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In many jurisdictions slot machines are required by law or regulation to have a minimum Return To Players percentage (RTP). In Nevada the slot machine RTP must be at least 75% and in New Jersey it must be at least 83%.

For those that play slots regularly or even incidentally, it might be easy to be sarcastic and suggest the machine(s) they are playing may have forgotten that requirement. In reality though the math on most games is designed such that when all the possible combinations of symbols are compared to the pay tables, the casino would statistically have an RTP compliant with the regulatory requirements.

In Nevada the statewide average hold percentage (the amount of money kept by casinos from all wagers made in slot play) generally runs between 6.69% and 8% depending on which games the customer favored over a particular period. Those averages would translate to RTPs between 93.31% and 92%.

But what about skill-based games what is the RTP for them?

While skill-based games might have some common features with slot machines, such as bill and ticket acceptors, player card inserts, being free standing devices and giving the impression of being a slot machine, at their core they are not slot machines. The big distinguishing difference being, with a slot machine the results are determined for the most part by chance, whereas with skill-based games results are principally determined by the player’s physical dexterity and/or mental ability.

Skill-based games are evolving in two directions, player vs. player and player vs. computer. In these variations how could there be a minimum RTP?

Some hybrids have features of both slot machines and skill-based game. For example, imagine a first person shooter game (player gets to shoot objects on the screen) where the game randomly gives the player different objects of different values to shoot at and score points, and based on points obtained win an amount of money.

While there is a skill element in this type of game, it also has a random element in the opportunity of what the customer could win. As such these games might be more slot than skill-based and probably should comply with the RTP for slot machines in the jurisdiction they are being played in.

However, in true skill-based games there is absolutely no assurance the player(s) are going to win anything at all so the whole concept of RTP should not apply. For skill-based games where the play is based on player vs. player, the casinos and regulators should take a lesson from the poker room and have to declare rules about everything from player conduct to collusion and even provide notice to players when someone is playing as a shill or proposition player on the games.

In the player vs. player format the casino, again just as in the poker room, will take a rake or percentage of the monies wagered on the game and basically get paid for providing the games.

For skill-based games where the game is played against the computer and the computer is treated just like another player, except it represents the casino, perhaps there should be some ethics added to the mix.

Recently I was asked if I were still running a casino where would I put the skill-based games. My natural reaction was near the casino lounge in a high traffic area on the side where the cocktail waitress casino service station is.

My questioner commented how smart, place them in high traffic areas for exposure and close to the areas where the right demographic would see them. Sadly they ascribed kinder intents than what I had in mind. My reasoning was much more predatory than that.

If the skill-based games were in that part of the casino, the players were much more likely to have their attention and game focus interrupted by the noise, drink solicitations and heavy traffic flow. Imagine if you are playing in a game against the computer, and an attractive cocktail waitress or passerby interrupts your focus and attention at a key point in the game. The computer will not be distracted but the player most certainly would be.

In further consideration and in fairness to the players, it seems to me perhaps there should be a code of ethics such that the casino trains employees not to bother players in mid-game, and put the games in a quiet spot so the players could focus, which would help the players. Then the wisdom of W.C. Fields came to mind: “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”

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