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Maryland's Maryland Live Casino Slot Odds casinos have asked the state to let them reduce required payouts on slot machines — a move that could shift tens of millions of dollars in winnings from customers to the casinos, state records show.

The request was included among a group of recommendations the casinos recently submitted to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun in a Maryland Public Information Act request.

Under the proposal, the state would relax a requirement that each casino must Payout Casino Electronic Craps Game out an average of 90 percent to 95 percent of the money bet at its machines over the course of a year.

The casinos want to lower the minimum payout to 85 percent, which would increase the casinos' "hold" — the amount of wagers retained from slots play.

So there is a potential revenue upside to the state on this. LaBoy declined to estimate how much more revenue — it's potentially tens of millions of dollars — the casinos and the state could reap.

The state would gain because it shares slots revenue with casinos. But Heiskell and gambling analysts said the casinos wouldn't drop payouts so much for competitive reasons. With five casinos and a sixth on the way, Maryland has become one of the country's most saturated gambling markets. And it is surrounded by states eager to vie for gaming action. Currently, Maryland is "right in the ballpark" compared to neighboring states in its slots floor average, encompassing all five casinos, LaBoy said.

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  • Maryland casinos are seeking state regulators' permission to reduce their slot machines' minimum required payouts to players, according to documents and general manager of Maryland Live, the state's largest casino, said of the recommendation to lower the floor on individual slot machine payout.
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The state's payout average from July to June was That placed Maryland behind Delaware's Casinos say the proposal would give them needed flexibility to develop innovative slots offerings with widely varying payouts.

The proposal "allows for more competitive customer offers," the casinos wrote in a memorandum to the agency. They also say the plan would provide them economic parity with casinos in states offering more generous financial cushions than Maryland.

In their memorandum, the casinos also asked the state to roll back — from 87 percent to 85 percent — the lowest average amount that Red Hawk Casino Poker slot machines must pay out from bets over a year.

They say the 87 percent requirement is high compared to nearby states. Pennsylvania and Ohio mandate at least 85 percent payouts per machine, New Jersey requires a minimum 83 percent and West Virginia 80 percent, according to figures compiled by Maryland regulators from the American Casino Guide.

Delaware's requirement is the same as Maryland's. Representatives of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Rocky Gap Casino declined to comment, and officials from the Casino at Ocean Downs did not respond to an interview request. LaBoy said regulators won't act on the request aimed at individual slot machines because state law requires each machine to pay out no less than 87 percent.

LaBoy said regulators have "flexibility" to consider the casinos' broader proposal on the overall slots' payout.

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Any change would require not only the approval of state gaming regulators — who aren't expected to decide until later this summer — but of the General Assembly 's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. I would worry that players in Maryland might consider going elsewhere if they felt payouts were higher in neighboring states. The casinos' recommendations came as part of an annual process in which they suggest modifications or updates to gaming regulations.

If the casinos disagree on an item, "then it doesn't make the list," Norton said. Most of the other recommendations were technical, involving such things as table game procedures and replacing decks of cards. Because slot machines are governed by random number generators, they can seem a mystery to players trying to guess which machine will "hit" and when. But the state closely monitors payouts from slots floors collectively and from individual machines. The machines are programmed to pay out a set percentage, albeit on a random basis.

In this year's first quarter, Ocean Downs had the state's highest average payout — Hollywood Casino Perryville paid Although Hollywood and Rocky Gap dipped below the 90 percent minimum, regulators said the casinos did not violate the regulations because the requirement is for a full year. Experts say it's hard to gauge the impact that lowering the minimum payouts could have on casino revenues or attendance.

If you find out the slots hold went up 3 percent, does that make it worth your while to go to Delaware or West Virginia? Beverly Johnson, 65, Maryland Live Casino Slot Odds the Horseshoe slots twice a week.

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The West Baltimore resident doesn't think the slots proposal would drive gamblers away, even if they're not winning as much. I'm going home with a smile on my face," she said on a recent weeknight. Victoria Gay, 62, and John Bush, 69, drive from Hyattsville to visit either Maryland Live or the Horseshoe Baltimore about once a week even though Bush said he thinks the slots at Maryland's casinos have low payouts already.

As they settled into playing a penny slots machine at Horseshoe, Gay said she didn't like the idea of lowering the percentage. She thinks it should be increased. Payout averages are generally lower than they were 10 years ago, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He believes that's partly because of the popularity of penny slots and other low-denomination machines that have relatively low payouts and high "holds.

If the casinos' request is granted, LaBoy predicted that "the overall state floor average will remain very close to where it is.

Players might be better able to notice such a shift in smaller casinos where the universe of games is limited and payback trends are more evident.

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