The Truth About “VLT” Slots – Rhode Island vs New York – Class III vs Class II Gaming

Twin River Slot Floor
One of the Slot Areas at Twin River Casino, Lincoln RI

I’ve always thought Rhode Island’s two casinos – Twin River & Newport Grand – didn’t get the respect they deserve as “REAL” casinos.  Even when Twin River added table games, and were highly successful with it, the are still perceived around the country as a non-entity in the casino world.  I always wondered if it was the VLT terminals they use and that they were possibly still class II gaming?  Well, here is some clarity.

First of all, a quick review of Class I, II, & III gaming, which only applies to Native American Casinos (which both Rhode Island casinos are not, of course).

class II slot
Class II Slot Machine. Notice the bingo card top middle, and the bingo balls and hits top, right.

Class I – intended to regulate gaming associated with tribal ceremonial or celebration-related events, like at pow wows, where tribes have been playing gambling games—often between associated tribes or family groups.  This is   given very little mention or consideration.

Class II – encompasses bingo and games associated with it, such as pull-tabs, which are often sold in bingo halls by sponsoring charities, and non–banking card games like poker. The Seminole Nation in Florida began their casino  presence in Florida with slot machines that looked like real slots, but were a mechanical facade for class II gaming, including a bingo card at the top.  Basically, patrons would play against each other as if playing extremely fast bingo games.

Class III – includes everything else—horse racing, lotteries and what are commonly known as casino games, such as banking-card games like baccarat and blackjack, roulette, craps and slot machines.

So asked Casino Guru, John Grochowski, about the between VLT slots and class II/III gaming.  Recently, he wrote an article at Casino City Times that included the following:

  • Manufacturers work hard to keep Class II games as fresh, new and exciting as slots with RNGs, known as Class III games in Native American casinos.
  • Not all tribal casinos use Class II games. Most slot machines in Native American casinos are Class III, which are the same as RNG games in commercial casinos.

But this still didn’t clarify my wonders of Twin River & Newport Grand.  So I emailed him the following:  “Here in the East, there are two places that seem rather successful, but are VLT machines.  Are VLT machines at Empire Casino in New York and Twin River casino in Rhode Island class II or class III?  There are no bingo cards on the screen, but yet they are controlled by a lottery system at the casino.  I know what you mean concerning the bingo cards on the screen because of my play at the old Seminole Casinos.  Empire & Twin River don’t have them.   What are they?”

His reply was very informative.  He said, “State lottery VLTs are programmed differently, and each state that has them has its own requirements. In New York, VLT results are determined by a central processor, and what the processor does is to relay to your terminal the electronic equivalent of the next card of a stack of scratch-off cards. The games aren’t bingo as in Indian casinos, they’re lottery scratch-off type games with a slot display as the interface. Just as in Class II games, strategy doesn’t matter in video poker, and the payback percentages don’t necessarily correspond to the pay table.    Rhode Island is different. Its VLTs are RNG games, just like casino slots or Class III games. The same goes for VLTs in Delaware, Oregon and West Virginia. But in New York, you’re getting that lottery game.”

So, if you venture to New York’s  Empire Casino, you’re basically  playing a glorified “scratch-off ticket.”  If you want a real casino experience, with the same slots you’d find in Vegas, stay in New England.



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