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Handpay tipping guide

What should you tip at a casino when you get a handpay? There’s no “right” answer. There’s not really a common, agreed-upon customary amount like there is with tipping a waiter at a restaurant. In many ways, we’re still in the Wild West when it comes to tipping on slots, and we may always be, and that’s okay! There doesn’t have to be a universal standard for absolutely everything in life. I have my own opinions on this, but it doesn’t make me right, and you don’t have to do what I personally do. In my estimation, how much you tip really depends on how often you play, how much you spend, and how much you win.

I say that the frequency of your play is important because if you’re playing just once or twice a year, and you hit only one or two jackpots per year, you should definitely tip every time. By restaurant standards, this would be like tipping at the end of your meal, and that’s obviously a good thing. $10 - $20 is a decent tip on any handpay under $2,000, and it’s probably a good idea to adjust accordingly for anything over $2,000. If you’re betting a dollar, and you win $15, you’re obviously not going to tip. But if you get a $1,500 jackpot from that bet, that’s an incredible event, and a massive return on your money, so tip based on that!

But contrast this with betting $100 (like I often do) to get a $1,500 jackpot – it’s still great, of course, but not nearly as impressive, and not nearly the same ROI. It’s more directly akin to the one dollar bet/$15 win situation I mentioned just above, and it happens so often for me, that it would be crazy to tip on that every single time, over and over again, several times in a night. So, if you don’t tip when you spend one dollar and win $15, don’t even think about criticizing me when I spend $100 to win $1,500. It’s the same thing.

Also keep this in mind: The government hasn’t adjusted what constitutes a handpay amount ($1,200 or more) in more than 40 years; in no way has it kept up with inflation. This means that the same “big bet” (and a “big win”) in 1980 is a much smaller bet (and a much smaller win) in 2021. In other words, if I had 10 big bets and 10 big wins in 1980, a slot attendant wouldn’t be delivering the money to me (and possibly expecting a tip) as often as if this happens – with inflation-adjusted dollars – in 2021, and I’m not going to tip more and more every year – even with the same inflation-adjusted winnings (and losses) – just because the government is too backwards to update their policies.

Fortunately (not just for tipping, but also for speed and convenience), more and more casinos are implementing “FastPay” or “QuickPay” for high-rollers, so I don’t have to wait around to get paid as much. Still, though, I do like to tip slot attendants $20 on many of my jackpots if it’s a smaller casino and someone is being very helpful. But remember, because of the amount that I spend and play (which isn’t exactly typical), I might win 50 “jackpots” in a night, but still lose more than I win that night. Was I still supposed to tip on every single jackpot and lose even more? You see how that’s very different from someone spending $20 in a night, getting very lucky, and winning a $20,000 grand jackpot? Of course that person should tip generously.

If we go back to the restaurant analogy, again, you tip at the end of your meal. You don’t tip after every single drink, appetizer, and course. So, with slots, that’s what I do. I’ll usually tip at the end of the night if I’ve won a lot and the slot attendants were helpful and gave me speedy handpays. Based on what I bet per spin, if I get 50 jackpots in four hours, at $1,500 per jackpot, but I still end up losing $20,000 anyway, I don’t think that any slot attendant is expecting me to give them $20 per jackpot (or $1,000 total) in those four hours).

So, go ahead and tip what you feel is right with your money, and I’ll go ahead and do what I feel is right with mine. I have my reasons (which I’ve explained here), just as you have yours. Either way, wishing you lots of big wins, and lots of BIG JACKPOTS.

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