Are Gas Station Slot Machines Legal?

Gas Statin on Right and a Row Of Gas Station Slots on Left

Casino gaming is lucrative when done right. Therefore, many companies are interested in providing gaming when the opportunity arises.

Most of these companies are casinos and developers that go through the proper licensing channels. They apply for a license in a regulated market and pay the relevant fees.

Gas Station slot machines (a.k.a. skill games), on the other hand, do not fall into the same category. The developers and convenience stores that offer these games don’t obtain proper licensing. Instead, they operate through legal loopholes.

Are gas station slots still legal? You can find out by reading more on the basics of skill games, why are they’re tolerated, and if you should consider playing them.

Skill Games Are Unregulated

As mentioned in the introduction, gas station slot machines don’t operate under licensing agreements. They instead fall under the category of unregulated gaming.

State licensing authorities don’t oversee these machines. Instead, skill games operators and convenience stores pay normal business taxes on slots earnings.

Unregulated doesn’t automatically mean that something is illegal. It indicates that there’s no licensing authority overseeing the matter.

Many states don’t consider skill-based games to be pure gambling. This loophole is exactly how gas station slot machines can operate.

As long as the developers include skill in their machines, they can legally operate slots. Of course, the same providers don’t label their products as “slot machines.” Instead, they continually refer to their slots as skill games.

Do States Ever Crack Down on Skill Games?

Not all states take a hands-off approach to convenience store slot machines. Some of them have taken action against these games and their developers.

Everything depends upon the given state and their outlook on gaming. Certain regulators will pursue every avenue necessary to stamp out unregulated games.

For example, Virginia lawmakers chose to ban skill games in 2020. They wanted to eliminate all unregulated gaming before legalizing commercial casinos.

Will You Be Arrested for Playing a Gas Station Slot Machine?

You’re not doing anything wrong by playing a gas station slot. In fact, you should have no worries whatsoever about getting arrested.

The developers and associated convenience stores wouldn’t offer these games if they felt that they were doing something completely illegal. Instead, they provide their slots in more of a legal gray area. Given that skill game providers feel comfortable offering their machines, you can feel perfectly fine playing them.

Casino Slot Machines

Assuming authorities ever raided a gas station where you were playing slots, they’d simply ask you to step away from the machine. They would then confiscate all of the relevant skill games.

As covered before, most states don’t take this drastic of an approach. You’re highly unlikely to be playing a skill game when any such raids happen.

Are Slots at Gas Stations Fair?

The lack of regulation for skill-based gaming creates some uncertainty around these games. You may begin wondering if they offer fair odds.

Unfortunately, developers don’t list return to player (RTP) for their machines. Even still, you can feel pretty confident about playing slot machines at gas stations.

Skill gaming providers take the same approach as casino slots developers. They realize that ripping gamblers off with 75% RTP or less is a bad business model.

After all, many gamblers are already suspicious of slot machines when they go through cold streaks. These suspicions can lead them to stop playing altogether.

Skill game providers and convenience stores want repeat business. As a result, they offer fair payout percentages to give players at least some chance of winning.

Of course, I can’t prove that every single skill-based machine is fair. The vast majority, however, must be somewhat fair if developers and gas stations hope to make long-term profits.

Why Should You Consider Skill Games?

You might not be entirely comfortable with skill gaming due to the lack of regulation. However, the following reasons could give you some incentive to try them.

Conveniently Located

Many states now feature land-based and/or riverboat casinos. Some even provide licensed and regulated online casinos. That said, you have more opportunities to gamble at your fingertips than ever before.

However, gas station slot machines are often much more convenient than those available in land-based casinos, racinos, and riverboats.

Convenience stores, on the other hand, are aptly named for the fact that they’re readily available and convenient. Approximately one gas station exists for every 2,000 people in the US.

The only question is if skill-based slot machines are available in your state. If so, you should easily be able to find slot machines at your local gas station.

Fun Skill Element

Normal real money slots don’t contain any skill at all. They might have fancy features and animations that happen during wins, but they don’t give you a chance to influence the outcome.

Convenience store slot machines, in contrast, do contain some skill. The degree of strategy involved depends upon the specific game.

Row of Slot Machines

You may be doing as little as touching winning combinations to ensure that they’re collected. On the other hand, you might play a true skill-based bonus round that could have a serious impact on results.

Much like Casino Slots

Despite the skill aspect covered above, these machines don’t differ too much from the ones available in casinos. That said, you shouldn’t have much trouble transitioning to them.

You insert your money just like with a regular slot. Skill games typically accept $5, $10, $20, and $100 bills. Once your money is inserted, you select the “spin” or “play” button and begin gambling.

Eventually, the skill element will come into effect. You may consider reading the help screen to ensure that you know what’s required in the skill-based portion.

Why Shouldn’t You Consider Skill Games?

Skill-based games are unique compared to regular slot machines. That said, you might consider trying them based on this aspect alone. However, you should also think about the drawbacks covered above before searching for these games.

Unregulated Gaming

The lack of regulation isn’t something to gloss over. If a dispute arises between you and a gas station over slot machines, then you’re at the mercy of the convenience store and relevant developer.

This scenario doesn’t bode well for your chances of getting a fair resolution. You can’t just run to a licensing authority if something happens either.

In contrast, land-based casinos and racinos are fully regulated by their respective states. They operate based on strict procedures and have a licensing authority to deal with.

Skill Doesn’t Account for Much of RTP

The thought of using your skill to win money through gambling is exciting. Unfortunately, the skill doesn’t account for much of the RTP with gas station slots.

Figures vary for how much skill factors into payout percentages. Generally speaking, though, skill typically only accounts for between 3% and 5% of a skill game’s RTP.

Of course, you might still appreciate being able to influence the results to a small degree. You aren’t, however, going to win huge profits just because you’re good at playing bonus rounds.

Casinos Are Available in Many States

Skill games can offer a convenient way to enjoy gaming in a land-based atmosphere. However, you may not necessarily need to visit the local gas station to plays slots.

Row of Casino Slot Machines

Instead, you might live within driving distance of a brick-and-mortar casino. Assuming you make this drive, you’ll be able to enjoy a larger selection of slot machines. More importantly, these slots will fall under the state’s gaming regulations.

Even if you don’t want to drive to a casino, you can always play online slots. Both regulated and offshore casinos serve many states. You can spin the reels through your smartphone and not have to go anywhere.

Our Thoughts on the Legality of Gas Station Slots

Gas station slot machines are legal in a sense. They contain skill elements and aren’t considered gambling in many states.

However, skill games essentially fall under the category of unregulated gaming. They also don’t display payout percentages in most cases.

That said, you might tread lightly when playing slot machines at convenience stores. You shouldn’t have to worry too much, though, with these games.

I have yet to hear of any major cheating scandals involving gas station slots. They likely pay somewhere in the neighborhood of traditional casino slots.