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What Are Skill-Based Slots?

Skill-Based Slot Machines: What Are They and How They Work?

For decades, spinning the reels of slot machines - whether at land-based or online casinos - has been reduced to pure luck and, apparently, no skill whatsoever. Players have been at RNG's mercy to either win or lose, which for most was both exciting and somewhat rewarding.

However, new generations have started changing the face of gambling, slots in particular. Moving away from luck as a deciding factor of their wins, these generations have started asking for games that put their skills, reasoning, and capacities to test while still being fun – and that's how skill-based slots arouse. 

What Are Skill-Based Slots? 

Skill based slot machines are the newer breed of slots designed for everyone who would rather trust their skill over their luck, while still having fun - at least that’s how they are advertised.

The outcome of skill-based slots should be based on the player's ability to play the game rather than how lucky they are. Skill slot machines also allow operators, game developers, and suppliers to design variable payback based on a comprehensive variety of identifiers. 

The outcome of skill-based slots should be based on the player's ability to play the game rather than how lucky they are.

While regular slots' winnings involve a lot of player's luck and hardly any skill, skill slots are supposed to be predominantly skill, factor-wise. With skill-based slots, players start the game knowing that they will have a material effect on the outcome, i.e. how much money they can win, with better players getting rewarded with higher payback.

Essentially, in answering what are skill machines, it is safe to say that they are games which resemble video poker or blackjack, as they give the player a chance to boost their profits solely with skill. 

How Does a Skill-Based Slot Machine Work? 

In comparison with how regular slot machines work, it is kind of difficult to give a definite observation on the matter as, basically, they operate the same way. 

Unlike regular slot machines, casino skill games feature bonus rounds that require skill to win. Also, some of these games don't necessarily require playing the skill-based round; instead, they offer the option of choosing between free spins and an interactive bonus. 

How Slot Machine Skill Games Work?

Say you are playing a slot with a racing theme; this is how you would go about it:

  • When the bonus room is triggered, you choose the skill-based bonus
  • You race against other cars
  • The size of your payout gets determined by your finish 

Skill based slot machines particularly stand out due to their unique bonuses.

What is the Difference Between Regular and Skill Based Slots? 

Skill based video games, i.e. skill-based slots, are different from regular slot machines because they feature bonus rounds which include a high degree of skill. While the base mechanisms are the same for both, skill-based slots require some skill if the player is looking to score.

While the base mechanisms are the same for both, skill-based slots require some skill if the player is looking to score.

Regular slot machines work in a way that the player places a bet and spins the reels; then, the RNG (random number generator) delivers a combination, showing the results on the reels. Essentially, it is the RNG that determines the spin's fate. With traditional slots, players have almost no say in the outcome – they only decide the amount they'll bet and when they'll start/stop playing. 

How Much is Actually Skill and How Much Pure Luck?

When we speak of skill-based gaming, it's safe to say that both are included, with the difference that, unlike traditional slots, skill-based slots do include competence. 

What is the Difference Between Arcade Slot Machines and Skill Based Slots? 

The younger generations don't remember it – but arcade games were the thing in gaming. New-age developers have decided to use the old trend, revamp it, and make it the basis of the majority of skill-based slot machines. The reason for this is, predominantly, millennial preferences. Millennials are not interested in luck deciding the course of their actions but are known to believe their own competence and rely on it. 

As skill-based slots haven't exactly grown in popularity in the past years, bonuses based on arcade games could be the best way to test if skill based gaming will become the new "it" of slots gambli­ng. ­ ­

Can You Make Money Playing Skill Based Slot Games? 

Skill-based slots don't come with guaranteed profits despite the fact that your skills can result in earning more money. Why? When it comes to this type of games, the truth is - you won't raise RTP enough to guarantee winnings even if you're an expert at the bonus round. While players are given the option to include their skill in the whole concept of playing, these games are still programmed to give the house advantage over a player.

The Case of PA Skill Machines (Pennsylvania Skill Machines) 

Pennsylvania Skill machines are the games you see at convenience stores, at bowling alleys, local pubs, and virtually all other fun-ga­mes­-an­d-e­nte­rta­inment places. These games are allowed for 18-year-olds, while casino slot machines are strictly for those who are 21 years old, or older.

Pennsylvania skill games are produced by Pace-O-Matic (POM or Pace O Matic), distributed by Williamsport, PA, -based-Miele Manufacturing.

There are several games on offer: 

  • A hypothetically unlockable bonus session
  • A tic-tac-toe-style puzzle
  • A "follow me" coloured dot-matching second phase of gameplay

If a player plays the Pace-O-Matic game successfully, they win a total of 105% of the original amount spent to play.

Throughout the years, there have been talks whether the machines developed under the name "Pennsylvania Skill" should be considered regular slot machines or games of skill specifically. In the most recent ruling, it was announced that "video game machines manufactured and distributed by the POM under the name "Pennsylvania Skill" are considered slot machines under Pennsylvania law. However, Judge Patricia McCullough did not state that POM was in violation of the Gaming Act." 

Currently, Pennsylvanian skill machines are considered legal.

But where does that leave things? Are Pennsylvania skill machines legal? Currently, they are considered legal. However, some people argue that the skill aspect is an illusion designed with the idea of floating Pennsylvania gambling laws. The same people, additionally, claim that a player can get lucky on both a regular slot machine and a skill-based one, and win – but that it would be luck in both cases, though. 

Are Skill Slots the Future of the Slot Machine Industry?

Discussing whether skill slots are the future of the slot machine industry has to come with a degree of uncertainty as there are still plenty of unregulated and undefined things in this domain. While skill-based gaming sounds like a great idea on paper, the reality is different. Yes, skill-based slots give players the ability to decide their own gambling luck (in a way), but - skill alone doesn't always translate into success.

Skill-based slots give players the ability to decide their own gambling luck (in a way), but - skill alone doesn't always translate into success.

The optimum is that, based on how things are now, the future of slots looks close to placing an emphasis on social gaming (e.g. Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Plants vs. Zombies, etc.) and console/computer games. Still, all further changes and upgrades remain to be seen. 


Skill-based slots are a mixed bag of elements different to standard slots, but also a somewhat deceiving game as it sounds like it's giving players more power of the outcome than it actually does. Players are potentially able to influence 5% of the RTP through their abilities, but that is pretty much it. Skill slots differ from casino terminals in a way that they include some skill, the accent on "some". Skill slot machines don't actually give players a true chance to overcome the house edge, but that doesn't mean you can't have all the fun in the world just playing!

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