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SPINNING REELS

A Look Inside the World of Slot Machines

By Sean Chaffin

 

There’s always something happening in the casino and slot machine world. This month in our Slots Roundup, we preview the reopening of two casino properties in Atlantic City, the effects of the legalized sports betting on racinos, and testing of new technology to comp drinks to slot players.

Racinos Ready for Action

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal law barring states from enacting legislation to legalize sports betting (Nevada excluded). The reversal allows for states to legalize sports wagering. Many race tracks, including those in New Jersey (the state that fought the federal restrictions), were ready to open their doors for wagering in states on the verge legalization.

Many tracks already with table games and slot machines look to be at the forefront of the new world of state-by-state sports wagering. Tracks would have the ability to allow wagering quickly.

“The economics of it, we will begin to see how it works,” Stronach Group chief operating officer Tim Ritvo told the Associated Press. Stronach owns tracks throughout the country including Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, site of the Preakness. He doesn’t foresee sports wagering as a major windfall, but said “it’s an added amenity for a customer, where he can go to an event like a race track and bet some races and bet some games and watch some games. It becomes a social experience.”

Care for a Drink?

A new experiment at the Riverside Resort in Laughlin, Nevada, could be a game changer for slot machine players when it comes to free drinks. New technology by Ardent Progressive Systems and Games have been installed on 90 machines.

The system features a strip of LED lights that faces the player, according to Las Vegas’s KTRW.com. A red light means a player doesn’t have enough points for a drink. Green means you’re ready for a drink, and yellow means you’re getting close to qualifying. Orange means you’re playing too slowly and falling off track.

“The hope now is, the trial down in Laughlin will be successful and then we’ve got several properties that are waiting to see the results of that and possibly implementing it in the near future up here in Las Vegas,” company rep Albert Tabola told KTRW.

A big question is how will players respond to this new monitoring? Will players be more apt to seek casinos with more liberal drink policies and no tracking of drinks? This trial run should cast some light on that scenario.

Boardwalk Booms in Atlantic City

It wasn’t a good year for Atlantic City in 2014. Four casinos shut their doors as competition in the region squeezed properties for gamblers. The Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel, and Trump Plaza all closed and the Taj Mahal closed in 2016 – with barren buildings lining the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

However, two of those shuttered properties are set to reopen on June 28, and slot machine fans in the Northeast will have a couple more options for some fun and few days away. Ocean Casino & Resort (formerly Revel) and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (formerly the Taj Mahal) will open their doors for eager gamblers.

The Cherry Hill Courier Post notes: “… the Hard Rock will present itself as a brand-new property from top to bottom, much as billionaire Tilman Fertitta – the CEO of the hospitality and restaurant chain company Landry’s – did when he purchased the former Trump Marina for $38 million in 2011 and spent $150 million creating the Golden Nugget.”

The casino hopes to be an entertainment mecca and has already booked 60 shows for the property including Carrie Underwood on June 29 and Pitbull on June 30.

Ocean’s owners have spent millions of dollars redesigning and renovating the property, which cost $2.4 billion to construct and opened as Revel in April 2012. The property closed two years later and filed for bankruptcy. Renovations have made access from the Boardwalk easier, made the design of the casino’s interior much easier to navigate. The property also hosts a 5,500-seat entertainment venue.

Several elements of Revel were not considered player-friendly and the Associated Press notes that the new owners are looking to fix those: “The vertiginous ‘escalator to heaven’ at the main entrance will now have glass safety panels on either side; a two-night stay will no longer be required; a wall blocking the casino off from easy Boardwalk access is being replaced by stairs welcoming foot traffic; the casino will offer more things for kids and families to do; and gamblers of all levels will be welcomed.”

Along with extra slot machine and gambling options, the two properties bring thousands of jobs back to the area – a win-win for the city and bettors alike.

Lucky by Language – Fruits, Pokies, Puggies, & Slots

The slot machine was first unveiled in 1891 by the Brooklyn company Sittman and Pitt. It had five drums with 50 card faces and was based on poker. The machines cost five cents and players would pull a handle to make the drums spin. There was no payout in cash – bar patrons would instead win a free beer or cigar. Even then, however, the odds were in the house’s favor with a couple cards removed to make those winning combinations even tougher.

The machines proved popular and cash payouts were added as other companies manufactured their own devices as well – and a multi-billion dollar industry was born. Eventually the machines moved to other parts of the world and the names for those gambling machines changed depending in which country you lived.

In the U.S. and Canada, the name was “slot machine” for the slots in which a gambler inserted his coin. In England, the machines often featured various fruits on the reels to determine a win and are still referred to as “fruit machines.” In Australia and New Zealand, the machines featured poker cards and big hands made for a winner. The Aussies referred to them as poker machines, usually shortened to “pokies” even today.

The Scottish even use a more arcane slang word for a slot – often calling them “puggies,” an old Scottish word for “monkey.” Certainly one word is synonymous in each culture now – jackpot!

Expansion notes

  • The Billy the Kid Casino in Ruidoso, N.M., recently announced the addition of 100 new slot machines, and renovation upgrades to one-third of the entire casino floor, according to the Ruidoso News. The casino has also put in place a new casino accounting and player management system and an updated website.
  • Southern California’s Pechanga Resort and Casino recently unveiled new 4-D slot machine options which allow even more player interaction and a truly sensory experience. The Riverside Press-Enterprise noted: “The Sphinx 4-D game — manufactured by International Game Technology — came to the casino floor in March. In addition to 3-D games, which allow players to reach out and interact with floating graphics, 4-D technology includes gesture recognition, enhanced surround sound and elevated high-definition graphics. The Sphinx 4-D machine also has a chair that rumbles and vibrates.”
  • Nothing is certain yet, but legislators in Missouri are looking at expanding slot machines to bars and convenience stores. Retail locations would be allowed up to five machines while fraternal or veterans’ organizations could operate up to 10, according to KMOV.com. Lawmakers estimate an extra $180 million in tax revenue from the proposal. The site notes: “To help out casinos, the bill does allow for sports betting. Taxes from wagering on sporting events could bring in an additional $65 million.

 

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher, PokerNews.com, and HoldemRadio.com.

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