What are VLTs?

VLT is the abbreviation for Video Lottery Terminals, which generally refers to a type of casino or gaming machine that allows players to bet on a certain outcome of a video game.

In many ways, video lottery terminals are similar to slot machines, primarily because each so-called terminal is a stand-alone machine that contains a random number generator. This machine is connected to a centralised computer system that monitors actions on that machine, and allows the lottery jurisdiction to keep control of the happenings and collect shares of the final revenue.

American History of VLTs

In the United States of America, talk of video lottery terminals had been abundant since 1981, but the first actual terminal was installed in 1983 in Bellevue, Nebraska. It formed part of the municipal lottery. Eleven further local lotteries in the state began introducing VLT machines, but the state eventually banned the machines in 1985.

In 1989, VLT machines were re-introduced, this time in South Dakota. Here, the machines were owned by private companies but still monitored by the South Dakota Lottery through the use of a centralised computer system. The state imposed a heavy tax on the net income of the games, making it profitable for the state to allow them.

There have been many attempts to vote against the use of VLT machines, all of which have been unsuccessful, and VLT machines are legally in use in various states in the USA.

Where VLTs Are Found

Video lottery terminals are most often found in so-called ‘racinos’, which generally refer to Indian gaming casinos that offer both a casino as well as a horse-racing track. Each terminal in this racino is linked together, and so players will compete against each other. Machines are pre-programmed to pay out at set times, but there is no guarantee that there will be a winner in each round. Games are on going until a winner is determined, and players must announce if they have won in order to get their payout.

Determining Winners

Even though video lottery terminals look much like a slot machine and certainly play like one, there are tremendous differences in terms of how winners are determined.

In general, VLT machines have more in common with lotto games, bingo, or scratch-offs than they do with standard slot machine games. This is because there is a set number of pre-determined winners. Players compete against each other for a prize and do not compete against the house, as is common with video slot machines in popular casinos. Video lottery terminals also do not guarantee a winner in each game.

In general, the payout of video lottery terminals is estimated to be at a range between 85% to 92%. This is far less than a traditional slots machine, and players frequenting casinos that offer both video lottery terminals as well as video slot machines are advised to go for the latter option.

A New Type of VLTs

In recent years, there has also been an introduction of the Class III video lottery terminals. These, in contrast to the original VLT machines, are not connected to the state lottery.

Unlike the state lottery, these also do not have a fixed number of winners. Instead, these Class III video lottery terminals have players complete against a house edge and not against other lottery players. This is more in line with traditional slot machine gaming used in popular casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City.