What Is the Difference between Video Lottery Terminals and Slot Machines?

It may look like a regular slot machine and play like one, but a video lottery terminal differs quite a bit in terms of how winners are determined.

VLTs are usually equated more with games like bingo, pull-tabs, scratch-offs, or lotto than they are with slot machines. This is because there are a pre-determined number of winners, and players are competing with each other for a prize rather than against the house. There is also not necessarily a winner in each game.

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Video Lottery Terminals (Class II machines)

VLTs are most often found in Indian gaming casinos or “racinos” (location with both a horse racetrack, as well as a casino). Each machine or terminal in a casino is linked together, forcing players to compete against one another for the prize, and with a set number of wins an losses, the group of machines is preprogramed to payout at specific times.

The only catch is that players must announce their win in order to get the payout, because the games are interactive. Although not every game has a winner, the game will be ongoing until a winner is determined.

As indicated by the name, VLT winners are determined much like a lottery scratch card. Basically, when a game starts on a VLT, the system the machines are connected to randomly chooses a “scratch-off ticket” from those that remain. Once it receives the information regarding the winner, it sends the results to the VLT to reveal the winner, typically in some entertaining way.

Obviously, the machine doesn’t have the ability to actually scratch off a ticket, but it does choose the winner from a pool, similar to a lottery ticket. Once all the outcomes in a pool are chosen, the central system receives a new pool.

The payouts can be slightly different on VLTs, as well. According to readybetgo.com, “The final results wouldn’t be noticeably different if the RNG simply picked one number from a group of numbers. Thus the mathematic methods of supplying the decisions in VLTs may be radically different than traditional RNG methods. But in the end, 1 in 10 is still 1 in 10, and 1 in 5,000 is still 1 in 5,000.” The blog goes on to explain that the reason VLTs can be slightly tighter is that they’re offered in areas where there is little competition. In fact, the typical payout is anywhere from 85% to 92%. So, if you’re playing in a casino that offers both VLTs and tradition slots, you’re probably better off with the latter.

Slot Machines (Class III)

Slot machines, often referred to as “Vegas-style” or traditional slots are the machines you’re probably accustomed to playing. Each traditional slot machine in a casino plays independently from other machines. The only way in which they are linked is usually in terms of the jackpot, but this is only for progressive networks.

Contrary to popular thought, there is no way to know if a certain machine is “hot.” The typical belief is that if a machine has just payed out, you shouldn’t play on it. This is simply not true. Because of the Random Number Generator, each machine has exactly the same likelihood of paying out. Unlike VLTs, slot machines are also not preprogrammed to pay out at any time, so you always have a chance at the jackpot!

To put players at ease who may have abandoned a machine in the past only to watch it pay out for the next player, you must understand that RNGs are programmed down to the millisecond, so the odds of winning if you had stayed are low. Because of this, the lever must be pulled at almost the exact time the winning number is generated.

Unlike VLTs, slot machine wins are immediate, and winners don’t have to announce their win to receive a prize. Although, I wouldn’t discourage any hooting and hollering if you’ve just landed a $10,000 jackpot. You earned it.


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