevada casino to alter the percentage return, the casino must swap 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 being both time consuming and labor intensive, it is very costly for a casino to have two payback chipsets for each of their slot machines.

After all that, every change would also need to be reported to the State of Nevada, so that the government can get its share of the slot win.

Q: When the casino is not too crowded, I will usually play two 25-cent slot machines at once.

I will usually put between $20 and $40 in each, and when one machine dries up on credits, I stick with the remaining credits on the second machine. On my last casino outing, and the first machine out of credits, I got lucky and hit for $500 on the second machine.

I decided against putting another $20 in the machine I had been previously playing. Maybe I should have. A young gal sat down and, within a few minutes, hit a $4,000 jackpot.

I told her I had just been playing that machine, and she responded, sympathetically, "Had you kept playing it, the $4,000 would have been yours."

I believe that you disagree with that statement and have written so in the past. Could you please reaffirm my reservations that the $4,000 was not really mine? — Joyce K.

ANSWER: You might have nailed the casino for 500 bucks, but that particular $4,000 was never to be yours, even if you had continued to play on that machine all along.

For you to reap that $4K jackpot, you would have had to push the spin button at the same micro-second that the player who won did. Any change in your timing would yield an entirely different result.

With the RNG (random number generator) always crunching possibilities, with millions of numbers polled every second, the result is calculated at the exact millisecond that you press the play button.

That information is then sent to an electronic chip to synchronize a particular halting point for each reel.

Almost certainly, you would have started your spin nowhere near the same instant the young gal did, so the $4,000 jackpot would not have appeared, hence your results would have been completely different.

You did pocket the $500 and walk, right?

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Percentages are sticklers for the truth." — Nick "The Greek" Dandalos, "Nick the Greek: King of Gamblers" (1969)

Mark Pilarski is a syndicated gaming writer. Visit him online at or follow him on Twitter @MarkPilarski.

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