Airport slots weather storm, flying high again

October 23, 2001 9:42 AM
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After reeling from a disastrous September, action has rebounded at McCarran International Airport’s multi-million-dollar slot operation.

“We had record drops last week,’’ said Don Toti, general manager for Michael Gaughan’s Airport Slots concession. “People are here (at the airport) longer and they’re playing longer.’’

The strong numbers come as welcome and somewhat surprising news after a sluggish September. From Sept. 11-30, McCarran lost an estimated $648,000 in slot revenue, airport spokeswoman Debbie Millet said. Since the county-run airport splits the proceeds with Gaughan’s company, the 19-day loss was pegged at nearly $1 million.

But with air travel gradually returning to previous levels, slot players are back too. To accommodate them, Toti’s team is installing hundreds of seats at machines throughout the four terminals.

“We’re trying to keep ’em comfortable while they wait,’’ Toti said.

Mirroring the trend at Las Vegas casinos, McCarran’s nickel slots have become a top draw, and more machines may be converted to that denomination. If machines are added, a prime location appears to be the baggage claim area, where action has been particularly strong as more passengers are required to check more luggage.

Despite initial concerns about traffic restrictions limiting play in the boarding areas, Toti said that has not been the case. But Airport Slots is reviewing revenue daily and could shift machines to chase demand.

Under an exclusive franchise, the company operates 1,300 slots that generate $26 million for the airport annually.