Last year we published our first ever report that directly compared the published payout rates of online casinos against land casinos in both Nevada and Atlantic City. In that study we analysed year long results for slots, table games, and video poker and found that online casinos generally pay out better than their land based brethren. Our report ended up being a big success and spurred conversation here at Casino Listings as well as the wider gambling community. Once again we have analysed the statistics for the full year 2014, and we compare the results to 2013 to see if the first report represented a fluke, rather than a continuing trend in which players are better off playing online.
We have analysed the same three online casinos as last year so that the data remains easily comparable. 32 Red, 888 Casino, and Bet365 are established and well known online betting brands with a high turnover that regularly publish their audited payout results, and we have confidence in the validity of their numbers given their solid reputations.
For the land casinos, we sourced our numbers from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which publishes the data for every casino in the Silver State, along with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. We have concentrated on slot machines for our comparison due to the way the land casinos publish hold numbers rather than payout rates for their table games.
Comparison to last year
A quick glance at the changes in payout numbers from last year's report reveals a couple of interesting observations. Penny slots players at both Vegas and Atlantic City were just as bad off this year as last, with payouts remaining in the 88-90% range. It appears that casinos along the Vegas Strip and Downtown Vegas loosened their 5c slot machines this year, with punters enjoying a full 1.14% improvement on the Strip and 0.74% Downtown. However with an average payout ranging from 91 to 92% the 5c slots are still a bad bet compared to the online numbers.
The other places where we saw some movement was the Megabucks jackpot slots which look to have decreased their payout rates by around 1.5% to a miserly figure of 87% or thereabouts. Still, someone has to take home the big one eventually right? At the top end, payouts for the $100 slots at Vegas Strip casinos were down a full percent on last year's numbers, but together with the $25 machines, they still represent the best value bet for the few slots players who can afford to buy in.
Payouts at the individual online casinos differed little over the full year, suggesting that new games released during the year paid out similarly to the older games. The one significant difference was the Classic Slots payouts at 888 Casino which were 17.95% lower in September than the corresponding month in 2013. This is explained by the fact that a £2.4 million jackpot was won in September 2013 which skewed the figures in that month.
Online casinos win the payout battle
Once again we see that almost all land based punters, apart from the highest of the high rollers, are taxed more heavily for their entertainment than online players. This is not surprising when you consider that someone has to pay for the hotels, comped drinks, luxury shops, shows and nightlife. For years online casinos have touted their higher payout rates, and we honestly thought it was a bit of a marketing gimmick with online casinos just opting to cream the extra profits until we saw the results of our study last year. It appears that the claim of lower overhead costs does indeed manifest into a better deal for punters.
The bottom line is this: unless you are a high roller that plays the $25 and up machines, you will get more spins and more play time for your money at an online casino. Penny slots players can be as much as 7-8% better off playing online.
However what the numbers also make clear is that not all online casinos are equal. The honour of providing the highest average payout rate at the online casinos tested this year goes once again to 32 Red, with an average slots figure of a shade under 96%. 32 Red features games that are predominantly supplied by Microgaming and, given that this developer's games are not configurable at the operator level, players should enjoy similar payout rates at any other Microgaming online casino. Bet365 and its Playtech games was not far behind at a little over 95%, while 888 Casino's video slots paid out just under 95%.
So about that trip to Atlantic City...
With the recent introduction of regulated online gambling in New Jersey, the results of this comparison lead to a quite odd conclusion: if you're planning a trip to Atlantic City and value for your gambling dollar is your prime consideration, then you would be far better off playing online at somewhere like Caesars, Harrahs, or 888 New Jersey from the comfort of your hotel room than spinning the slots on the casino floor. The payout rates on the slots at Atlantic City are generally 1.5 - 3% lower than those in Vegas at every coin denomination. Anyone can play at a New Jersey online casino so long as they are located inside the state's borders and you can always leave the hotel to eat and see some shows. Of course others might pigeon hole you as some kind of anti-social travelling slots hermit, but who am I to judge?
Data used and references
|Land casinos: 2014 slots payout percentages|
|Denomination||Vegas Strip||Vegas DT||Nevada||Atlantic City|
- Nevada State Gaming Control Board: Gaming Revenue Report 2014
- New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement: Atlantic City Casino Industry Casino Win Data 2014
|32Red Casino: 2014 payout percentages|
|888 Group: 2014 payout percentages|
|Month||Classic Slots||Video Slots||Blackjack||Video Poker||All|
|Bet365 Casino: 2014 payout percentages|
A note on our methodology
Direct comparisons between land and online casinos are complicated because of the different reporting styles used by the casinos. While land casinos in Nevada and New Jersey publish their gaming statistics on an aggregated annual basis, the online casinos studied in this report tabulate their payouts on a monthly basis. Therefore the annual average numbers for the online casinos are approximations of their true annual averages. Due to the different amounts wagered and won each month, averaging a series of monthly averages will not give an exact annual average. Nevertheless due to the high turnover of each of the online casinos included, the numbers we have calculated are close enough to the true annual average to support the conclusions drawn in this analysis.