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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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The Sounds of Coins May Be Silenced

7 November 2001

Casino owners and operators have wrestled in recent years with the dilemma of what to do with slot coins and tokens in this new age of computers and the technology that has rendered them virtually obsolete.

Coins and tokens are a throwback to the "dinosaur" age of slots when the machines were mechanically driven. Now that all slot machines, or "electronic gaming devices," are really computer programs housed in display cases, the use of metal discs to activate plays is merely for effect.

Casino executives have long known that the loud sounds of clanking coins in metal slot trays and the avalanche of coins that cascade into the trays when jackpots are hit are a big part of the fun of playing the slots. It also is one of the biggest attention-grabbers and lures. Coins are a major component of slot machine legend and folklore.

The same execs also know that minting and handling the tokens and coins is a tremendous expense, not to mention the valuable gambling time that is lost when players sit waiting for hopper fills or to have a technician repair a machine that has a coin jammed in its mechanism.

Think about it: The time that is spent by casino employees every day in casinos across the country taking buckets of coins and dumping them into counting machines, bagging the coins that have been counted, and transporting the coins around the casino.

To put it quite simply, casinos would love to dump coins, but up to now it has been a frontier they all have feared to tread. "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em," they seem to have said.

International Game Technology (IGT), one of the world's leading slot machine manufacturers, just may have come up with the "out" that casinos have long been looking for. The Reno, Nevada, based firm has developed what they call the "EZ Pay" feature.

I first encountered "EZ Pay" slots at Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall when my wife and I visited Las Vegas last month. Here's how they work:

When you are finished playing a machine, you just hit the "cash out" button and a bar-coded cardboard bond ticket with the dollar and cents amount printed on it is dispensed by the machine. There is even an electronic "coin-jangling" sound effect that accompanies the process. You may then take this ticket to the cashier to be redeemed, or you can insert it in the bill validator of another EZ Pay machine and the dollar amount will register on the video screen.

I've never been a fan of coinless slots, but after being burned on several occasions in recent months by machines running empty while I cashed out, I started to change my mind. There is nothing more frustrating in a casino than sitting there waiting for a slot attendant to fill the hopper of the machine so that you can be paid whatever amount of coins are owed to you. It's frustrating for the casinos, too, because if you're just sitting they're not making any money.

I became "spoiled" by the EZ Pay machines and actually found myself looking for them on the casino floor. They were installed in many of the video poker and video slot machines. I didn't find them on any of the traditional reel machines but I'm sure the technology is available.

EZ Pay tickets are compatible with multi-denominational machines since there are no "credits" involved. The actual dollar amount available to you increases and decreases as you play.

Park Place Entertainment has already announced that it is purchasing 15,000 EZ Pay slots to phase into its Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City properties over the next three years. This could be the precedent setting move that'll open the floodgates to coinless slot play. If an industry powerhouse like Park Place makes the move, others are sure to follow.

The technology that nobody wanted to touch appears to have caught on with gamblers. A survey of guests using 100 coinless machines at Bally's Hotel & Casino revealed a 95 percent approval rating. Their only complaint was that they wanted more of them. They have already been experimented with extensively at off-strip properties such as Sam's Town, the Suncoast, and the Fiesta.

IGT and casino owners are quick to point out that EZ Pay is not replacing coin-operated machines. It gives players an option to play with coins or take advantage of the EZ Pay system.

My guess is that EZ Pay is going to catch on big time and in a few short years it'll be the rule in casinos rather than the exception.

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