Although I recently updated this page, the information is out-of-date. You can't even get cash back any more - free play rules the day. I'm leaving this page around just for historical information. Half of the casinos are even operating any more!
In playing video poker (or slots, if you are so inclined), the cash back policy of the casino can be a critical factor determining whether you win or lose overall. I've tried to put accurate information here, but I can't keep it updated on a timely basis, partly because I don't visit some casinos with any frequency. You should check with a slot host if you any doubts before you invest your money.
Note that the values I give are primarily for Video Poker --- slot cash
back can be much higher (up to 2.5%). However, when the cash back is that
high, you can be sure the machine is a poor payer. Since there is no easy
way to determine what the expectation of a slot machine is, I pretty much
ignore the cash back on them.
Since the EV can
vary significantly depending on the type of machine and denomination, I'd
especially like information that you've obtained from actual play.
|Caesars||$5||Mailed||??||??||0.165%-0.33%||??||Comp desk (ask)|
|Harrahs||$5||Instant?||0.025||Varies||Varies||0.1 pt||Hard to tell|
|Resorts||$1||Mailed||$1||~$400||~0.25%||1 pt||Comp machine|
|Showboat||$5||Mailed||N/A||0.25-0.5%||1 pt||On machine|
|Taj Mahal||$5||Mailed||N/A||0.14-0.51%||$0.01||Comp machine|
|Trump Marina||$5||Mailed||N/A||Varies||$0.01||Hard to tell|
|Trump Plaza||$5||Mailed||$.25||$50||~0.25%||1 point||Comp machine|
|Countdown||A "countdown" is shown on the machine indicating how many coins you must play before you earn the next point.|
|Bally's||In 2002, Bally's finally started offering cash back. However, it is only sent to those with an average bet size of $2 or more. So quarter full-coin play ($1.25) does not qualify, but triple-play quarters do. Players that do not make the $2/bet cut still get "bounce back" cash, which is probably indirectly related to the amount of play.|
|Claridge||One of the hardest places to figure EV. You can only get an reading on your cash back when you earned $5 (surely more than $500 in action). I've given an approximate EV of 0.25% based on reports by at least two players.|
Unfortunately, the cash back situation at Harrah's has deteriorated
in the last year. Cash back status cannot be determined at the machine
or the comp machines. You can get a rough idea by the comps available,
but you have to wait until you get a mailed coupon to determine what
One of the slot hosts indicated that the cash back depends on the machines you play. As far as I could tell, it is about 0.25% on the good machines (they have $1, $2 and $5 9/6 Jacks).
|Hilton||In addition to the "direct" cash back, another 1/3rd of this is available as a delayed bonus that you can collect each June and December. Oddly, play in these two months does not earn the bonus.|
|Resorts||It has been reported that the instant cash back level has been reduced to $10. As far as I know, you must earn still a minimum of $10/trip to get any cash back. At 0.25%, that's $4000 per day minimum -- pretty steep by AC standards.|
|Sands||As of 2/1/98 the cash back has been doubled to $.20/pt provided you give them at 35 points (35x$35=$1225) of action in one day. If you can get to Platinum level (2500 pts/six months), you get $.30/pt, for a quite respectable cash back rate of 0.86%. The Platinum level require an extensive amount of play over a six month period.|
|Showboat||Points earned for the day are displayed (up to a max of 800) when your card is inserted. As of this writing, I do not know the cash back per point. Since there are no more playable $.25 games here, I haven't measured the cashback recently.|
|Taj Mahal||Unfortunately, the cash back rate on many machines at the Taj has declined again (in 2002).|
|Min Cash||This is the minimum increment that you can get in cash. Obviously, smaller is better here (if you have a balance below the minimum it will eventually get thrown away).|
|Payment||It is preferable to get your cash back the same day (especially if you won't be back for a while -- cash back eventually expires). The Sands seems to be unique in letting you get your cash back on the same machine you are playing (I haven't checked this myself).|
|Point Val||If the casino uses a "point" system, this is the value of a point in cash (it might also be convertible into credits for buying things at a higher rate).|
|Earn Point||The amount of money you must wager to earn a points (where applicable).|
|EV||The added expectation from cash back. Except for (apparently) the Sands,
this varies from machine to machine. The Taj host indicated they pay one-third
of expected loss back, but only on $1 machines or higher.
For most casinos, I have put in actual figures that I obtained from actual play or observation -- but don't take them as gospel.
|Status||This column shows the units that are used to indicate your current comp status. This allows you to see if just a bit more play will get you to the next level. The Claridge isn't very helpful (you only find out when you've gotten to the next $10). Most places show you how much you've earned in money or points -- the granularity of the counter is shown in the column.|
|Where||The best thing for the player is if the comp status is constantly displayed "On machine" during play (now only at the Sands). The next best is being able to check your status on a comp machine. At Harrahs, you apparently can't even find out your current status by asking a host!|
Once you've put enough cash through the machines to get to at least $5 in cash back, you can start asking for other comps. The easiest thing to get is food comps for non-premium places (buffet, coffee shop). Getting a free room (especially on the weekend --- prime time in AC), requires substantially more play, and RFB status gets into high roller territory. Note that even with modest levels of play, you may get offers through the mail for free or discounted rooms (subject to availability). These come from casino marketing and may have a much lower threshold than the casino hosts can offer. However, if you take advantage of one of these, be aware that you will generally have to "earn" the comp through same day play before you can get anything else (such as free meals).
Since I only play at a few properties at the comp-earning level, and since information from hosts is hard to get or of uncertain accuracy (a host at the Hilton assured me the high limit machines gave 1% cash back, but an actual experiment showed no more than 0.25%), I would be grateful for email detailing your actual experiences with cash back and comps. Let me know whether or not you want the information shared with the on-line world.