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Today, it is not uncommon to see casinos bragging that their slots have better payouts than any one else's. Many casinos in Las Vegas advertise payouts as high as 97.5%. That means for every 1000 coins you play you get 975 back. For slots, that's a good payout. Most antique slots have payouts of only 75 - 85%.

There are, however, circumstances when the payout can exceed 100%, at least for a limited amount of time. One such case is when you play a slot with a progressive jackpot feature, that is the jackpot increases by a small amount every time someone plays it. If the jackpot gets big enough, then the number of coins in the jackpot can exceed (statistically) the number of coins you have to play to win. It sounds like a sure thing, doesn't it?

The concept of increasing the odds to entice players to gamble longer, goes back to 1937 when the Mills Novelty Co. introduced the Bonus Horse Head slot machine. With this machine, the player won not only when he hit the normal winning combinations of cherries, oranges, and bars, but also won a bonus jackpot of 20 coins when he completed the word "BONUS" on the top of the machine.

To complete the word "BONUS," the player had to get the letters which were printed on the first reel strip one by one in the correct sequence. First the "B," then the "O," then the "N," the "U," and finally the "S." On the average, it took a 100 pulls to spell the word "BONUS." There were 20 stops, and you had to hit the right letter 5 times.

If one or more letters were already on the machine, as a result of a previous player hitting them, but leaving before he finished the word, it would take less pulls on average to complete the word.

For example, if "BONU" were already hit, it would take on the average only 10 more pulls to get the extra 20 coin jackpot . . . Any other winnings would be on top of the "BONUS" jackpot. You can see, therefore, how a player could paly a machine and have the payout odds be over 100%.

While several different reel strips were made for the bonus slot which varied the payout odds, the most common ones had a payout odds of 79.25%. The bonus feature increased the odds by another 18% raising the overall payout odds to 97.25%, a very good payout.

If, however, one or more letters were already showing, your payout odds increased. For example, if the "B" was already showing, the payout odds if you played that machine was 102.75%. If the "BO" letters were shown, the payout odds were 109.25%. If the letter "BON" were shown, the payout odds were 124.25% and if the letter "BONU" were shown, the payout odds was 169.25%.

Mills undoubtedly knew, as casinos have since learned, that machines with high payouts not only attract more players, but also would entice them to play longer and lose more money than would be the case if the player did not believe or feel that they were playing a winning machine. Mills liked the concept of the "BONUS" payoff so much that he re-introduced it to the High Top line after WWII.

(If you want to know more about how the payout odds of the Bonus Head slot machine are calculated, there is a good article in the August 1980 issue of Loose Change.)


For information on antique slot machine values, go to Antique Slot Machine Price Guide

For information on repair options, legality in your state or for a list of slot machines available for sale, visit the Slot Machine Resource Center



Copyright: 2009 Ken Durham, GameRoomAntiques





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Ken Durham
3000 Galloway Ridge, C-306
Pittsboro NC 27312
For Orders Only: 202-213-1585 (10am - 9pm East Coast Time)
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