Slots aren't that tricky

I've heard that the slot machines used in other gambling towns are programmed to stop the wheels in near-win positions after the computer determines the player did not win on that spin. This deceives players into thinking the odds of winning are much greater than they actually are. Will these tricky machines be used in any casino in this valley? I think local residents have a right to know.

— Darryl E., Medford

We suspect you've been sitting in front of too many one-armed bandits, Darryl. Give your arm a rest and it might ease your feverish mind. After all, watching all those numbers and flashing lights will make just about anybody dizzy after several hours of play time.

We checked in with the Coquille Indian Tribe, which runs the Mill Casino in North Bend. The Coquilles have proposed building a smaller casino with more than 500 video gaming machines in Medford.

Ray Doerning, spokesman for the Coquille Indian Tribe, said he's heard about your claim before, but he thinks it's based more on perception than reality.

"There are a lot of great stories out there," he said. "That's not the way casinos operate. It's not something we can do or even want to do."

Doerning swears that the casino can't even do anything to the video games to make them easier to win or more difficult.

He said gaming rules and regulations require the computer chip that controls the machines to be completely sealed off and tamper-proof.

Doerning said that it is probably a matter of perception among players that leads them to believe they almost won.

"It's not a deception," he said. "It's like a scratch-off ticket. You always seem to get two out of three."

Larry Trott, a spokesman for Oregon Lottery, said he's never heard of anyone rigging video gambling machines to show a near win.

He said that in the course of playing, someone might notice that they almost won on a number of occasions. In fact, based on the odds, a player likely almost won a number of times, he said. But he said it is more than likely a perceptual issue on the part of a gambler who is deeply involved in the game.

"It's almost like that thing where the other line seems to move faster than the line you're standing in," he said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.


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