Casinos catering to customers with retro slots

18 July 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- In an increasingly online, plugged-in world of smartphones and high tech, there's still a demand for the old school tug on a one-armed bandit and the tinkle and crash of hard money meeting stainless steel.

And in Las Vegas, a city built on the premise of giving people what they want, old-fashioned coin slot machines still can be found among the beeping and whooping video games that dominate casino floors.

The Eastside Cannery Casino & Hotel and Four Queens Hotel and Casino are among the casinos that offer retro gaming, installing machines from the 1990s for gamblers wanting to experience a Las Vegas before bill accepters, paper payout tickets and not-quite-right recordings of jackpots falling.

"We have a number of local customers who prefer to play at coin-operated machines," said Albert Orosco, director of slot operations at Eastside Cannery, which opened its classic slot machine room with 56 games in March 2010. Those old coin-operated slots include S2000 Reel Spinner and Fortune One Draw Poker.

Modern digital machines occupy the majority of his casino, but Orosco said it's the coin-operated room that has generated increased interest in the Eastside Cannery.

"I think a lot of people didn't want to change to ticket-in, ticket-out games," he said. "Coin-operated slots offer different screens and are different types of games. Our coin-operated slots are poker for the most part."

The machines were seeing limited action on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, but none of the players were willing to interrupt their coin quest to discuss their continuing loyalty to the old ways.

Hard money is still hard money at the Four Queens on Fremont Street, but the payout's not quite the same.

The Four Queens has five Silver Strike machines, which to Director of Slots Shaun Webster are like fine wine -- something to be savored with family and friends.

The machine, at three quarters per play, pays out in limited-edition .999-pure silver tokens in plastic protective holders.

The tokens were first introduced in Reno in 1992, with International Game Technology making and distributing the games in 2004. The company no longer makes them, and Four Queens and Sam's Town have the only models left around.

"These games were created as a novel way to award players beyond the payable," said Jaclyn March, an IGT spokeswoman in Reno. "Rather than a bonus free game or spin of the wheel, the bonus awards collector coins."

Silver Strike awards custom coins that are designed by a property for a special event and have different values. Players can keep the coins, cash them in for paper money or trade them in for higher-value coins. The Four Queens offers players a 6-ounce silver center coin valued at $300 in exchange for 30 of the $10 slot tokens.

Webster said his latest design for a $300 coin will celebrate Halloween and features a scantily clad woman posing on a pumpkin. Tokens usually show the Four Queens logo on one side and a joker or the centennial sign for Las Vegas on the other side.

"These coins are very popular with our guests," Webster said, "Some people collect them for their silver, while others collect them for their individual designs."

Before a new coin is minted, the design must be approved by state gaming regulators. The mint will then produce 150 coins, with one going to state regulators, and one kept by the hotel.

Webster said the other 148 are distributed among the five machines.

"My most popular coin ever produced featured an 888 design, which was issued on Aug. 8, 2008. It represented a lucky month, lucky day and lucky year in the Asian calendar," said Webster, who is still wondering why his 2005 showgirl design failed to catch on with gamblers.

While there are customers who will only play coin-operated slot machines, those devoted to Silver Strike machines are called Silver Strikers and have formed their own club.

Webster said the hotel hosts a convention in January and June for the 470 members of the Silver Strikers.

"It's not uncommon to see about 200 people in a line that stretches from our cash cage in the casino to the front entrance," he said. "Their loyalty to this game and the coins we produce is just amazing. Our decision to carry these machines has also been a great marketing tool for us."

Other casinos offer a few coin machines, but no one in the industry believes the old technology will make a comeback.

Boyd Gaming Corp. offers coin-operated machines at all three of its downtown Las Vegas casinos and Sam's Town. David Strow, a spokesman with Boyd Gaming, said there are about 330 coin slots spread throughout the four properties.

But the company has no plans to introduce more of them.

"Most of our customers want a slot machine that uses a paper ticket," Strow said.

Related Links
Four Queens Hotel and Casino Details
Eastside Cannery Casino & Hotel Details
Nevada Gambling


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