Ask the Slot Expert: What happens to the slot machines when a casino closes?

3 December 2014

On Wednesday I received another sad e-mail from the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in AC advising me that it is closing. Here is my question:

Several other casinos in Atlantic City have closed recently. What happens to all of the slot machines?

I would love to buy one and put it in my sunroom as a piggy bank for my wife and myself. Are these available for purchase somewhere or is it like the fact that I cannot obtain $500, $1,000 or larger currency bills because our nanny state and federal idiots have decided for our own good that "only criminals need such items"?

Old slot machines go to a farm upstate where they can run around and play in the fields with other slot machines.

Actually, the disposition of a slot machine when a casino closes depends on who owns the slot machine. If it's a machine placed in the casino on a participation basis (the casino and the manufacturer share in the win from the machine), it gets returned to the manufacturer. If it's leased from another company, it gets returned to the lessor. And if the casino owns the slot machine, it might get sold to another casino or to a slot distributor. Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, for example, petitioned the bankruptcy court to let it sell 353 slot machines to Patriot Gaming & Electronics, a company that sells new and used slot machines.

As for why bills larger than $100 are no longer produced, I think the main reason is that the development of electronic funds transfers made large cash transactions between banks and government agencies unnecessary. Now that the government doesn't need the large bills — and the drug trade and money launderers do — they're not going to be produced again.

Although it's a little before my time, I remember when New Jersey approved gambling in Atlantic City and some pundits predicted the decline of Las Vegas. Why would anyone on the East Coast spend hundreds of dollars on airfare and hours on a plane to go to Las Vegas when Atlantic City was much closer? Las Vegas doubled down with larger, more spectacular resorts (and shopping and world-class restaurants) and gave people an experience they couldn't get in Atlantic City. People kept going to Las Vegas. And can you believe the size of McCarran now? It had only the A and B gates at Terminal 1 when I started going to Las Vegas.

I classify casino-resorts in three levels. Only one operator, Steve Wynn, has ever made it to the A level. It seems like employees are constantly cleaning the machines, the casino and the property. I don't ever recall seeing minor damage (tears in the banquettes at the coffee shop or in the arm rests at table games, cigarette burns in the felt, etc.) last beyond the next graveyard shift. Garbage left in an elevator is gone the next time you use it. And the elevators look like they've never been used before.

A B-level property will fix these items and clean the property, just not as quickly and as frequently as an A-level property. The operators of a C-level property clean the property, but it's difficult to tell how often and it seems like damage isn't repaired until the next remodel.

As I said before, no one but Steve Wynn has made it to my A level. Once MGM bought Mirage Resorts, the properties quickly fell to my B level. The casinos in Atlantic City casinos are B at best, but most are C. One of the worst is Trump Taj Mahal. I wouldn't be surprised if the cigarette burns I saw in the formica around the machines more than 10 years ago are still there. Trump may have wanted to be the Wynn of AC, but he missed the lesson about keeping your properties spotless.

Atlantic City never stepped up its game once gambling spread to Pennsylvania and New York, so people have no reason to go the extra distance to Atlantic City — unless they want the Atlantic Ocean. The Pennsylvania casinos and New York racinos are much closer to me than Atlantic City. It's unfortunate that so many casinos have to close and so many people have to lose their jobs, but the demand no longer exists for so many casinos in the city.

Getting down off my soapbox and back to your questions, many states allow private citizens to own slot machines. In Nevada, as you might expect, residents can purchase any slot machine. In my native New Jersey, the machine must have been manufactured before 1941. (The Desert Inn half-seriously looked into whether they could give me "my" video poker machine, which I had written about many times. Unfortunately, the machine was far too new to be legal for me to have in New Jersey.) In other states, machines must be older than, say, 25 or 30 years. The reasoning behind the minimum age is, I believe, to keep the technology in machines currently on the slot floor out of private hands to make it harder for people to find vulnerabilities in the current technology and cheat the machines. Google "used slot machines" to find sellers of used machines. The companies will be able to help you determine which machines are legal for your state.



Related Links
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Atlantic City Details
Patriot Gaming & Electronics, Inc. Gaming Vendor Information


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

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