Maryland expands slot machine monitoring network
Slot machines: Chance or math?
Slot machines may seem random, with player’s wins and losses totally due to luck. A slots player may hit several spins in a row, then draw a blank for the rest of the night. Some slots aficionados will set a lucky charm on the slot machine before they start their session. Winning or losing is all up to chance. Or is it?
A slot machine is controlled by a motherboard, a sort of electronic brain, if you will. The motherboard is constantly tracking payouts and losses. Its job is to make sure the machine pays out at least the state-mandated minimum. In Maryland, this is a relatively generous eighty-seven percent. While this may seem low, it isn’t when compared to many other states. Nevada, for example, requires slot machines to pay out only seventy-five percent of what players put into them.
Why slot machines are so fun
Of course, the slot machine’s minimum payout is calculated over the life of the machine. One player could very easily lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This player may leave and the player who sits down could win thousands. This randomness (or at least that’s what seems like) is what causes slots to be so enjoyable to many players. If players always lost, they would soon stop patronizing slot machines. If players always won, the casino would lose huge amounts of money. The trick is to pay out the percentage that attracts the most players, because they will lose over the long run. The amount of money involved can make instant play casinos greedy, which is why state laws mandate minimum payouts.
Maryland’s system for monitoring slots
Every slot machine is controlled by a motherboard, but slot machines in Maryland are also connected to the Internet. The state of Maryland uses this connection to ensure minimum payouts are observed and that there is no unapproved software running on any of the machines. Maryland’s system is one of the most advanced in the country.
The cost to taxpayers
The system monitors a massive 8416 machines. The costs to taxpayers are considerable, as one might imagine. The computer network cost twenty-one million dollars in taxpayer dollars over five years. The contract between the private company responsible for the system and the state of Maryland is about to expire, and Maryland is expected to renew it. The renewed contract will cost Maryland residents twenty million dollars, and includes an expansion to cover the new MGM casino.
The nerve center
The servers for the monitoring system are located in a large secured room somewhere in Baltimore. A group of tech employees oversee it day and night, ready to take care of any bugs and glitches. The network is mostly automated, but there are routine tasks that the tech employees must take care of.
The amount of money
While the slot monitoring network cost taxpayers twenty one million dollars over the last five years, it brought in far more than that for the state of Maryland. For example, the Maryland Live! casino has roughly half of the states slots. In one month, the casino slots make roughly thirty million dollars, or about a million dollars a day. The state of Maryland gets a hefty cut of this. No one will say how much, but it more than outpaces the money spent on the state’s network.