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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Argosy's Empress Gets Two-Cent Aggressive

20 October 2004

Now that ticket-in/ticket-out technology has made it practical for casinos in the Chicago area to jump on the lucrative two-cent slot bandwagon, you can rest assured more of the popular penny denomination multi-line video machines will be popping up.

The first property on the Illinois side of the gaming market to aggressively move penny machines onto its casino floor was Argosy's Empress Hotel & Casino in Joliet. It had 17 of the machines in place for the May Illinois Gaming Board report and even more units are in the works.

Jim Ouimette, operations executive with Empress, confirmed that the ticketless voucher system that was approved for Illinois slot machines earlier this year was the catalyst for the penny slot revolution.

"Ticketing made it easier, that's for sure," Ouimette said. "We didn't have to have penny tokens minted. Penny tokens would have been an expense for us and an inconvenience for our guests who would have had to lug them around in buckets to be counted.

"Players definitely like the penny machines. Many of them had been asking for them. We started out with the 17 units and as time goes on we will add more, eventually increasing our inventory of the machines to 41."

Chicago-area slot players were familiar with penny machines at the Majestic Star and Trump Casino & Hotel in Gary, Indiana, where they have been on the slot floors for some time. Penny slots have been enormously successful in Las Vegas.

The lure is that even though the machines may be played in two-cent increments, the fact of the matter is that multi-line, multi-coin video games accept as many as 150 credits per play ($3.00). Payouts can be in the hundreds of dollars. There's even a million dollar in-state progressive on a penny game in Vegas.

The machines are extremely profitable for the casinos. For example, Argosy's Empress raked in a 14.10 percent "hold" on the 17 units it had in play during May. Compare that to the 6.19 percent hold on its 317 quarter units and 5.21 percent hold on its 365 dollar machines.

It doesn't take a math wizard to figure out that if you're going to play max coins (up to $3.00) on a two-cent machine as opposed to playing max coins on a 3-coin reel dollar game, you'll be subjecting your bankroll to far greater jeopardy, which can add up significantly even over the short run because of the speed with which you can play slots.

Nevertheless, the penny video games are fun, the interactive play makes them very entertaining, and the enticement of getting into those elusive and exciting "bonus rounds" where it's possible for players to make nice hits keeps us coming back for more.

"The machines we purchased from Williams Gaming (one of the world's leading slot machine manufacturers) are actually multi-denomination units," Ouimette explained. "Our guests can play them in two-cent, nickel and ten-cent denominations simply by touching the screen. We were aware of the confusion this may have created, so all those units are clearly labeled so that players are aware of their choices. The machines we have that are manufactured by Aristocrat are dedicated two-cent units."

Williams Gaming was the pioneer in successfully marketing multi-coin, multi-line video slots. The immense popularity of its "Reel 'em In" game was quickly followed by a new generation of games that included Yukon Gold, Life of Luxury, Cash Crop, Hot Toppings and many others.

Williams' popular new "Bluebird" machine platforms equipped with the BOSE audio system and enhanced video on plasma screen, all housed in player-friendly cabinets, have made it possible to introduce a new line of games, including Rich Little Piggies, Milk Money, and Rakin' it In, just to name a few. The new games have proved exceptionally popular with players.

"The new Williams games we introduced in nickel denominations have been very popular," Ouimette observed. "The company's new machine platforms won't support some of their older games, so unless they reconfigure them into the new technology they'll likely be phased out as the new games move in."

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp