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Video Slots vs. Fruit Machines

The humble fruit machine ('fruitie') used to be the cornerstone of cafes, pubs and amusement arcades up and down the country.

While the bright lights and spinning melons may have largely disappeared from cafes and cabbies' offices, you can still enjoy classic 3-reel fare on any seaside pier or pub.

But with the prevalence of online video slots, are fruit machines' days numbered, and what are the main differences anyway?

What Are Fruit Machines?

Fruit machines are effectively slot machines done the British way. Traditionally they would have three reels and symbols dominated by classic US-style AWP (Amusements With Prizes) symbols like cherries, melons and oranges like Vegas old-school machines, but with a few differences.

Professional fruitie players swear that machines experiencing a long barren spell are set to pay out, with the machines 'knowing' when they have to pay out.

Experienced slots players in the UK will also attest that the 'Hi-Lo' gamble feature after a win (where players can double their money by choosing if the next number shown is higher or lower) is pre-determined.

Meanwhile, the 'Nudge' feature allows players to shift a chosen reel up or down to complete a winning payline, while the random 'Hold' function lets you hold a reel in place while re-spinning the remaining ones.

Fruit Machines - Are They Fixed?

With mechanical fruit machines, the incredibly low Return to Player percentages (in the 70-76% range) mean that you're much better off playing online slots with RTPs in the 90s.

Interestingly, the Gambling Commission does state that "compensated machines vary the chance of winning a prize as a result of the outcome from previous play. Where such a machine is below its target RTP% it may become more generous dependent upon design and vice versa, though the prize distribution is still determined by chance."

Even by the UK Gambling Commission's own guidelines, fruit machines are a bad bet.

Jackpots Are Bigger In Online Video Slots

Jackpots differ between fruit machines and casino video slots. Under current UK gambling laws, fruit machines are classed as B3 or B4 machines. From 2014, the maximum stake on a B3 fruitie was £2, with a £500 maximum prize available.

Category C fruit machines can be found in amusement arcades, service stations or pubs and carry a maximum stake of £1 and a maximum prize of £100.

However, head to a large British casino and the category goes up to B1 - slot machines with a £5 maximum stake and a potential £10,000 maximum prize (£20,000 on progressive jackpots).

Online, though, progressives run into the millions, maximum stakes can run into the hundreds, and the amount you can play and lose can be huge.

Bonus Rounds and Paylines

Paylines are simple in fruit machines - usually the one horizontal one across the middle spots - and bonus features are restricted to a 'Trail Bonus' where sequences of symbols on the machine light up to award further prizes.

However, it's in the games' Return to Player percentages (RTPs) where you'll find the biggest difference between fruit machines and online slots.

While video slots carry more reels and paylines and offer a theoretical RTP somewhere in the 90%s, no such RTP will you find on mechanical fruit machines.

And with usually just a single payline available to hit the variance on land-based UK fruit machines is huge.

Online and live video slots also offer more bonus features on top of the increased paylines. While they're not always worth hitting, free spins and instant cash wins can make a low-variance slot worth playing for a reasonable session to bring in some extra quid.

Check the Paytables

As with any slots, online or live, it's worth checking the Paytable first. The paytable lists the various payouts for hitting combinations of symbols, as well as jackpots.

A scan of many fruit machine paytables (displayed at the top of the machine) shows how bad many of them pay. It's not uncommon to see minimum wins on fruities way below those on online slots, and the amount you'd have to bet to earn the most basic jackpots almost negates playing them.

Head Online For the Best Slot Machines

For years, pros have scoured the UK looking for "emptiers" (i.e. machines that are programmed to pay a jackpot following a long dry spell) and maintain that the 'skill-based' bonus features are anything other than total luck.

While the "randomness" of fruit machines can never be truly random, for the best bets it's best to stick to video slots in your local casino or a UK regulated site online. The RTPs are higher, the chance of small, regular wins better for your bankroll, and the progressives for bigger bettors potentially huge.

There will be a day soon when fruit machines in the UK become like arcade games: a source of pure entertainment where you're not expected to win anything other than a few minutes' gratification. And while the rise of online slots continues growing, that day is getting nearer and nearer.

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