Online Slots Vs. Slot Machines

If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that legalized online casinos, you have access to safe and secure sites with online slots. But you also might be wondering whether or not you should still make the trip to a brick-and-mortar casino. Are online slots as good as regular slot machines? Is one better than the other?

The short answer is that there are some benefits to playing online slots over slot machines – and vice versa. But before we get into that, we should point out that:

Online Slots And Slot Machines Are Essentially The Same

Old-school slot machines were mechanical rather than digital. They were designed to still be as random as a digital slot, but some believed the mechanical options gave you a better sense of when a win was imminent.

Today, mechanical slots are a thing of the past. You may find one at a random Nevada bar with a penchant for antiquity, but no brick-and-mortar casino in the US has mechanical slots.

Instead, all slots are digital, which means they use random number generators (RNG) to determine wins or losses. RNGs are algorithms in slots software that display outcomes at random based on likelihood.

RNGs are also used for video poker machines and other electronic gaming terminals.

RNGs are also used for all online slots, which means online slots and slot machines are the same. One is just accessible on your phone or computer while the other requires a trip to the local casino.

However, online slots can beat out slot machines in some categories, and slot machines can beat out online slots in others.


Online casinos in Michigan are still growing, but this will soon be true in the Wolverine State as well. Given the fact that you can join multiple online casinos in just a few minutes, you have access to all online slots in just a few clicks. 

At Golden Nugget New Jersey, for example, players have close to 800 different options. BetMGM New Jersey has over 200. And those are just two of over a dozen online casino options.

While some physical casinos, such as Resorts World New York City, can boast over a thousand different slots, it still can’t compete with having multiple online casinos at your fingertips. 

And, a lot of the time, “over a thousand” slot machines at a brick-and-mortar casino will include the same game on multiple machines. 

For example, if an online casino has the Divine Fortune slot, it only counts once. But if a physical casino has Divine Fortune on 20 different machines, it will add 20 to its total slots count.

Winner: Online Slots

Win Potential

You can win more at a slot machine than you can at an online casino. Nothing online comes close to topping the progressive jackpots on the Las Vegas Strip. For example, the Megabucks slot that broke the world record for biggest slot win with a $39.7 million payout.

Depending on where you live, your local casino may not have a progressive jackpot that can beat the five-figure progressive jackpots at online casinos. And online slots can have fixed jackpots of $1 million. But the million-dollar fixed jackpot slots are usually also available at the brick-and-mortar casinos.

Winner: Slot Machines

Long-Term Success

Online casinos let you try the slot out in free demo practice mode, meaning you can experience the gameplay and all the features without risking any of your own money. That doesn’t exist at a physical casino, which makes trying a new game a bit riskier.

But one of the more overlooked aspects of a slot is the return to player (RTP) percentage, also known as the payback. This number represents how much the slot pays back of what gets put in.

For example, a payback of 95% means the slot pays back, on average, $95 for every $100.

At a land-based casino, it’s difficult to identify the RTP at the slot machines. One option is to do research online, then find the slot machine you like once you get to the casino. But the casino can also adjust the RTP for their machines, which means you’d then have to check once you sit down – if you can. Some of the games don’t display their RTP at all, making it impossible to know the payback.

At an online casino, the payback percentage should be clearly displayed in the info section of the game.

Brick-and-mortar casinos are usually only competing geographically. That means if you’re on the Las Vegas Strip, you may be able to find the slots with RTP on par with the online casinos. But usually, the average RTP at online casinos is up to 20% higher than the brick-and-mortar counterparts, especially for casinos without nearby competition.

For long-term success, you want a high RTP percentage and medium to low slots volatility. It’s easiest to find both at online casinos.

Winner: Online Slots

Accountability And Responsible Gaming

When you’re sitting at a physical slot machine, it’s a lot harder to stay there for hours on end than it is to hit “spin” on your mobile device. It’s also dangerously easy to open an online casino app and start playing compared to getting in the car or hopping on a plane. 

Even if the casino is a five-minute drive down the street, you still have that buffer between betting and not betting that an online casino simply doesn’t offer.

No matter how you play the slots, practicing responsible gaming is crucial. The alternative has ruined lives.

But someone will probably notice if you’re playing slots for two days straight at a physical casino. The same can’t be said for online slots.

Winner: Slot Machines

Promotions And Bonuses

If you like playing slots but you’re relatively new to online casino gaming, you’re in for a treat. Almost every online casino offers a welcome bonus of some kind, and slots players get rewarded the most.

For example, the WynnBET Casino Michigan welcome bonus is a 100% deposit bonus up to $1,000 plus 200 free spins on the highly popular Divine Fortune slot.

Terms and conditions apply. But essentially, WynnBET doubles the first deposit and gives you 200 free chances to win a slot with a progressive jackpot and a $350,000 max payout.

Sure, brick-and-mortar casinos offer some nice loyalty programs. But they don’t double your cash in hand when you walk onto the casino floor, nor do they give you free spins.

Winner: Online Slots

Overall Experience

The atmosphere of a brick-and-mortar casino is undeniably exciting. While studies have shown that millennials and Gen Z bettors often see the casino floor as an outdated pastime, many (including myself) love navigating the bright and flashy maze of a betting palace.

Unless you live some sort of dream life, chances are playing slots online doesn’t come with drink service, upcoming live shows, five-star restaurants, and luxury hotel amenities.

If you want to avoid a casino but still want to play slots, online casinos are ready and waiting to provide your perfect experience. 

But for those looking for the traditional immersion of betting fun that casinos inspire, nothing beats a trip to the casino – especially if it’s located on the Vegas Strip or the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Winner: Slot Machines

Online Slots Vs. Slot Machines: Final Verdict

Physical slot machines win in the following categories:

  • Win potential, with progressive jackpots worth millions of dollars.
  • Inherent accountability that online casinos just can’t provide.
  • Overall casino experience, including the ability to get free drinks at a moment’s notice.

But online slots have advantages that include:

  • Variety, especially because you can play at multiple casinos without leaving home.
  • Long-term success, with Golden Nugget and others offering RTP percentages, slot volatility, and free demo practice mode.
  • Promotions and bonuses, with online casino players doubling their bankroll by up to $1,000 or more.

Of course, most slots players are happy to play slot machines when they can. When they can’t, they have the online slot machines a click away. That’s what we call in the industry “the best of both worlds.”

Winner: You!

Good luck, have fun, and please play responsibly.

About the Author
Mike Epifani

Mike Epifani

Casino Content Manager
Mike Epifani is a gambling expert and professional writer with more than a decade of industry experience. His current role is Brand Content Manager at, part of the Catena Media network. Mike has written hundreds of guides on online casinos, casino gaming, sports betting, sweepstakes sites, and lottery play.
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