Making the News

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Originally Published:Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meadows' slots payout state's highest

By Mike Wereschagin
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Slot machines at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino recorded the highest payout percentage in the state since the beginning of the fiscal year in July, according to state data.

The 92.5 percent payout rate at the North Strabane casino helped push it past the $1 billion mark in payouts to gamblers since the permanent facility opened in April, according to the casino. The average payout rate for all casinos in the state this fiscal year is 91.3 percent, according to the state.

The payout rate at Rivers Casino on the North Shore was 91.2 percent. Rivers opened Aug. 9, and gambling industry analysts said it takes about a year of operating before an accurate payout percentage can be calculated.

"I wouldn't want to judge (Rivers Casino) based on just a few weeks of operation," said Joseph Weinert, vice president of the gambling analysis company Spectrum Gaming Group.

In states where gambling is legal, the commissions that oversee casinos set minimum limits on how much slot machines must pay out. In New Jersey, for instance, it's 83 percent. In Pennsylvania, it's 85 percent.

"Nobody ever sets them at the minimums," said Marcus Prater, executive director of the Las Vegas-based Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.

Higher payouts, if they're advertised, attract more customers, Weinert said.

They also cut into casinos' profit margins and the state taxes levied on them. But with competition from two West Virginia casinos and Rivers Casino, Meadows executives have no plans to lower the payout rate, said spokesman David La Torre.

Slot machines in New Jersey casinos pay between 91 and 92 percent, said Daniel Heneghan, spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. At Nevada casinos, the average last year was 93.9 percent, said Nevada Gaming Control Board auditor Frank Streshley.

Payout rates generally rise with the denomination of slot play, Prater said. Dollar slots typically pay back 92 percent to 95 percent, quarter slots 90 percent to 93 percent, and nickel slots 88 percent to 91 percent, he said.


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