Being easy to play and understand, slots are a great form of entertainment on the casino floor and in the online casino lobby. They may not offer huge opportunities for skillful play as do poker and blackjack, nor do they have the classic casino appeal of roulette and craps. Even though slots usually offer the worst odds compared to other games, when it comes to casino gambling, they are considered the king.
But which type of slots do offer the best gaming experience – the online or physical, land-based version of the game? While the answer is probably a matter of personal preference, both virtual games and slot machines have their advantages and disadvantages. This article does not aim at swaying anyone’s opinion – it simply attempts to break down the differences between the two types of play so that novices know what to expect from each one of them.
Slot Machines in Land-Based Casinos
In the past few decades, slots have become synonymous with casino gambling. They cover most of the casino floor and they attract the most patrons with their fast-pace gameplay, bright lights, and the premise for effortless, light-hearted fun. Usually, the profits generated from slot machines account for at least 60 percent of the gambling revenue of every casino.
The Social Factor
Slot Machine Hold
In terms of gameplay, modern video slot machines do not differ much from online slots. Once you choose a game, you put a note or a coin in the money slot and push a button to spin the reels. The outcome is determined by a computer program and does not depend on any physical properties of the machine – unless you find a rare vintage game, of course. Most machine makers use special software that guarantees that the odds of every spin will be the same and that each outcome will be random.
The Social Factor
Playing slots and enjoying free drinks with friends at the nearest casino might be a wonderful night out for many people. Many players prefer spending a few hours at the casino rather than in a night club. This way they can gamble, enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages, and find a good company. Moreover, large casino establishments provide their patrons with some sort of entertainment such as concerts, stand-up comedy shows, etc. So, if you want to socialize while playing your favorite games, the brick-and-and-mortar casino is the best option.
Slot Machine Hold
And while this is the preferred type of game among recreational players and many regular casino goers, slots also offer an almost certain way to lose your entire bankroll within hours. The “one-armed bandits”, as these machines were once called due to their uncanny ability to steal your money, offer bad odds and low returns compared to other casino games. If played skillfully, blackjack and poker could be positive expectation games, while roulette has a house edge of 2.70% to 5.26%, depending on whether you play the single or double-zero game.
The house edge in slot machines on casino floors tends to be around 10% or even more. Often, the rough percentage of the hold is determined by law and, therefore, varies significantly among countries and even among states in the US. The hold is the expected amount of each wager that the slot machine “holds” over time. In some jurisdictions, casino operators are required to guarantee their patron returns of least 90% – the hold or house edge would be 10%, while in others, there are no requirements at all. Moreover, the expected returns of land-based slot machines over time are much worse than the returns of their virtual counterparts you can play online.
Benefits of Playing Online Slots
Variety of Games
Free Play Slots
The advantages of playing slots online are more than a few, especially for those people who have no land-based casinos nearby. They can play various slots from their computers, tablets, or phones without having to travel, spend money on food and accommodation, worry about the casino dress code and etiquette, etc. Moreover, online casinos are open around the clock and the games are always available so there is no chance that your favorite slot is occupied. As you can see, when it comes to convenience, online slots are the obvious winner.
Variety of Games
Many casino players also prefer to play online because of the greater selection of games on the Internet. While brick-and-mortar casinos have to restrict the number and variety of slots due to the limited space, web-based operators can easily afford to have hundreds and even thousands of games.
Players can enjoy classic 3-reel slots, modern video and 3D slots, games with bonus rounds, free spins, and progressive jackpots. The styles and genres are practically countless as the games can be developed by dozens of online slot makers. To find a slot that fits their tastes and needs, players can visit different casino websites rather than sticking to one casino with a limited range of games.
As mentioned above, online slots usually return a larger percentage of the total wager to players than land-based slot machines. It may not always be the case, but this principle is true for most slots and casinos. In many states and countries, casinos are required to guarantee their patrons long-term returns of 70% or 80%, while in others, this percentage may reach 90%.
In comparison, online game developers tend to follow some international industry standards and create slots with returns of at least 90% or 92%. Many online slots have a theoretical Return to Player of over 95% – some of the best games return 97% of players’ wagers and above. It should also be noted that unlike in land-based casinos, the majority of online casinos and software developers publish the RTP percentages of the slots they offer.
Online slots are created with a Random Number Generator (RNG) built in them so that the fairness of the games can be guaranteed. Usually, this special software is subject to strong security testing and is regularly audited by independent testing agencies. The RNG is used in practically all modern video and virtual games that must include a random element. In online slots, it is applied to guarantee that the outcome of each spin of the reels will be random and independent of any previous or future results.
In most cases, physical slot machines also use RNG. However, depending on the jurisdiction, some games may have different mechanics and not all of them may incorporate RNG software. This has raised concerns among some players who believe that such games can be manipulated by casinos. Modern online slots by respected developers
Free Play Slots
Another benefit of playing online rather than land-based slots is the option to play for free. The vast majority of online casinos allow their games to be accessed in demo mode where, instead of wagering real money, players can make bets with fun credits. If they run out of fun balance, it is restored immediately by restarting the game. Except for some progressive jackpot slots, all online slots can be played for free, which is a great tool for exploring new games and testing their bonus features.
Both online and brick-and-mortar casinos offer some sort of loyalty or reward programs. One of the advantages of playing online, however, is that web-based casinos track patrons’rewards and comp points automatically. Players do not need to bring a rewards card or a club card with them at all times – the points they earn are calculated by the casino management software. Moreover, players can instantly check their VIP status, how much points they have accumulated, what rewards they can receive back, etc.
In addition to these loyalty programs, online casinos also offer various bonuses. Often, they are bonus funds that match the amount of the player’s first deposit into the casino but there are also reload bonuses, free spins on particular slots, cashback bonuses, free casino chips, and more. They are given under certain conditions, however, and before claiming any bonus, players should review all terms and requirements.