As times get tight, so do the slots at Colorado casinos |

As times get tight, so do the slots at Colorado casinos

Andy Vuong
The Denver Post
(HR) ABOVE: Folks gamble at some of the slot machines at the Golden Mardi Gras Casino. Blake Sartini is the CEO of of Golden Gaming and the owner of the Golden Mardi Gras casino in Blackhawk. He spoke recently to the Denver Post. Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post

Luck, or lack of it, might not be the only reason you’re losing more at the slots these days. The payout rates on Colorado casino slots are at their lowest levels in 15 years.

In 2008, casinos paid out 93 percent of total slot wagers, down from a peak of 94.5 percent from 1999 to 2001, data from the Colorado Division of Gaming show.

That 1.5-percentage-point difference last year would have added $133 million to gamblers’ pockets, according to a Denver Post analysis.

Payback percentages on slots increased or remained flat for 10 straight years until 2002, when a decline began that has accelerated over the past three years.

State gambling laws require operators to pay out at least 80 percent of total bets on slots.

Industry officials attribute the lower payouts to the proliferation of penny slots, which are programmed to hold more for the house than quarter and dollar machines.

“A video-poker game or dollar slot machine holds on average 4 to 6 cents on the dollar, whereas a penny video reel might hold 8 or 9 cents on the dollar,” said Christopher Abraham, a spokesman for Golden Gaming, which operates three casinos in Black Hawk.

“If you’re going to get much less of an average bet per spin, then the game is going to pay back just a little bit less,” Abraham said.

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