Play More Responsibly With PlaySmart Labels: Slot Machines Classification [Know Before You Play]

It’s can be quite useful to read the blurb on the back cover of a book you consider buying or to glance through a review of a movie you’re interested in; it kind of sets your expectations and help you pick up the right one. When it comes to online gambling, that’s what casinos and game reviews are for: to give you heads up and help you select the right one. Considering the diversity of offerings nowadays, it’s a practical necessity.

The same is with land-based slots. You might wander through rows of devices on any brick-and-mortar casino trying to figure out which one to play for hours at a time. Frequency and voluminosity of payouts, high- or low-stakes, number and type of bonus rounds, hold percentages, win frequency, classification of machines, not to mention volatility — these are all the details that will shape your experience and impact the outcome of your fun.


…such information is of essential relevance to players in terms of gambling responsibility. They help patrons elevate knowledge and impact their decision-making process.

To provide for such a progressive environment, in 2017, Grand River Raceway in Ontario, Canada, launched PlaySmart Slot Classification project which includes all 252 OLG Slots devices at the casino.

The project is the first of a kind in the world and a rather simple one — the unique label on each slot machine informs players about key features and, in doing so, enables them to select the one that fits their style of play and budget.

How It Works

All information on PlaySmart labels are classified into three categories: Play Style, Bonus Frequency, and Hold Percentage.

Play Style icon on the label, neatly designed in the outline of a one-armed bandit, denotes three different types of play style, each one labeled in different color:

  • High Stakes Play, a purple label, is for slots with less frequent and large payouts
  • Longer Play, a green label, is for devices with more frequent and smaller payouts
  • Balanced Play, a blue label, is for machines with more frequent and small to medium payouts

Bonus Frequency gives information on the regularity of additional rounds within a game that might offer extra wins, although, as is the case with any casino game, it does not mean a player is entitled to it. This info is in the shape of the traditional fuel gauge on the car’s dashboard and includes low, medium, or high chances of hitting the bonus round. If the slot machine does not offer bonuses, the gauge is empty, with no information whatsoever.

Hold Percentage, more commonly known as RTP, describes the percentage that goes to the casino and shall not be returned as prizes. It varies from very low (1-4.5%) up to very high (11.5-15%). Since in Ontario, Canada, the max hold percentage is capped at 15%, this means than no less than 85% is up for winnings.

Slot machines with more games than one are also labeled. In that case, the multi-game label gives players information based on the overall average of all games on such a device.

All labels are intuitively designed with a clean layout and they usually hang from slot devices.

But Why?

PlaySmart labels are part of a wider initiative to “reach players of all types, and provide facts, tools, and advice to keep gambling safe and enjoyable.”

In a way, as well described in a proper metaphor on their website, PlaySmart labels are like nutrition labels on our favorite food — we tend to read those to learn how much fat, carbs, and proteins we’ll take in with our favorite dishes, and to make sure they’ll be healthy.

PlaySmart equals the same data when it comes to slots.

Of course…

…nutrition labels are not so important to consumers that are highly informed and devoted to a healthy lifestyle, but for a newbie or less educated customer, they are of paramount importance.

Same is with PlaySmart labels: they are infinitely more important to new or infrequent players in supporting their decisions when it comes to gambling which, as always, involves a certain amount of risk.

Thus, through this initiative, such players can quickly glance over relevant info and make the best possible decision that may not only improve playing experience but increase making well-educated decisions.

The Results

As noted in the report issued by the Gambling Research Lab at the University of Waterloo, PlaySmart labels are the result of a 3-year long collaboration between this institution, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), and Gambling Research Exchange Ontario.

The initial conclusions are encouraging.

The study shows that labeling provided for increased situational awareness and responsible gambling by patrons while having limited influence on the casino’s daily operations. Some players did increase their gambling proclivities although they did it in low denomination slot machines, which is an indication of increased responsibility.

Players were able to better locate devices that suit them more properly and indicated slightly elevated knowledge when it comes to gambling. Surveying showed that 84% of patrons understood the concept while 44% of those felt they should change behavior empowered by information on the labels.

PlaySmart labels also influenced an apparent reduction in devices’ utilization and decreased the time between players’ visits simultaneously, but most importantly, patrons did not engage in more risky behavior.

Final Thoughts

The study concludes that additional research is necessary to ensure that PlaySmart efforts — deemed as “groundwork for further labeling initiatives” — are not changed but only improved.

This is where our online slot directory comes to mind, serving the same purpose in iGaming and covering practically the same areas as PlaySmart labels.

Both of these activities put the players at the center of the stage, giving them much-needed information to approach gambling in a more educated and responsible manner. Considering the impact of luck in slots where skills play a lesser role, PlaySmart labels also confirms the adage that forewarned is forearmed.

To that end, play smart and have good luck!

Dejan Gavrilovic profile image Dejan Gavrilovic LCB Reviewer - last updated 2024-01-03
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