Are Gas Station Slot Machines Rigged?

Row of Gas Station Slot Machines

In the past, land-based casinos were the only places where you could play slot machines. Today, you have more options for enjoying slots than ever before.

You can play online slots at any time due to the fact that they’re available through smart phones and computers. Even certain gas stations offer slot machines these days.

Speaking of the latter, some gamblers don’t trust gas station slots (a.k.a. “skill games”). They find something seedy about the idea of gambling in convenience stores.

The same players worry that gas station slot machines are rigged. Is this really true, though? You can find out below by reading why or why not convenience stores would cheat in skill games.

Why Do Some Gamblers Think Gas Station Slots Are Rigged?

Those who mistrust slot machines at convenience stores have one or more reasons for doubting them. Below, you can see the most-common reasons why skill games don’t have the greatest reputations.

No RTP Displayed

Return to player (RTP) is a helpful figure that shows how much a particular game pays in the long run. Simply put, you’ll likely win more money by playing games with high payout percentages.

Unfortunately, the average gas station slot machine doesn’t provide an RTP figure. You’re left guessing regarding the long-term payback.

Of course, land-based casino slots don’t offer payout percentages either. But then again, commercial casinos are also more trusted by the average gambler.

Unregulated Gaming

The developers that provide skill games don’t hold licensing with their respective states. Instead, they take advantage of loopholes involving skill-based gaming.

Some states don’t consider skill games to be gambling. Therefore, they don’t force the machines’ developers to hold a gaming license. Instead, the slots providers are treated as amusement businesses and pay regular business taxes.

While these companies may operate within the bounds of the law—just barely—they don’t always inspire confidence in players. Many gamblers feel more comfortable with games from licensed and fully regulated slot software developers.

Typical Slots Volatility

Some gamblers are skeptical of slot machines in general. This skepticism applies to any slots really, whether they be in a convenience store or casino.

Slot machines are extremely volatile. They can deliver several large payouts in a row at one point, then barely pay anything for hours.

Slot Machines at Harrah's Reno

Slots have an uneven prize distribution due to their jackpots/maximum wins. These machines make up for the potential jackpots by paying infrequently.

Players naturally mistrust any casino game that puts them through many dry spells. Slots are the worst offenders in this category.

Do Convenience Stores Really Cheat with Slots?

Based on the factors discussed above, some slot players truly wonder if they’re being cheated in convenience stores. They especially wonder about this when dealing with serious volatility.

The good news, though, is that gas station slot machines are almost always fair. I’d venture to say that they’re 100% fair—just like the slots found in land-based and online casinos.

Of course, it’s difficult to prove that all slot machines in convenience stores are totally fair. For the reasons covered in the next section, though, developers and gas stations have plenty of motivation to offer legitimate slots.

Reasons Why Gas Stations Are Smart to Offer Fair Odds

Convenience stores have done quite well with slot machines. They have little reason to cheat players and mess up their business model when taking the following factors into consideration.

Already Have the Edge

Gas stations and other businesses offer gaming because they expect to make a profit. They and their associated developers hold a long-term edge with each machine.

Of course, convenience stores can still lose money to players on hot streaks. They’ll eventually even surrender a big jackpot here or there.

The key, though, is that they continue maintaining a long-term advantage. So long as this is the case, gas station slots developers and operators will continue profiting.

Considering the built-in edge, the developers and convenience stores have little reason to cheat. They’re going to win no matter what when looking at the sum of all players’ results.

Bad Business Practice

The house edge means that gas stations don’t have much incentive to rip gamblers off. Assume for a minute, though, that some convenience stores and/or their developers did get greedy.

The parent company behind the stores could work out a backroom deal with a developer to cheat. They’d then stand to win even more profits…or would they?

Players who are consistently cheated have a knack for getting to the truth of the matter. Gamblers have uncovered some major cheating scandals in the past.

Row of Slot Machines at Casino

Even if players can’t prove anything, they’re unlikely to return to a gas station/casino where they can’t win. They’ll get discouraged and move on to another gaming establishment or quit all together.

Casinos have realized over the years that the best business practice is to give players some chance to win. They’ll still make their profits this way while drawing more repeat business too.

More Heat from State Officials

Some state officials aren’t happy with the skill-based gaming model. They strongly believe that it amounts to unlicensed gambling. Just look at how Pennsylvania is fighting skill-based slot machines!

Given that each state wants its cut of any gambling activities, some places have gone after skill-based gaming companies. Virginia, for example, even managed to push these machines out of their state.

Politicians from Old Dominion voted to ban skill games in 2020. They paved the way for a newly regulated casino gaming industry in the process.

Assuming state officials catch any whiff of cheating from gas station slot machines, they’ll have all the more reason to bring the heat. If they actually uncover rigged machines, then it could spell the end of skill-based gaming across many states. At the very least, such an incident would give the industry a major black eye.

Are You Safe to Play Slot Machines at Gas Stations?

You can never be 100% sure if unregulated gaming is completely fair. However, you likely have nothing to fear when playing slots at convenience stores.

They work similarly to standard slot machines in that they give the house an edge. Therefore, gas stations and associated developers don’t need to cheat to make money.

Convenience stores also want to keep gamblers coming back to their machines. Cheating is the worst way to inspire repeat gambling business.

Many skill-based gaming joints also try to avoid catching state officials’ attention. Rigging games would be a fast way to draw heat.

Finally, some players do hit big wins with gas station slot machines. If the games were completely rigged, then nobody would ever win big.

Can You Win with These Games when Accounting for Skill?

Odds are low that most, if any, convenience store slot machines are rigged. These games likely pay somewhere around what casino slots do, which is in the 92% to 95% RTP range.

Provided that skill games don’t cheat players, you might wonder if it’s possible to beat them. After all, these machines do contain a skill element.

Unfortunately, these games don’t involve enough skill to give you a long-term advantage. Instead, they only dedicate between 3% and 5% RTP to the skill aspect.

Two People Playing Casino Slot Machines, Dollar Bill

Of course, you can win more than the average player with these machines if you’re really good. You might manage to increase 93% payback up to 97% as a skilled gambler.

Again, though, you can’t expect to steal the advantage from the house. Slots developers factor in the skill aspect when determining payout percentages.

Conclusion

Gas station slots might seem difficult to trust. They’re not available in casinos, they don’t operate under state regulations, and they don’t offer RTP figures.

None of this is to say, though, that skill game developers are trying to rip you off. They stand to benefit in the long run by offering fair payout percentages.

Assuming they were to cheat you and other gamblers, then they’d find themselves having trouble filling seats. Players would become suspicious even if they couldn’t prove anything. That said, skill game providers and convenience stores have every motivation to offer legitimate slot machines.