When Wendover Returns Were Over 100%. What!?

West Wendover in Nevada and Wendover in Utah [Wendover]

Introduction to Wendover

A fan sent a question about playing slots in Wendover, Nevada. When I reviewed monthly statistics on the Nevada gaming commission website, I discovered extremely high Wendover statistical returns on $25 denomination slot machines.

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Lyle’s Question

Audience member Lyle asking for advice on playing slots. Specifically, he mentioned he’d gotten free airfare and lodging for a 3-day trip to Wendover. That’s it.

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That’s Lyle’s question. From it, besides the obvious, I understood I’d better consider something else when answering Lyle’s question. Lyle gets free trips.

To get complimentary travel gifts, he’d have to gamble enough to earn them. Lyle isn’t necessarily a high-limit gambler. But he’d have to be a frequent enough gambler to be gifted such a travel comp.

So, my assumptions let me determine a reasonable set of search parameters I’d need to use when answering his question, including

He plays slots a lot.
Lyle may play high-limit slot machines.
He has relatively short stays in Wendover, Nevada.

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With this information in hand, I proceeded to provide what advice I could for Lyle, as requested.

West Wendover in Nevada and Wendover in Utah [Wendover]West Wendover in Nevada and Wendover in Utah [Wendover]

Wendover, Nevada

On the western border of Nevada lies Wendover. It’s two cities in one, evenly split down the middle by the Nevada-Utah border. On the Nevada side of the border is West Wendover.

On the other side of the border is Wendover, Utah. West Wendover, Nevada, has the casinos and other amenities, like a golf course. And The Wendover Nugget Hotel & Casino is less than 50 feet from the Nevada-Utah state line.

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Wendover, Utah, has more than a few restaurants and hotels. It is also home to Wendover Airport (ENV), a county-owned, public-use airport formerly Wendover Air Force Base until 1976. West Wendover had a 2012 estimated population of 6,700 and is part of Elko County in Nevada.

Which county it is part of will be needed when I discuss state gaming statistics. Wendover, Utah, has less than half the population of West Wendover, Nevada. It had a 2008 estimated population of 1,632.

Outside of West Wendover, Nevada [Wendover]Outside of West Wendover, Nevada [Wendover]

West Wendover Casinos

In my state review of Nevada Slots, I mentioned of the city of West Wendover in Elko County. It’s 363 miles north of Las Vegas and, at last report, had five casinos.

Montego Bay Casino Resort
Peppermill Inn & Casino
Rainbow Hotel Casino
Red Garter Hotel & Casino
Wendover Nugget Hotel & Casino

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These five casinos are commercial (non-tribal) casinos. However, Montego Bay, Peppermill, and Rainbow are all owned by the same corporation. A second corporation owns Red Garter and Wendover Nugget.

Further, my state review of Utah Slots  includes West Wendover. While effectively all gambling is illegal in Utah, West Wendover is relatively nearby to many residents of Utah. West Wendover is only 123 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rainbow Hotel Casino [Wendover]Rainbow Hotel Casino [Wendover]

West Wendover Payout Returns

In my initial response to Lyle’s question, I provided website links for the West Wendover casinos. But what else could I provide? Well, I checked online resources to better understand from a distance what a casino has to offer.

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Always check online before investing in an on-site physical assessment. I’ve passed by Wendover on the eastern border of Nevada when I moved to Reno in 2022, but it was around 2 a.m., and I did not visit a casino. But I learned what I could online, as I suggest we all do, by visiting the state gaming commission to look for any available gaming statistics.

Every state is different, but the Nevada Gaming Commission offers comprehensive Gaming Revenue Information. Nevada has awesome return statistics provided by:

By city, a portion of a county, and overall county
For each slot machine denomination

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Do you want the payout return statistics for penny slots at the Las Vegas Strip casinos? It’s there. How about quarter slots in downtown Las Vegas instead?

Yes, those are also available. Similarly, detailed payout return statistics are provided throughout Nevada, although not casino-by-casino. When I answered Lyle’s question by email in early November 2018, monthly statistics were only available through the end of August.

When I initially posted this article in mid-November 2018, statistics for September had been made available but not yet for October. Using what return statistics were available at the time, the first two parts of my response to Lyle’s question were:

The Nevada Gaming Control Commission provides payout return statistics for the Wendover area casinos in Elko County. The most recent month available online is August 2018. You might want to look at p. 26 of their latest monthly report.
What it provides there is what they call Win% for each slot machine denomination. Most people call that the casino Hold%. To get Return%, subtract Hold% from 100%. Anyway, you want the best odds to win, which is the smallest Win%. Those are $5 slot machines at a Win% of 3.61%, followed closely by $1 slots at 3.77%

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All this is straightforward enough information, which I was happy to provide. Low-limit slot players might prefer the best payout return statistics for lower-denomination slot machines. But that’s not what the state data shows.

The August 2018 gaming revenue information provided by all casinos to the state gaming commission shows $5 slot machines in the city of West Wendover had a payout return of 100% minus 3.61% for a return percentage of 96.39%. For $1 slot machines in West Wendover for August 2018, it was slightly less at 96.23%.

But then I remembered Lyle earns free trips. Therefore, he might be interested in high-limit slots. So, I looked at those reported returns as well. And for high-limit slots for West Wendover in the gaming revenue report for August 2018, I saw something incredibly odd. For $25 denomination slot machines, the return percentage was over 100%. What??

Nevada’s State Capital, Carson City [Wendover]Nevada’s State Capital, Carson City [Wendover]

Wendover Returns for the $25 Denomination

There is another small but relevant piece of information that the Nevada gaming commission provides along with all the other details. It includes how many slot machines for each return statistic reported. This metric matters because p. 26 of the August 2018 Monthly Gaming Revenue Information report shows how many $25 slot machines existed each month in West Wendover, Nevada.

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Can you guess how such information might be helpful when the return statistics for $25 denomination slot machines in West Wendover sometimes exceed 100%? Such information is helpful as it might HELP US FIND THAT WINNING SLOT MACHINE!! In my email response to Lyle, I went back through the last four months of monthly returns, from May thru August 2018. For you, I have the most recently released September 2018 return information for $25 slot machines in West Wendover:

May 2018: 95.56%
June 2018: 100.64%
July 2018: 102.27%
August 2018: 97.59%
September 2018: 91.79%

Notice that the returns for $25 slots dropped well below all other slot machine denominations for September. Next, let’s talk about what that means.

A Pile of Assorted U.S. Paper Currency [Wendover]A Pile of Assorted U.S. Paper Currency [Wendover]

Slot Machine Advantage Players Exist

In September 2018, after at least four prior months of Wendover high returns, those returns dropped from close to or over 100% to significantly lower than all other slot machine denominations. Advantage players exist. When I’m not helping you, my gambling interest is to be an advantage slots player. 

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They exist, and I’m one of them. I’m like the magician that tells the audience how the trick works. You know, the magician with the black mask that turns the stage around so you can see how his assistant crawled through a small hole so they wouldn’t be sawed in two or whatever?

That’s me. I explain how slots work. That is to say, what advantage plays for slots look like, how they are applied, and then how to optimize them for your maximum profit. To find a winning $25 slot machine in one of the five casinos in West Wendover, consider:

Other advantage players noticed the over 100% return for $25 slots in Wendover. Naturally, they made their way to Wendover and took advantage of the situation.
Wendover casinos themselves saw high returns for $25 slots. They also saw more increased traffic for $25 slot machine players.
Wendover casinos responded perhaps two-thirds of the way through August 2018: Reduce the odds of winning on $25 slot machines by nearly 10%

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This logic hinges on the odds of winning abruptly dropped by around 10% somewhat after mid-August 2018. The reported returns didn’t show a 1-month drop of 10%, but rather a 10% drop over two months of reporting. A 10% drop strikes me as too much of a change in odds to be entirely random.

But from the highest to the lowest I’ve ever seen? With the highest lasting for months and the lowest because of an abrupt change? No, that doesn’t seem random to me.

It isn’t random.

Statistical Returns Over 100% [Wendover]Statistical Returns Over 100% [Wendover]

My Advantage Play Analysis for $25 Slots in Wendover

Most casinos have control over their slot machines. This casino-level control isn’t true for video lottery terminals controlled by the state lottery, but Nevada isn’t like that. Some other states are, but not Nevada.

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In Nevada, casinos can adjust the odds of winning on their slot machines however they like as long as they stay within the legal limits. And the lower legal limit for payout returns in Nevada is 75%, not that it’s good business to set them so low. However, doing so would indeed be legal. So, what should we do?

What’s our next step? If the last month’s return statistics still showed a high payout return, I’d advise traveling to Wendover and risking spending some disposable income on their available $25 slot machines. And if I were there, I’d also physically assess the casino.

I advised Lyle to consider these factors using the available information. But what now that the payout return statistic for September was so low? As usual, under these circumstances, more research and thought are needed.

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Next examine the returns for $25 slots in Wendover over last summer, in May through August 2017. Is there a pattern? Were the returns high then as well?

Are high payout returns on $25 slots a Nevada summer thing? Otherwise, you might consider that the very low September 2018 returns were a statistical fluctuation for that month. Statistics are, as is taught academically, not a prediction of future behavior.

I think that would be risky. I’d advise waiting a few weeks to see the October 2018 returns. If they jump back up to over 100%, I’d consider risking some bankroll in the hope that November 2018 will also be over 100%.

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There is one final analysis point. Only twenty-five slot machines in West Wendover have a $25 denomination available. This excludes multi-denominational slot machines with a $25 option as they are reported elsewhere in the gaming revenue reports.

So, with twenty-five slot machines at four different locations, as stated in the gaming revenue reports, perhaps these high returns over several months resulted from a single, individual $25 slot machine with great odds of winning. Its odds of winning would have had to have been so high that the odds of the twenty-five $25 slot machines rose over 100% for months. Or maybe, it was a group of $25 slot machines.

What’s the advantage play under this scenario? Well, that’s easy. Go to the Wendover casinos, find the $25 slot machines, and ask around.

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Surely somebody there remembers all that excitement, yes? If they do, and you can find the winning slot machine, you only have one thing left to do – get time on that machine when nobody else is using it. Remember to have a partner you trust if you can, which is not likely with all the slot advantage players out there.

Why? Because you’ll want to play in shifts for as long as possible. Good luck!

An Analysis for Slots Advantage Players [Wendover]An Analysis for Slots Advantage Players [Wendover]

Audience Q&A

If you’re interested in asking a question, the best way to reach me is by email or at (702) 907-5687 to leave a 3-minute or less voicemail or text message. If you send an email, I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours. If you leave a voicemail, I may even call you back.

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Unless, of course, you leave some form of contact information. In any case, I look forward to answering more of your excellent questions as time passes. Oh, and thanks for the question, Lyle!

Audience Q&A [Wendover]Audience Q&A [Wendover]

Summary of Wendover

Lyle emailed that he had a complimentary gift of airfare and lodging before a three-day trip to Wendover, which, while answering his email, led to discovering Wendover’s high returns. For $25 slot machines in Wendover, returns over 100% existed for several summer months.

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Author: Paul Campbell