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8 October 2015
By John Grochowski
For my wife Marcy and me, playing slots together is just a fun day out, not to be taken too seriously. We wander the floor, trying new penny games wherever we can find two seats together. We play short sessions, then both cash out and look for something else that might be new and cool.
That means frequent ticket-printing, and it was a cash out that led to a conversation with a complete stranger who had been playing at the same bank of games.
As we hit the cashout buttons, our machines made jingling sounds, as if coins were dropping into a tray. A woman who seemed just a little older than I am called over and said, “I miss the real thing, don’t you?”
“Coins dropping?” I asked.
She looked a little wistful. “Yes, I liked the coins. I liked the bucket. Andy and I – he was my husband – Andy and I used to share buckets and play quarters in the three-reel games. It was so exciting when the coins would pour into the tray, and everybody knew you had a nice win.”
I told her I knew what she meant, but you couldn’t have today’s penny games without the ticket printers.
“Oh really?” she said. “Why not? Too many coins?”
That’s part of it. I explained.
When casinos use coins for payoffs, they have to keep plenty of stock. That’s money tied up in coins that otherwise could be used elsewhere. And there’s a constant need to replenish stock as players drop spare coins into their pockets or purses.
Besides that, I told her, is that coin hoppers jam up more frequently with small coins.
I didn’t go any deeper than that with her – I doubt she was there for a lecture. But that’s why dime machines were so rare in casinos of yore, and you’d go straight from nickel games to quarters.
Small coins mean more hopper jams, which means long waits to get paid for players, down time when the games aren’t making money for the casinos, and money spent paying staff to clear hopper jams.
Another reason I didn’t bring up was that with the buy-ins and payouts on modern machines, hopper fills would be frequent on penny machines.
If you slid $20 in a bill validator at a quarter machine, that was the equivalent of 80 coins. In a penny machine, $20 is the equivalent of 2,000 coins. Even if all you do is lose $10 and cash out, you’re taking 1,000 coins out of a penny game. If you have a few nice wins and cash out $100, that’s 10,000 coins. Slot attendants would constantly be lugging bags of pennies to refill machines, increasing down time on the games and adding labor costs.
“Well,” the lady at the slots said, “I still miss the coins. Don’t you, even a little?”
Sure, I told her, a little. I remember a four-Deuces payoff of 1,000 quarters when I had to send Marcy ahead to meet another couple in the restaurant while I waited for a hopper fill and to cash out at the cage.
“That must have been a thrill,” she said. “I bet they understood.”
Of course they did. But those 1,000 quarters are the equivalent of 25,000 pennies. You just can’t make payoffs in coins anymore.
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