In a previous article, we explained the general differences between Class III and Class II slot machines. Most of our coverage here will be about ‘Class III’ machines since those are the type you’re most likely to encounter in a major casino jurisdiction (Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City) or online. There’s still a fair amount of ‘Class II‘ machines out there and it’s good to have an understanding of what they are and how they work.
The most common place to encounter a Class II machine is at a slots parlor attached to a horse racing track or at a Native American Casino. The Class II games have become more sophisticated as the technological tools that drive them have improved. They’ve reached the point that most ‘casual gamblers‘ won’t be able to tell the difference between a Class II and Class III slot machine. There are significant differences in terms of strategy and tactics (particularly with Class II video poker machines) but for the ‘recreational’player, these are of little relevance.
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WHAT ARE CLASS II SLOT MACHINES
Simply put, Class II slot machines attempt to replicate the traditional ‘Las Vegas style‘ Class III slot machine experience while staying within regulatory guidelines. The Class system is outlined by the Federal Government in The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and this act defines Class II as “the game commonly known as bingo (whether or not electronic, computer, or other technological aids are used in connection therewith) and, if played in the same location as the bingo, pull tabs, punch board, tip jars, instant bingo, and other games similar to bingo.”
Initially, this legalized high stakes bingo games which were popular at one point and held in warehouse like ‘bingo halls’. As tribal councils began to upgrade their gaming offerings they sought a more ‘casino like‘ atmosphere and experience. In some cases, they were able to successfully add Class III games to their offerings but in some area, the political climate was such that this was not an option. It was in this environment that the ‘Class II’ slot machines were born. The Seminole Hard Rock properties in Florida have been at the cutting edge of these games and spared no expense to replicate a Class III experience in a Class II jurisdiction. They hired engineers that had worked for major slot machine manufacturers like IGT to develop the in-house computer system to make it work while their casino operations side worked with slots and video poker manufacturers to create games that would work within their system.
HOW CLASS II SLOT MACHINES WORK
It’s hard for most people to tell the difference other than the LED bingo card in the corner of the screen that shows the card patterns with every spin. Seminole Hard Rock Casino Operations VP explains what happens ‘under the hood’ to satisfy the legal requirements of a bingo game: “We have a 20-millisecond window, and anyone (in the casino) pushing the Play button during that window is put in the game for that common ball draw. It must be at least two players, but the maximum is unlimited. If it is a minimum of two, one of them gets a bingo—a winning pattern.”
The odds of specific bingo game wins are then extrapolated to slot or video poker results with similar odds. There are some other algorithmic processes to determine the outcome on some games but the end result is the same: you pull a slot machine handle and spin the reels. Between that time and the time they stop spinning you are imperceptibly ‘entered’ into a multiplayer bingo game. The results are ‘reported‘ by the pattern of the reels when they stop and if you’re lucky you win a prize. You’ve had an experience virtually identical to a slot machine in Las Vegas while ‘behind the scenes’ the result has been determined in such a way to be legal in a jurisdiction where bingo is permitted but slot machines based on random number generators are not.
Casinos that operate Class II slot machines insist that they offer similar odds to Class III machines. The analogy they use is of a scratch-off lottery ticket–instead of scratching off a card you’re pulling a slot machine handle to determine if you ‘win a prize‘. Although there’s likely a lot of truth to this concept most serious gambling experts suggest that you seek out Class III games whenever possible. This is particularly true for video poker–the Class II video poker games are essentially unplayable (we’ll discuss that in detail in a future article).
Questions and Answers
Are Class II slots, in fact, electronic bingo?
Technically, yes. Class II machines only mimic slots but they have bingo soul: the outcome of the game is determined by the draw of the bingo numbers, which are later translated into slot reel combinations.
So, think of it this way – when you place a wager on such devices, you, actually, buy a lottery ticket.
Where can I play Class II machines?
They are mainly represented across Native American casinos, charitable gaming facilities, and horse tracks with slots parlors. The latter is not considered full casinos.
Do I play against other punters?
Yes. You are not staking against the house as is the case with Vegas-style one-armed bandits or so-called Class III slots. You’re wagering for a share of the money funded by other gamblers.
Since Class II machines are connected to a central server, only one winner is determined per outcome. Once and again, you do compete with other players for the prize.
Are Class II slots random at all?
Yes, they are. But the randomness of these machines is achieved differently compared to Class III slots since it is not guaranteed by RNG.
What is the best betting strategy for Class II slots?
Class II slots are a game of luck, hence there is no system to guarantee a winning strike. This is not to say, you cannot optimize your gambling experience by applying a reasonable technique in order to stretch your bankroll.
Do Class II slots include extra features?
Keeping pace with the fast-developing industry and striving to rival their Vegas-style counterparts, modern Class II slots can brag of a wide range of engaging bonus events. Depending on the game maker and type, players can take advantage of wild symbols, free spins, multi-level progressive Jackpots, exciting Pick’em mini-games, etc.
I pushed the spin button but the machine paused. Why?
One of the key specificities of Class II is that at least two players have to be active for a game to proceed. Perhaps, you never thought of this rule playing at larger casinos, but at less crowded places (especially in the mornings when things are slow), you easily could be the only one spinning the reels.
In this case, a Class II machine will wait for another punter to join your server-based adventure, and as a result, pause.
Are Class II slots tighter than Class III?
Many players believe payouts on Class II machines are not that frequent and generous as on the Strip.
It would be wrong to say that such assumptions are totally unfounded, in part due to the fact that Indian casinos (the main source of Class II fun) set their own payment schedules. However, 20% house edge suggested by some sources cannot be taken as an absolute measure as well.
Too many things vary from casino to casino and as always, the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes. Anyway, do not expect a way past attractive RTPs seen across the floors of the North Las Vegas, Boulder or other top places for slot fans.
Should I play Class II slots?
Depends on your point of view and gambling preferences. Sure thing, Class II concept is not for the active whales but if you’re one of those who look at the whole plot differently and count solely on a great pastime in the neighbourhood, then it is a decent option.
What kind of payout can I expect?
Asked very often, this question is not easy to answer since payout percentages for a Class II facility are set solely by the tribe and not a subject to any external authorities. What’s more, Native American casinos are not required to report their payback percentages, therefore you are not able to find out exact info.
Similar, any changes to payout percentages are approved by tribal regulators. Still, even though the data is not transparent, casinos keep their house edge within the reasonable frames, they just do not want to risk their reputation and lose existing punters.
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