The proof is in the payoffs!

Dec 9, 2002 11:34 PM

   As noted previously, video keno enjoys a loyal following in Las Vegas, mostly in the “locals” casinos, where players find a variety of different keno games and machines from which to choose.

   In addition to playing for huge jackpots (nickel progressives can reach the $7000-$8,000 level, with quarter jackpots often hitting in the $25,000 to $100,000 range), keno fans like the quick pace of the games so they’re constantly “in action.”

   Regular “live” keno moves at the rate of about 12 games an hour. The pace may vary, but it’s slowed by the keno runners who must complete their rounds.

   With video keno you can set your own pace, and the machines allow for up to eight to 10 games per minute. And, of course, the more games you play, the more chances you have of winning. After all, it’s a numbers game!

   I’ve pointed out that I’ve had good fortune playing the older, IGT keno machines with the two screens and the light pen for marking the numbers.

   The upper screen shows you what you can win for the number of coins played and the number of spots selected. The lower screen is laid out much like a paper keno ticket, with 10 columns and eight rows displaying numbers 1 through 80. The numbers you select and the numbers picked by the machine are indicated on this screen.

   The problem playing these machines is that they’re disappearing from the landscape. There are a few holdovers at places like the El Cortez, Arizona Charlie’s, the Western Hotel, Sam’s Town and the Nevada Palace. There may be more, most likely in older casinos that cater to local players.

   The newer versions of video keno have only one screen, comparable to the lower screen of the two-screen version. The payoffs are displayed — either off to the side or below the video screen — when you touch the screen and mark your numbers.

   Video keno payoffs may vary, but not as much as the live keno payoffs. In any case, it’s always a good idea to be sure you’re playing a machine that will give you the maximum payoff for your coins.

   Most machines will hold up to 1,000 credits, but some of the newer models — especially the ticket-in, ticket-out machines — can hold higher amounts. If the bell starts ringing, be prepared to receive a hand-pay jackpot.

   While video poker is the most popular of casino slot machines, video poker continues to attract players with their unusually high jackpots. The percentage of revenue held by the casino in video keno machines is slightly higher than the amount held in video poker: keno games typically return about 92 percent to the player, while poker machines often have return rates in the 98 percent range and higher.

   There are misconceptions about video keno machines. One is that the casino can tighten or loosen the screws on a machine to affect the payoff. Manufacturers say this isn’t possible. Each machine is equipped with a computer chip that has a certain percentage of “hold” built in. This ensures that over the long haul the casino will retain a set percentage of profit from the operation of that machine. The gaming commission must approve each chip and its “hold” cannot exceed the legal limit. For most video keno machines, that hold is about 7.5%.

   A keno machine played at the maximum of eight games per minute with one quarter played will process $120 an hour. At 7.5%, that computes to a $9 an hour “hold.” If that machine is played for 12 hours each day, in one year it will yield a profit of $39,420 to the casino.

   Some people play slower than others and some play more coins than others, but in the long run the percentages will hold up. For the casino it’s a “no-brainer.” No casino would jeopardize its license by tampering with machines already set to pay them the percentage they want.