Coin-in/coin-out machines can still be found in Las Vegas

August 09, 2011 3:00 AM

Nowadays coins are a thing of the past in Las Vegas. It is nearly impossible to find a machine that will pay out in coins. Even the coin acceptors have disappeared as modern machines are made to accept only bills and cash-out tickets. Most don’t even have a coin slot.

While they’ve pretty much completely eradicated the old coin-in/coin-out machines on the Strip in Las Vegas, some coin operated machines can still be found if you’re willing to look. A small number of downtown casinos, and even some locals-oriented places around town, still have a few coin operated machines in use, but they’re few and far between.

It is not completely impossible to revisit the good ol’ days associated with the sound of coins falling into a hopper or the look and feel of coin grime on your hands. It is getting tougher to find these machines though, and I’m sure they’ll eventually disappear altogether.

This begs the question; is there any advantage to searching out and playing these older machines while we still can? After all, technology usually means improvement. In a casino’s eyes, wouldn’t improvement mean keeping more of the players’ money? If this is the case, maybe it would be worth it to spend time looking for these older coin-operated machines. Following this logic, they should pay better.

I know many players who feel playing older machines brings them better luck, and often they feel the older the better when it comes to video poker and keno machines. The oldest of these machines still accept and pay out in coins, and sections in casinos that offer them are considered a type of gambling nirvana by many video poker and keno enthusiasts.

I’ve always found this funny for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that slot players usually prefer to play the newest, latest and greatest machines they can find. Isn’t it odd that most slot players want new and exciting games while so many video poker and keno players favor the older machines? Have you ever wondered why?

The answer is not that they pay better. In fact, many manufacturers use the exact same settings for the various versions of video poker and keno games they’re making now as they did when they first made the games way back when. The differences are mainly in the look of the machines, the size and clarity of the screens, the speed of the games and the replacement of coin hoppers with ticket printers.

Newer machines look better, have better graphics and offer the same games as the old ones did with the added bonus of keeping your hands clean. They are also more reliable and a bit quicker. I can remember the days when I could actually feel myself growing older while waiting for the machine to turn over five cards or draw 20 numbers, but most modern machines are either permanently set to play quicker or allow the player to choose a speed level to match their liking.

While the look and feel of the older machines might appeal to some simply on the basis of nostalgia, it’s the differences in the speed of the games and the processes of cashing in and out that make many of us feel luckier on older machines. The fact is the faster we can play, the more we will lose on average in a given hour. Since older machines typically play slower – coin operated machines the slowest of all – players will typically realize their money seems to last longer on these dated machines.

So if the object is to play longer, older machines might be the way to go. New technology sped things up. It made machines prettier and cash-outs cleaner, but it didn’t significantly change the payback percentages. It didn’t need to. The percentage the casino keeps doesn’t need to change for them to keep more money as long as the speed of play (and therefore the amount of money that can be played per hour) increases.

Think about it – if the casino has a 5% edge and you can play $1,000 coin-in per hour instead of $800 per hour, the casino will keep $50 per hour (on average) instead of $40. That’s $10 more per hour per machine, and it’s a very conservative example. Multiply that by thousands of machines operating 24 hours a day and you can see why casinos embraced ticket-in/ticket-out technology so quickly and comprehensively.

Simply by virtue of streamlining cash in and out transactions and quickening the game play a bit, the casinos ended up improving their bottom line without having to tighten a thing. Players benefit through nicer machines with better graphics. We no longer have dirty hands and we don’t need to wait for coin-jam errors and hopper fills. Maybe we lose a bit faster on the newer machines, but even that is a double-edged sword. After all, faster game play means faster losses, but only when you’re losing. It also means faster winnings when things are going your way!

(Editor’s Note: Brad Fredella is general manager of Stetson’s Saloon and Casino in Henderson, Nev.)