The earliest forms of the casino game known as a “slot machine” were a clunky configuration of reels, gears, handles and a cabinet. In the early 1800s a player would have found such a contraption most frequently near a bar, where the bartender paid out the winnings in the form of free beer, cigars, food and occasionally cash.
Today however most slot machines are operated by a computer system, and many no longer even require the old “reels”. At first the completely computerized equipment left many gamblers worrying about fraud, but the regulatory requirements and the regular examination of machines quickly laid any fears to rest.
A modern, computerized slot machine requires the installation of a Random Number Generator, more commonly referred to as an RNG. This software is constantly spitting out random numbers in a non-repetitive manner. It does this even while no one is playing the machine. While there are some debates about the technology, with some mathematicians arguing that the random numbers are not “true” but are “pseudorandom” patterns that eventually repeat themselves, the software continues to be used legally.
Fundamentally everyone agrees that RNG software permits each pull of the handle, or push of the button, to provide each player with an even chance at hitting a jackpot or other winning configuration.
If a machine still uses reels, the outcome is not determined by any gears or the reels, but by the computer which sends a signal for the reel to stop where the RNG software has indicated.
The computerization of machines also eliminates the need for casinos to stock machines with coins or tokens as frequently, because software is able to track a player’s credits and issue them their award by a push of a button when they are done playing, or by reading a “club” or credit card from which it takes funds, and deposits it back into their account.
Where payouts are concerned the slot machine’s software is actually programmed to issue a specific percentage of winnings back into a player’s bankroll, and a small amount to the casino. There are strict rules and laws about the amounts the casinos are allowed to keep, and while the minimum return to players is generally set at around seventy five percent, most casinos will leave their machines “loose” to encourage players to stay at their establishment.
The theoretical payout of a machine is set while it is at the factory, and should this setting require a change of any kind it usually means a complete replacement of the software. Some states require any alterations to a machine to be done in the presence of a state official, while others require inspections or audits of machines to verify their histories and payout amounts.
Technology has progressed to the point where slot machines no longer need the reels inside, and rely strictly on computer “touch” screens for play. These machines are also set with the same RNG software, payout minimums and are just as strongly regulated by gaming commissions and state agencies. The completely computerized slot machines also have become incredibly popular for “at home” or online gamblers who sign up for accounts with the casinos that administrate the web versions of the games.