Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

State Gaming Commission Holding Back on Slot Info

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

State Gaming Commission Holding Back on Slot Info

Article excerpt

In the early days of the Missouri Gaming Commission, Chairman Robert Wolfson assured us that the commission would release even more statistics about casino operations than its counterpart in Illinois.

Ten months after Missouri's casinos opened for business, however, the commission is releasing far less data than regulators in Illinois.

Each month, the Illinois Gaming Board sends out four pages full of fascinating details on Illinois casino results. Among the most interesting numbers - for journalists, analysts and the gaming public - are slot holds.

These are the percentages that each casino keeps of all the money dropped into its slot machines. The flip side of this number is the payout, the percentage that is paid back to slot machine customers in the form of winnings.

The number is only an average for the casino, and each type and denomination of machine may vary. In addition, the number is not made public until five or six weeks after the end of the month. But it still gives a good indication of the best deal for players, based on historical data that is released by neutral regulators who have the authority to verify the numbers.

Missouri players are not so lucky. Despite Wolfson's assurances, which were later repeated by Thomas Irwin, executive director of the commission, the commission refuses to release data on slot holds.

The Missouri commission collects such data. But last week, in response to our request for the data under the Freedom of Information Act, the commission told us "the information you requested is proprietary and is closed pursuant to Section 313.847 RSMo."

It's interesting that such data is proprietary in Missouri but not in Illinois, especially when so many of Missouri's gaming regulatory practices were copied from Illinois. After more than three years, Illinois has a healthy casino industry that doesn't seem to have been damaged by the disclosure of slot holds.

Supposedly, Missouri requires casinos to post signs that give some indication of slot holds. The signs on the Admiral, however, are hard to find and not specific as to the dates covered. We couldn't find any signs at all on the Casino St. Charles last week.

St. Louis area slot players who want the best deal should stick to the East St. Louis Casino Queen and the Alton Belle.

VIDEO POKER ALTERNATIVE: Players of video poker, however, don't have to worry about disclosure. The payout tables on the video poker machines tell them all they need to know.

The key statistic, according to a local odds expert known as The GameMaster, is the payout for a full house and a flush. The classic draw poker device is called a 9/6 machine. That means that a full house pays nine coins and a flush pays six coins.

Many machines pay less, but that information is posted on the payout table. Some machines, for example, pay only seven or eight coins for a full house and five for a flush.

There may be a reason for that, such as a game that has a wild card. Or maybe the house just wants to make more money and players don't know any better.

Casino St. Charles has added about 20 of the 25-cent 9/6 machines on the third deck of its boat. …

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