Q Are the required minimum payouts for all Minnesota casinos the same? How do they compare with casinos in Iowa and Wisconsin?

A Minnesota has an agreement, or gaming compact, with each of the tribes, said Scott Stewart, senior special agent at the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of Minnesota's Department of Public Safety.

These compacts, among other things, set the payouts for three different types of games: player-skill games, such as blackjack; non-skill games, such as video slots; and games such as keno.

Under the compact, the chance of winning the jackpot in any of these games is the same: 1 in 17 million plays. But that's over the life of the machine. Some machines are turned over every couple of years, while others are still in play at 10 years. The only way you can be assured of taking the jackpot on one of these games is to be the only person playing for the life of the machine.

When talking about specific percentage payouts for a machine, it's a little more complicated.

Take video blackjack, for example. If the payout is 83 to 93 percent, that doesn't mean if you put in $100, you leave that night with $83 to $93. You could win some, or you could leave with nothing because it's over the life of the machine. And what most people don't know, Stewart said, is that if you're breaking even -- put in a quarter, get out a quarter -- that's considered a "win" by gaming standards, and part of the 83 to 93 percent.

Minnesota was the first state to enter into compacts with Indian nations regarding casinos; other states followed. For information on how they regulate casinos and payouts, contact the individual states, or the individual tribe. Most tribes now have their own gaming commissions.

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies. Fixit appears every day except Friday.