Luck may or may not be a lady tonight. But it will be a little more likely to visit some slot machine players in South Florida than others.
New figures released by the state show nearly $8 billion in credits were risked in the year ending June 30 on slot machines at pari-mutuel sites in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
That does not include the Native American casinos, which do not report numbers to the state.
But the slot machines at the dog and horse racing tracks and jai-alai frontons are not created equal, at least not after their electronic boards are programmed to return varying percentages in payouts to the players.
"The machines are programmed," said Magic City Casino vice president Isadore Havenick. "Every casino in the world is different and we like to be at the top."
State records show Magic City Casino did pay out the highest percentage of credits played in the last fiscal year: 93.9 percent.
That still left Magic City, at the old Flagler Dog Track that's been in Havenick's family since 1952, with a net slot revenue of $80.7 million.
The casino could bank millions more by programming lower payouts, but, Havenick said, "We prefer that our customers come in and win. In a casino, you want your customers to win as much as possible and we put our money where our mouth is."
Here are the payout percentages for the seven South Florida pari-mutuel casinos, according to state records:
- Magic City (Flagler Dog Track): 93.9 percent
- Casino Miami (Miami Jai Alai): 93.5 percent
- Hialeah Park: 93.3 percent
- Gulfstream Park: 92.4 percent
- Mardi Gras Casino: 91.9 percent
- Isle of Capri (Pompano Dog Track): 91.6 percent
- Calder Casino: 90.9 percent
A Calder vice president said it has a generous free spin rewards program that, when factored into the payouts, helps even the playing field for its customers compared to the other casinos.
Nova Southeastern University mathematics professor Jason Gershman said even a three percentage-point difference between the lowest- and highest-payouts is significant.
"Three percent is a big difference. If you’re playing every day or every week for a whole year you can get back a lot more money," he said.
Or, to put it another way, you'd be likely to lose less money. Because, he said, the casino always wins in the end.
"The house always wins in slot machines, as long as the machine is functioning properly," Gershman said.
But there other guaranteed winner when it comes to the slots game: the State of Florida.
It collects 35 percent of each casino's net slot revenue and last year that amounted to $183 million.