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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Nickel Slots Make Comeback

9 August 1999

There was a time when the nickel slot machine was king, but in the modern era of casino gambling, it gradually became little more than a curiosity. As its more popular cousins, the quarter, dollar, and five dollar models, grew in popularity, the nickel slot was relegated to the small, locals-oriented locations in Nevada.

In recent years, the nickel machines have enjoyed a return to favor, even in some major Las Vegas resort-casinos. This resurgence has been fueled mainly by modern slot machine technology that gave birth to multi-coin, multi-line video reel games that allow players to wager anywhere from one to 45 coins.

Nickel slot machines were conspicuous by their absence in the Chicago-area gaming market until the folks at the Showboat Mardi Gras Casino in East Chicago, Ind., installed 65 of them on their casino floor.

"Our decision to bring in nickel slot machines was based on customer demand," explained Gary DeWitt, director of slot operations for the Showboat Mardi Gras Casino. "A great deal of our patrons expressed an interest in them. We decided to take the lead in the Chicago-area market in this regard."

The Showboat Mardi Gras Casino went to considerable expense to bring in the nickel slots. A supply of nickel gaming tokens had to be made, and much of the coin handling products, including the token counting machines, had to adjusted. The expense, not to mention the time and effort, has not gone unrewarded.

"The early response has been very encouraging," DeWitt continued. "Many of the comments have been along the lines of 'We were able to play nickel slots everywhere else in the country. Now we can play them around here!' We're pleased that they're pleased. Eventually we hope to have 100 of the nickel machines in place."

Nickel machines have a huge following in Nevada, where in 1996 they were second only to quarter machines in number of units statewide. Their popularity among players isn't the only reason casinos want them. They are also very profitable! Nickel machines traditionally are programmed with the lowest average long-term payouts of any slot machines.

Which brings us to the question: Should you play nickel slots? It all depends. In Las Vegas, for example, you can play 3-coin nickel slots that will award you a top jackpot of 10,000 coins. That comes out to $500. Lesser awards, yet nevertheless still tough to catch, can pay 450 coins or $90. If you're happy with that return, fine. But the odds against winning such returns are astronomical.

Vegas also has nickel progressives, such as the statewide "Nevada Nickels". The progressive gets up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Invariably the person who wins the jackpot is somebody who just stepped up to the machine with a couple of dollars worth of nickels and hit the big one after only a couple of minutes!

I think therein lies a lesson for all of us. Nickel slots, because of their low average long-term pay out, are not worth the investment of a major portion of your gaming bankroll. But if you want to spend a couple of dollars in your quest for the big hit, who's to say you shouldn't?

Which brings us to the particular variety of nickel slot now available at the Showboat Mardi Gras Casino. The games allow patrons to play one to 45 coins PER SPIN. If you do wind up playing maximum coins per spin, even though they're nickels, you're talking about $2.25! That's a lot of money per spin, especially on a low-end average pay back program.

Even though nickel slots sound like fun, and they can be under the proper conditions, playing 45 coins per spin is just not wise gaming money management. If you're willing to invest that amount of money on a slot machine spin, you're much better off playing quarter, fifty cent, dollar, or even two-dollar machines, which offer much higher average long term pay outs to the public. You have a much better chance at winning on a 2-coin dollar spin than on a 45-coin nickel spin.

Even if you play 10 nickels on a spin, you're better off playing a quarter or fifty cent machine. Just because nickel machines create the illusion you're getting a bargain for your gaming dollar doesn't mean it's so.

In case you're looking for nickel slots to be in place at Chicago-area riverboat casinos on the Illinois side in the near future, your wait may be a long one. Illinois gaming laws restrict casinos on the number of gaming positions they may have, but in Indiana there are no restrictions.

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