A slot machine that "wasn't gambling"?

One company built a slot machine that they claimed should be allowed where gambling was forbidden, because their machine “wasn’t gambling”.

I hope I can clearly explain how it worked:

There was a window in the front of the machine showing a compartment that had either some coins or no coins. The customer (can’t use the word “gambler”, that’s the point of this discussion) fed a new coin to the machine and pulled the lever.
First - the compartment emptied and any money from there was given to the customer.
Second - the fruit wheels went around and stopped.
Third - the machine dropped any coins from that result (can’t call it “payout” just yet) into the compartment - behind the window.


So the customer could see exactly what the return would be every time they played the machine. That’s why the manufacturer claimed the machine was not gambling.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. It seems that this would have been gambling , just like betting on the horses - but betting on two sequential races at once.

(Side comment: Imagine the frustration of a customer who fed the machine and hit the jackpot, then found that they didn’t have another coin.)

IANAL but I don’t see how this could possibly fly. Every new person will see an empty chamber, as the last player will obviously not leave free money behind, and so you are betting each time on what your next spin will get you. It’s still gambling, just 1 turn delayed.

OTOH, I can totally believe someone tried to argue it. When you set rules, it’s human nature that people try to find ways around them, especially where profit is involved.

So basically, they created a new definition of “gambling”, then created a machine that didn’t break their personal definition.

Where is all the money coming from?

I’ve heard that poker is not gambling because the results are dependent on skill, while your average slot machine is still essentially a random result machine.

From your description it is still a matter of chance whether your “I wasn’t gambling, really” machine lets you come out richer-poorer-even on one or multiple plays.

If its not gambling, presumably its results can be influenced by skill, which means that it turns into a coin quarry if you know what you are doing. So @TriPolar’s question goes to the heart of the issue - where does the money come from, if the model does not always allow for more losers than winners?

Er, not “my machine”. This is something that was actually built.

I’m not sure why the issue of “where does the money come from” is relevant to the question of gambling. Where does the money come from when one plays the horses? Where does it come from when one invests in a government bond? Where does it come from when one plays the market**.

The question of skill may be more relevant to the definition of gambling. Maybe the question of a “zero sum game” should enter into it - but that gets into the question of market futures.

(Now: I’m not arguing that putting money into the stock market is “exactly like gambling”.)

Nobody ever loses money, so there will be nothing in at all in the machine unless the not-casino just keeps adding money to it. Why would they do that?

Anyway, it is already arguable whether you are gambling at a casino. In gambling you have some chance of winning, at the casino all the odds are always stacked against you.

Another not-gambling machine is a similar to a slot machine and popular at carnivals. You put a coin in the machine, 5 wheels with a suit of playing cards on each wheel spins, and you push 5 different buttons to stop the wheels from spinning at a particular place. If you get a winning poker hand you get paid some money or prizes. It’s not gambling because it’s a game of skill. If you know how to time it you can get a royal flush each time.

I think that it’s very relevant.

From other gamblers.

From taxpayers.

From growth in the economy.

If the person who puts this machine out there actually wants to make money off of it, then it is a negative sum game, you are expected to put more money in on average than you get out. If they are just putting it out for a lark, then it is going to be a zero sum game, you only win if someone else loses.

If it is some philanthropist who puts it out, and constantly adds money to it, then it could be considered to not be gambling, as you would have a positive expected value, but I doubt that is often going to be the case.

It isn’t. You can play the stock market like a casino, daytrading and playing with penny stocks. But a reasonably balanced portfolio is almost sure to grow with time. About the only reason that it wouldn’t would be if society collapses, and that becomes a much bigger problem.

I’m not sure where you got that idea from - the OP is describing a conventional spinning-reels fruit machine with two key differences:

  1. The payouts, instead of being paid out immediately after each play, are paid out immediately before the following play
  2. The payouts are visible through a window while they are held between plays

The machine makes a profit the same way as a normal machine - by (on average) paying out a smaller amount of money than people put in.

So on a standard machine, you walk up to it, put in a coin, spin the reels and hope to win

On this machine, you walk up to it, and if there is money in the window (unlikely), you know your next play is going to pay out that much money. You also know that any win (amount unknown, possibly zero) from this next play will be held in the window until the following play.

If there’s no money in the window, or there is not more money in the window than the minimum non-bet, why would you put money in the machine? The only reason to put money in the machine is because the money in the window exceeds the cost of playing, which means the machine takes a loss each time it’s played.

You put money in it because you’re hoping to put money into that window with your first spin (or subsequent spins) and then cash out once you get money in that window. In other words, gambling. That window will never have money in it (unless somebody is forgetful or apathetic about their winnings) when you approach that machine anew. The goal is for you, through chance, to fill that window and then cash it in with the subsequent spin.

Right, Gambling. Not not gambling. It’s exactly like playing a slot machine where your first spin is a guaranteed loss, and that’s barely different than the way slot machines work already. The gambling hasn’t been removed.

Yes. Exactly that. It’s a silly way to try to bend the rules or definition.

Ultimately, “gambling” means exactly what the law in the local jurisdiction says it means.

When I lived in Las Vegas the practical effect was that if it even smelled vaguely generally sorta like gambling the answer was

It’s gambling (‘gaming’ really) if the Gaming Control Board said it’s ‘gaming’. And once they said it was, your machine operated per their rules, not yours. If they didn’t like your machine, it would never see the blinking lights of the inside of a casino.

Clearly this silly ruse would not fly as not-gaming. Whether it’d be able to be licensed as a legit gaming machine is an interesting question.

Clearly the machine can make money over the long haul. But just like a conventional slot machine, it’d have to be seeded with a reasonable stash of coins to begin with. And clearly some players can win money over a session, and other players will lose money over a session.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Well, it’s not like people haven’t been seeking out loopholes to gambling laws since they were first enacted. And sometimes the loopholes work! For instance, in Japan (from Wikipedia):

Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan, but the widespread popularity of low-stakes pachinko gambling in Japanese society has enabled a specific legal loophole allowing it to exist. Under the law, pachinko balls won from games cannot be exchanged directly for money in the parlor, nor can they be removed from the premises or exchanged with other parlors; however, they can be legally traded to the parlor for so-called “special prize” tokens (特殊景品 tokushu keihin ), which are then legally “sold” for cash to a separate vendor located off-premises. These vendors (ostensibly independent from—but often owned by—the parlor owner) then sell the tokens back to the parlor at the same price paid for them (plus a small commission), thus turning a cash profit without technically violating the law.[1]

It’s obviously still gambling. But for whatever reason (Yakuza?) they haven’t amended the laws to make this illegal.

In some time or location, perhaps this slot machine could skirt under the local laws for a while, if they were worded badly enough. It’s not likely the loophole would be left open for very long, though, unless there were other factors at play.

In other words, a machine like this isn’t fooling anybody.

I doesn’t have to “fool” anybody, though; just skirt under the local laws. Unless said laws are so broad (@LSLGuy’s mention of Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, for instance) that they can shut down anything that even smells like gambling.

Thank you to everyone who replied.

Thank you for clearing up that one point: There would be times when there would be no coins showing in the window. It would be to the players advantage to play as long as there were more than one coin in the window So someone walking up to the machine would probably see no coins or only one coin (unless the previous player inadvertently ran out of coins).

This has been an interesting thread, and appears to be heading in the direction of an appeal to judicial authority. As one judge said about something else: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”

I wish there were a more definitive refutation of the manufacturer’s statement “It’s not gambling because the player knows exactly what will be paid out.” Hmmm, I just thought of something. The player knows exactly what will be paid out only in the next step, and the element of chance takes over in the long term.

There is also a whole set of “skill” games that may or may not be gambling, depending on your legislation. “Tipping Point” is a UK quiz show:
Tipping Point Record Contestant Gets 39 Counters In Round 1 - YouTube

I’ve seen a machine like that played for coins: without the top randomizer, it’s a ‘game of skill’ (putting your coin in the right slot), even though the shelf of coins is a randomizer. House takes a cut just by diverting the edges.