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What is a VLT machine?

A VLT machine, also known as a video lottery terminal, is an electronic gambling machine similar to a slot machine that allows players to wager on the outcome of a video game. VLTs are often found in casinos, racetracks, bars, and other gambling establishments. Some key things to know about VLT machines:

  • VLTs are computerized slot machines that use a random number generator to produce results for games like video poker, keno, bingo, and slots.
  • Unlike traditional slot machines, the game outcomes on a VLT are determined by software, not physical reels.
  • VLT games resemble casino games you would find on a video slot machine. Common games include video poker, video blackjack, video keno, and video spinning reel slots.
  • VLTs are networked machines that are connected to a central system which tracks game activity and payouts.
  • Many VLT games have bonus rounds, progressive jackpots, and other special features to enhance gameplay.
  • Players insert money and use buttons or a touchscreen to place bets and initiate games.
  • Payouts and game rules are programmed into the VLT’s software.
  • VLT revenue is shared by the machine operators, gaming establishments, and government-run lotteries in jurisdictions where VLTs are legal.

So in summary, a VLT is an electronic gambling terminal similar to a video slot machine that allows players to wager on casino-style games controlled by computer software. VLTs are connected to a central system and regulated by lottery agencies in places where they are permitted.

Legality of VLTs

The legality of VLT machines varies considerably around the world. Here is an overview of where VLTs are permitted:

  • Canada – VLTs are provincially regulated gambling machines found across most Canadian provinces. They generate billions in annual revenue for provincial governments.
  • United States – VLT legality depends on state laws. Delaware, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia are among the states that permit VLTs.
  • Europe – Countries like Italy, Germany, and Austria allow VLT machines, while others prohibit them.
  • Australia – Legal in Queensland and South Australia, where they are known as poker machines.
  • South America – VLTs can be found in casinos in Argentina and Peru.
  • Asia – Singapore is one of the few Asian countries that allows VLTs. Most prohibit gambling machines outside of casinos.
  • Africa – South Africa has VLTs available at its casinos. Most other African countries ban the machines.

So VLT legality varies widely globally. In general, they are permitted in jurisdictions that allow other forms of casino and lottery-style gambling. However, many countries ban the use of VLTs and other electronic gaming machines.

VLT Hardware

The hardware that makes up a VLT machine includes the following components:

  • Cabinet – The outer metal and wooden frame that houses the machine.
  • Monitor – A digital screen that displays the video graphics and gameplay.
  • Computer board – An internal motherboard that runs the gaming software and processes functions.
  • Random number generator (RNG) – Generates the random outcomes for games like slots and video poker.
  • Game software – Coded software that presents games, calculates payouts, and more.
  • Bill validator – Accepts and scans paper money and vouchers inserted by players.
  • Ticket printer – Prints receipts and ticket vouchers that can be redeemed for cash.
  • Player controls – Buttons, joysticks, or touchscreen for game play.
  • Speakers – Provides game audio like sound effects and music.

Modern VLTs operate on robust computer platforms running specialized gambling software. The games, security, and payout systems are all controlled by the machine’s proprietary programs and RNG software. This provides transparency and ensures game fairness for both players and VLT operators. Older VLTs worked on simpler hardware with limited game options.

How VLTs Work

When playing a VLT machine, the general process flow is as follows:

  1. Player inserts cash or voucher into the bill validator.
  2. Credits are registered on the machine’s credit meter.
  3. Player chooses a betting amount per game or spin.
  4. Player presses spin button or pulls a lever to initiate game.
  5. RNG software determines game outcome – win or loss.
  6. Game result is displayed on screen along with any prize payout.
  7. Any wins are added to the credit meter.
  8. Player can cash out credits by pressing cash out button.
  9. A voucher is printed that can be redeemed for cash.

So the basic flow is:

  • Insert money
  • Select bet
  • Play game
  • Machine determines outcome
  • Winnings credited
  • Cash out credits

The key mechanism is the RNG software which ensures a random outcome. The game options, payout tables, and betting configurations are all programmed into the VLT’s software. Many machines offer features like free spins, bonus games, and progressive jackpots to add variety and larger prizes. Regulations require machines have a minimum payout percentage to players.

VLT Game Types

There are numerous VLT game themes and options modeled after popular casino games:

Video Slot Machines

– Spinning reel slots with multiple paylines. Match symbols across lines to win.

Video Poker

– Play classic poker games like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. Make poker hands to win.

Video Blackjack

– Play virtual blackjack hands against a computer dealer. Try to get closer to 21.

Video Keno

– Play virtual keno games by choosing numbers to match random draws.

Electronic Bingo

– Computerized bingo games where numbers are called until a player achieves a winning pattern.

Video Roulette

– Make bets on a virtual roulette table and wheel with winning number spun randomly.

In addition to these classics, VLTs may offer specialty and multi-game options with creative themes and bonuses to enhance the entertainment value for players.

VLT Gaming Tips and Strategies

There are some general strategic tips to keep in mind when playing VLT machines:

  • Know the game – Look at the rules and payout tables so you understand your odds.
  • Set a budget – Only play with an amount you can comfortably afford to lose.
  • Try demo modes – Many VLTs have free practice play modes to test games.
  • Avoid progressives – Unless the jackpot total is very high, the odds are against you.
  • Play max lines – More lines or hands increase your odds in games like slots and video poker.
  • Manage bankroll – Divide your budget into smaller playing sessions rather than risking it all at once.
  • Take breaks – Stepping away avoids making rash decisions based on win or lose streaks.
  • Have fun – VLTs are entertainment. Make sure you enjoy the gaming experience.

Key things to remember are playing responsibly within your means, knowing the games inside and out, and using bankroll management to extend playtime. While VLTs are gambling machines, focus on the fun, not expectation of profits.

VLT Revenue and Taxation

One major motivation for legalizing VLT gambling is the tax revenue it generates for operators and governments:

  • VLT revenue is tracked electronically on the machines’ central systems.
  • Net machine income is distributed to VLT operators, vendors, retailers, and lottery commissions per contractual agreements.
  • Typical profit sharing arrangements allocate 40-50% to operators, 10-20% to retailers, and 30-40% to lottery commissions.
  • Governments impose excise taxes on VLT income, averaging 25-35% of net machine revenue in most jurisdictions.
  • In Canada, provinces earned over $2 billion in VLT-related gambling taxes in 2021.
  • In the U.S., VLT gambling taxes generate over $1 billion annually for state and local governments.

VLT machines can generate substantial gambling tax income, which is why they are sanctioned in many jurisdictions. Critics argue VLTs prey on problem gamblers to earn this revenue. Proponents claim the regulated machines provide entertainment for recreational gamers in a controlled manner with built-in consumer protections. The gaming taxes also fund beneficial community programs.

Controversy Around VLTs

Despite their popularity, VLTs are controversial gambling machines due to some of the following concerns:

  • They are accused of targeting and profiting from people with gambling problems or addictions.
  • Critics assert they do not provide the same consumer protections as casino games.
  • Fast gameplay and large bets allegedly contribute to quick and significant losses for players.
  • VLTs are considered a particularly addictive form of gambling by many experts.
  • Opponents want tighter government restrictions on access to VLT gaming.
  • Some detractors outright oppose VLT gambling and participation in lotteries.

Supporters counter that:

  • VLTs are just one entertainment option for adult gamers.
  • Play is completely voluntary – no one is forced to gamble.
  • Losses are due to player choices, not machine faults.
  • Regulators provide consumer safeguards on modern VLTs.
  • Legalization shifts play from uncontrolled illicit machines to regulated ones.

The debate around VLTs balancing economic pros versus social cons continues actively. But they remain popular gambling options subject to oversight in many regions.

Problem Gambling Support

For a small percentage of players, VLTs and other gambling can become an unhealthy addiction. Every jurisdiction with legal VLTs also provides resources to prevent and treat problem gambling:

  • Player education programs on responsible gaming and setting limits.
  • Self-exclusion options to ban players from gaming establishments.
  • Requirements for pauses in play after continuous use and warnings about excessive losses.
  • Advertising limits to avoid targeting at-risk groups.
  • Free general and confidential counseling services.
  • Referrals to residential treatment facilities for diagnosable gambling disorders.

If gambling starts impacting finances, work, or personal lives, players should get help immediately. Free resources and hotlines are available 24/7. With early treatment, problem gambling can usually be overcome before it becomes a serious addiction.

Future of VLT Technology

Some expected innovations in VLT technology going forward:

  • Expanded game libraries with more interactive skill-based options.
  • Virtual and augmented reality to immerse players in game worlds.
  • Improved data analytics to customize games and promotions to player profiles.
  • Advances in payment processing, including options for cryptocurrency wagering.
  • More robust responsible gambling features, like mandatory time and loss limits.
  • Tighter hardware and software security to prevent tampering and cheating.
  • Inter-casino jackpots linking VLTs across different operators and regions.
  • Integration with mobile apps to allow combined online and on-site play.

VLT technology will continue evolving to match player desires for greater excitement and entertainment. But regulators will also push for stronger responsible gambling protections in VLT software and hardware. The flexibility of computerized gambling opens many possibilities if allowed by state laws.


VLTs provide regulated electronic gambling in venues where permitted. Their computerized operation and networked nature allow transparency and consumer safeguards versus unregulated machines. But VLTs remain controversial due to their addictive nature for a minority. Responsible oversight balanced with problem gambling resources help maximize benefits while minimizing risks of this popular form of gambling. Technological advances will continue expanding VLT gaming possibilities while regulators respond with improved consumer protections.