What's the Difference between Vegas-style Slot Machines (Class III) and 'Bingo' Slot Machines (Class II) found at Indian Casinos?
I am proud to announce that this weeks blog is written by guest writer, and Rudies Member, Joshua O'Connell from KnowYourSlots.com.
If you’ve been around slots for a bit, you might have heard the terms Class II and Class III machines. Or you might have heard about random number generators or Bingo machines. If you’re wondering what this is all about, today’s blog post is for you.
Defining Class II and Class III Gaming Machines
The actual terms Class II and Class III come from federal regulations of Native American gaming, specifically in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which became law in 1988. The terms have spread beyond those casinos, for reasons that will be clear later, but this is where they came from. In a nutshell, here are the basic ideas of each as outlaid in federal law:
So how are there Class II Slot Machines? Well, they’re not really slots, even though they look an awful lot like them. Let’s define a Class III slot machine, otherwise known as a Vegas-style slot machine, and then we’ll discuss how Class II differs.
Class III: Vegas-Style Slot Machines
Class III slot machines are the ones you traditionally find in Vegas. The outcome of the game is defined by random-number generators, or RNGs, that is constantly running inside the game, generating new numbers. When you hit the play (or repeat bet) button, the RNG number (or numbers; as each reel could be controlled by its own RNG on some games) active at that time is locked in. The outcome of the game is looked up and rendered in the form of the reels spinning to a stop (mechanical reels) or animated to a stop (video slot machines).
When you hear Brian talk about “It’s all about timing,” that’s what is going on here - the exact moment you press that button the random number generated at that same moment is the one that is used to generate the results you see on your screen. Hit it a split second earlier or later and you would have ended up with a different number (thus a different outcome).
Since you lock in that number the moment you hit play, stopping the reels quickly will not change the outcome. The outcome was already decided when you started the reels spinning. What it would do is change the timing of your next spin.
Class II: Bingo Machines
A Class II machine is a device that is supposed to aid you in playing Bingo. If you’ve gone to a Bingo Hall and seen the electronic devices that some use to play the game, that’s generally the idea.
Someone smarter than most of us realized that another way that Bingo could be “helped” by a device was a visual game not unlike the look and feel of a slot machine. In it, you electronically place a bet on a game, and the outcome of whether you win or lose rendered in the form of an entertaining device (slot machine-like device), but the game you were actually playing was Bingo. The machine “aids” you by kindly taking your bets and showing you if you won. (How nice of it!)
Unlike Vegas-style slots, Bingo games’ outcomes are not determined inside the machine, or the moment you press a button. Yours and other wagers and bingo cards in a set of machines are pooled into a time-delineated bingo game (effectively all wagers within a tiny window of time, generally a handful of milliseconds), the balls drawn, and the outcomes returned to the machine in short order. Games generally need a certain number of players (although some systems allow as few as 2) and the game has to be completed to show everyone the outcomes; that’s why occasionally when playing a bingo machine it may take a bit longer to render the outcomes.
photo from RandomSlots
Bingo games were popularized in some states by the company VGT, now owned by Aristocrat, and a lot of investments in the idea and the system were made by the Seminole tribe in Florida. You can spot them pretty clearly as a bingo card is placed on the screen and the games are rendered against the cards as the slot reels are spinning. Some players have played them enough to be able to spot winning/losing patterns on the cards faster than the reels can render.
Does One Pay Better Than the Other?
Paybacks on Class III machines are set machine by machine - the casino decides what they want to pay back out of a selection of a half dozen or so choices. Most casinos will select the setting closest to what they want to achieve for that denomination(s) across their gaming floor.
Similarly, a tribe can set the Bingo prize levels to achieve the payback they wish to see for the game. As such, both have a level of control for the casino to decide what they want to pay.
Accordingly, neither will guarantee to pay better than the other; it’s up to the casinos themselves to make that call, as long as it meets the state-mandated minimums, which are usually laughably low compared to what most casinos actually pay back.
Many players will find it frustrating to learn that most tribes are not required to report their payback percentages. Some, like in Connecticut, do, because of the agreements they made with the state, but that’s an exception.
If I Don’t See a Bingo Card, Does That Mean It’s a Vegas-Style Machine?
Not necessarily. Some states, like New York, allow for other types of games that are also not governed by an RNG, but aren’t bingo either. Sites like the American Casino Guide give you a breakdown state by state of the games offered and by who, and can help you figure it out a bit. Some games act like virtual scratch-off cards, and some even use historical horse racing results to determine the outcome.
Many of these other alternatives are set up to support horse racing facilities get around slot machine limitations and regulations through legal loopholes, just as the Class II machines were designed to get around Bingo regulations in a similar way. And like the others, usually there is no real difference in long-term play unless you get very granular, as the payback scenarios are set up over time to basically achieve the casino’s desired outcome.
While Vegas-style slots and Bingo machines take very different courses to get you to your outcome, in reality both play similarly, and many of you may not have even noticed that you’re playing a different sort of game. The next time you get a big win, if you see you’re on a Class II machine, you might find that the right reaction is to stand up and yell out BINGO!
Joshua O’Connell is the founder and creator of Know Your Slots, a website that aims to educate about slots, advantage play and casino comps. He’s a slot enthusiast and a proud member of the Rudies since launch.
Thank you so much Josh for that insightful blog! If you would like to be a guest writer for BCSlots.com, kindly send us an E-mail.
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