For the longest time, slot machines were the red-headed stepchild of casino gambling. They were the thing casinos had to offer to keep the wives of table games players (“real gamblers”) occupied.
It may sound absurd now, but in the early days of casino slot machines, players stood while they played. Which sucked in a number of ways.
Back in the day, everyone stood at slot machines. Probably because Top Dollar and Wheel of Fortune hadn’t been invented yet.
It’s believed a major turning point in how slot machines are played came about because of our human need to urinate. See, after feeding a slot machine for a period of time, players didn’t want to leave a machine to use the restroom for fear of losing their impending jackpot to another player.
Clever players began stealing chairs from nearby table games and took to leaning them against the slots to save their spot. This is a practice that continues today, despite it being incredibly annoying.
On the Annoyance Scale, this is right up there with resort fees and cigars. Just stop.
It didn’t take long for customers to use the chairs to sit and play, thus changing the culture of slot machine play forever. Today’s slot machine chairs are plush and ergonomic, and many feature sophisticated sound systems and vibration functions to keep players engaged and entertained.
The folks at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas claim they know the exact moment the practice of sitting at slot machines began.
In 1956, the Birdcage Casino opened at the corner of 1st Street and Fremont. The casino began offering customers a 10-cent keno slot, and the machines started raking it in. In response, Binion’s offered its own bank of 10-cent keno slot machines to compete with its neighbor.
It was inside Binion’s the practice of sitting down at slot machines began.
Today, slot machines account for as much as 85% of a casino’s revenue. One of the biggest measures of a machine’s profitability is known as “Time on Device,” or TOD, or the average time a gambler spends on a given slot machine.
Suffice to say, “Time on Device” has been increased immeasurably by the fact customers sit as they play.
Here’s another fun fact about Binion’s: It was the first downtown casino to get carpeting. How’d that happen? Presumably, a gambler ran up some debt with the casino’s owner at the time, Benny Binion, and repaid his debt by carpeting the joint.
Way back in Jan. 2016, we caught wind of a new bar coming to El Cortez, the classic hotel on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
At last, the hotel’s current casino bar has been closed and Imbibe bar is in the works.
Yes, even if it’s just a curtain, it qualifies as a security breach. You’re quite the stickler, aren’t you?
The hotel has made no official announcement about the bar, it’s closure, any expansion
or even the bar’s name. Just go with it, anyway.
Naturally, we had to peek behind the drapes to see what’s up inside.
The future home of Captain Morgan spiced rum and possibly other kinds of liquor we care much less about.
Presumably, the new Imbibe bar will try to appeal to a younger crowd. From what we hear, there’s already a strong millennial presence on Fridays and Saturdays. El Cortez benefits from all the surrounding restaurants and bars (think Gold Spike and Commonwealth) in the Fremont East District.
Staffers say not only is the bar being renovated, but it’s expanding beyond the current casino bar’s footprint, and could potentially swallow the area where the keno parlor resides. (The keno desk would then be relocated to the hotel’s sports book area.)
Cornhole and foosball in 3…2…
We’ll keep an eye on the new bar at El Cortez, of course, but in the meantime, you’ll want to take advantage of a new promotion at the historic casino.
Here’s a thingy because we’re too drunk to relay the details.
We refuse to do math unless it directly benefits us. This is that.
So, that’s cool, right? You’re making a withdrawal from the ATM, anyway, so why not get some free slot play?
Once you make your ATM withdrawal, head to the casino cage. There, you’ll be given a certificate for free play. Take the certificate to the loyalty club desk, and the free play is put on your club card.
Vast fortunes have been won in Las Vegas with $15. Actual results may vary.
Now, win something and stick it to The Man. Winning with free play is even sweeter than the regular kind of winning, promise.
Las Vegas observers predicted this was coming, and now its here. Caesars Entertainment, which operates nine Sin City resorts, has rolled out its “Red Light, Green Light” (our term, not theirs) comp drink monitoring system to all its Las Vegas casinos.
The color-coded light system, installed on the back of video poker machines at casino and sports book bars, tells bartenders when a guest’s play warrants a free, or “comped,” drink.
Now, at Caesars Entertainment casinos, you have to get lit to get lit.
Las Vegas casinos have experimented with a variety of comp drink monitoring systems, the first being a voucher system at Mirage. The voucher system is now used in the lobby bar at MGM Grand as well.
Then, the Red Light, Green Light system appeared at the sports book bar at Caesars Palace.
Most recently, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas became the first Strip resort to implement a voucher system across all its casino bars, including its remodeled Chandelier bar.
The move by Caesars Entertainment to implement its comp drink monitoring system is a huge development in Las Vegas because the company owns so many casinos. Drink monitoring systems will now be the norm, and a company-wide roll-out at MGM Resorts resorts are sure to follow.
Today’s thing that looks like a face can also be a friend when you’re looking for a free drink.
We personally verified the comped drink system is in place at these Caesars Entertainment resorts: Bally’s (including Sully’s bar and Casino Bar), Cromwell (Lobby Bar), Linq (includes Tag Sports Bar, Catalyst and 3535 Bar), Flamingo (including X Bar and Bugsy’s, pictured below) and Harrah’s.
Our alert readers have confirmed that the system is in place at Rio, Caesars Palace, Paris and Planet Hollywood.
Remarkably, the Red Light, Green Light monitoring system seems to have been installed at all these Caesars Entertainment resorts within just a two-week window.
Yes, the new system is in full effect at Bugsy’s Bar at Flamingo. One has to wonder what “Bugsy” Siegel (he hated that nickname, by the way) would think of the whole Red Light, Green Light thing. Oh, there would be whacking.
So, here’s how the system works, as best we can decipher, anyway. See, Caesars Entertainment hasn’t made any official announcements about the details of the monitoring system. Implementing the new system under-the-radar was a strategic decision to avoid potential backlash, as one bartender confirmed.
When you sit down at a video poker machine at a sports book or casino bar in a Caesars Entertainment resort, and put $20 into the machine, a blue light comes on. That signals to the bartender that you’ve “activated” the machine. Yes, there are guests who sit at these machines and put a dollar in and expect free drinks. They’re the ones this system is trying to address.
Once you choose your game, and begin play, you’ll need to play “max bet” for 4-5 hands (in most cases, $1.25 a pop, or five times 25 cents), then a green light comes on. That green light means you get a comped drink. Good times.
Get the red, a dry spell’s ahead.™
As long as your green light is on, you’re good for comped drinks. This requires consistent play at max bet. There doesn’t appear to be a time requirement. You play, your light stays green, you’re hammered.
If you don’t play max bet, or if you play too slowly, you’ll get the red light. That signals to the bartender you no longer “qualify” for a free drink. You’ll need to meet the qualifications again before the liquor flows freely again.
That’s about it. Simple, but effective.
When we first learned of systems like this, we railed against them, but our position has evolved as we’ve learned more.
In essence, bartenders have always been the comped drink monitoring system. They watched the level and frequency of play and determined who earned a free drink. Now, it’s
When these systems first hit the casinos, bartenders weren’t thrilled. They felt it impeded their ability to give good customer service, and it also decreased their tips.
When asked during our most recent visit, one Bally’s bartender said, “They’re a blessing.” Now, the pressure is off the bartenders, and an automated system creates an environment where players know what’s expected, and the freeloaders know they can’t get away with scamming casinos for free drinks without a reasonable amount of play.
It’s worth noting bartenders say they have some discretion to veer from the rigidity of the Red Light, Green Light system for Seven Stars and Diamond tier loyalty club members. Those are some of Caesars Entertainment’s most lucrative customers, and it’s unlikely they’d nickel and dime them over cocktails that have a hard cost of mere pennies.
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because you’re in Vegas.
At the moment, the light system at Caesars Entertainment resorts can’t easily be seen by customers. They’re installed on the back of video poker machines, and most players don’t even realize they’re there. If you want to know which of your lights are showing, you can place your hand behind the light display to see the color reflected, or use your smartphone’s selfie mode to take a look. Or just ask your bartender. They’re not secretive about it at all.
One bartender suggested the lights should be clearly visible to players so guests could easily tell if they’ve earned another free drink. That suggestion, however, didn’t go over well with management due to concerns about the potential of a negative customer response.
The customers we’ve chatted with, though, understand the fundamental purpose of the comped drink system, and figure the only people it will impact are those who expect something for nothing. That arrangement has never actually existed in Las Vegas, despite many who mistakenly believe it did. They just didn’t understand how Vegas worked. Casino revenue has always paid for the free rooms, buffets and show tickets. People did the comping, not machines.
Yep, even the Cromwell. At this point, we recommend just paying for your cocktail. It’s likely to be less expensive than feeding a machine in the hopes of earning a comped one.
The implementation of the Red Light, Green Light comped drink monitoring system at all Caesars Entertainment resorts in Las Vegas marks a dramatic turning point in the culture and business of Las Vegas casinos.
It means we’re going to see similar monitoring systems in all Las Vegas casino bars and, in time, on all slot machines across the entire casino floor.
These changes, along with downsized liquor pours and paid parking, have sparked heated discussion among Las Vegas visitors, many contending Las Vegas casinos are compromising the destination’s perceived value for short-term financial gain.
Ultimately, though, painful as they may seem, the changes are smart business, and casinos
are for-profit businesses. Always have been, always will be.
Update (9/27/16): Caesars Entertainment has confirmed that the comp drink monitoring system has been implemented at all its Nevada casinos. A statement reads: “Caesars Entertainment has implemented the comp validation system statewide throughout our Nevada resorts. This system enables us to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units.” See more on this story from our friends at KTNV.
It ain’t glitzy, but it is the reality, so play on.
Wouldn’t it be great to know the loosest slots in any Las Vegas casino? Well, you can, and it’s easier than you might think.
A “loose” slot, of course, refers to a machine that pays out frequently and in large quantities, every player’s dream. Those machines are also described as being “hot.”
In the parlance of casinos, loose slots can be said to have the lowest casino “hold.” The hold percentage is the part of a machine’s “coin in” that the casino keeps. Hey, these casinos aren’t going to carpet themselves.
The lower the hold percentage, the more a slot machine pays back to guests. The secret to finding the loosest slots in a casino, then, is knowing which machines have the lowest hold percentage.
Many believe this information is a closely-held secret, but here’s an easy way to find out which slots are the loosest: Ask someone who knows.
Crazy, right? Every casino with slot machines has a Slot Manager, often called the Slot Operations Manager. This person, who you will never see without a suit and tie (yes, they tend to be male), knows precisely what the hold percentages are for given machines, or more typically for banks of machines.
It’s the Slot Manager’s job to monitor how machines are performing, if they’re delivering sufficient profit to the casino given the space they take, if new machines are needed, where they should be placed on the casino floor and myriad other duties.
If you want to know which slots in a casino are the “loosest,” simply ask a Slot Manager.
These are some of the loosest slots at The D Las Vegas. How do we know? We asked.
Ask anyone on the floor if the Slot Manager is available to chat. Slot attendants and cocktail waitresses can be very helpful tracking them down. Hint: Be professional and courteous.
Introduce yourself to the Slot Manager and let them know you’re interested in locating the slots with the lowest hold percentage on the floor. Slot Managers are busy people, so while there’s no harm in schmoozing, don’t be shy about getting to the point.
In most cases, a Slot Manager will either point you toward a bank of machines or escort you there. Express your appreciation accordingly, and it’s time to play!
That’s it. No, really. It’s that easy.
All this begs the question: Why would a casino employee tell a player the best-playing slots in the casino?
Simple: Casinos just want people to play, they don’t care which machines they play on.
Why? Because no matter which machine you play, the house has the advantage. It’s built right into the machine’s microprocessor. Even if a machine has a great payback percentage, say 98%, it will keep $2 for every $100 put into the machine. Many machines keep significantly more.
As a rule, slots are looser at locals casinos than downtown casinos, and both pay back more than slots on The Strip. The more you know.
Now, if you can’t locate a Slot Manager, you can fall back on tried-and-true ways to find the best-paying slots.
A solid rule-of-thumb is the more active a bank of slots is, the higher the payouts tend to be. Casino regulars see patterns, so follow their lead.
It’s also good to know that the higher the machine’s denomination, the more generous and frequent the payouts. For example, a $5 coin machine is going to have a higher payout percentage than a quarter machine, and so on.
Go big or go home. It’s Vegas!
And finally, don’t discount the advice of those slot attendants and cocktail waitresses we mentioned. They, too, can see patterns in machine payouts. They may not be privy to the same information a Slot Manager has, but they can often point you toward the machines showing signs of being “hot.”
The next time you’re in a casino, remember our simple tip for finding the loosest slots: Ask a Slot Manager.
And remember to have fun when you play. That way, whether Lady Luck is in the mood or not, you’re always a winner.
MGM Resorts has launched a new Web-based app, EasyPlay, being touted as the “first mobile casino slot platform in the country.”
The EasyPlay app allows players to participate in virtual slot and bingo tournaments away from the casino floor at MGM Resorts destinations. The difference between this app and other “just for fun” social casino games is the prizes are paid in cash, on site.
It’s easy to play. Which may have inspired the name, EasyPlay. Just a hunch.
EasyPlay (the official style is “easyPLAY,” but we have an aversion to random capitalization and shouting) can be accessed free via a Web site.
For the time being, one must be logged into the Wi-Fi at an MGM Resorts hotel-casino to use the app and take part in the virtual tournaments. (EasyPlay tournaments are also be accessible on InteractivePro Tables located throughout MGM Resorts.)
There’s a small cost for tournament entries, and tournament jackpots vary based upon the number of participants.
The EasyPlay app makes it a breeze to see how many people are taking part in a given slot or bingo tournament and where you rank against other participants, all in real-time.
EasyPlay was developed by a Las Vegas company, oneLIVE, Inc. We’ll let them get away with the random capitalization and shouting just this once because we sort of like their app.
MGM Resorts sees this app as the next evolution of casino gambling, although, technically, the tournament element keeps this type of mobile gambling from being considered “gambling,” because mobile gambling isn’t legal in the U.S. at the moment. It’s complicated.
Of course, MGM Resorts and the game developer have made sure EasyPlay has the blessing of Nevada Gaming Control Board.
MGM Resorts reps seem to have high hopes their new app will appeal to younger gamblers, specifically, those pesky Millennials. Will Millennials like slot machines more because they’re on a smartphone? It’s possible. They do seem to enjoy competition, and EasyPlay slot tournaments certainly provide that experience.
“What the hell is bingo?” ~Millennials
The EasyPlay app is being described as “the new keno,” which sounds about right. We’ll definitely use the app when we’re having lunch at a casino restaurant or a cocktail at a casino bar. But mainly that second thing.
The fact there are real money payouts certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
If you win one of the EasyPlay slot tournaments, just go to the casino cage, provide a valid I.D. and your e-mail address, and you’ll get your cash. (All the usual rules apply for wins greater than $1,200, you’ll have to fill out the appropriate tax forms.)
Other details: A payment method is set up within the app prior to play, entry credits can be purchased for varying amounts (starting for as little as $1), you can play free trial games, and the app lets you check winnings, credit balances and scheduled tournaments with ease.
Just scan the available tournaments and dive right in. You’ve got 25 spins to get the high score. No pressure.
If you have questions, visit an M Life players club desk (yes, we know it’s “M life,” don’t get us started) at your favorite MGM Resorts casino.
Here’s some sweet news coverage of the release of the EasyPlay app. By “sweet,” of course, we mean this Las Vegas blog is featured in it.
Casino social games have been a huge windfall for casino companies (yes, people spend millions of real dollars purchasing virtual coins), and casinos are champing at the bit for real money mobile gambling to be legalized.
In the meantime, virtual tournaments it is, and EasyPlay may end up being your new favorite obsession when visiting an MGM Resorts casino in Las Vegas. Those resorts include Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, Luxor, New York-New York and Excalibur. Sorry, but at Circus Circus, you’ll have to play slots the old-fashioned way. (Circus Circus is owned by MGM Resorts, but isn’t part of the M Life players club family.)
Here’s a tip: Even if your chances of winning a tournament look bleak, don’t give up. We’ve personally seen someone get six million points on one spin, so a miraculous, come-from-behind victory isn’t out of the question.
If you give EasyPlay a try, let us know what you think, and if you win a jackpot, our usual commission applies.
Casino closings can often be sad things. There’s always a bright spot, though. When they close, casinos are obligated to give away any outstanding progressive jackpots, and that’s what Mermaids will do before it closes June 27, 2016.
Silver Palace opened on the Mermaids site in 1956. Later, it was Carousel, Gamblers Hall of Fame, Sundance West and Sassy Sally’s. Whew. We’re going to need a minute to catch our breath, thanks.
Mermaids, of course, is one of three downtown establishments closing on June 27.
Mermaids, La Bayou and the Glitter Gulch strip club were sold to Derek and Greg Stevens
for an amount we estimate to be “a metric hell-ton more than we have in our bank
account, or ever will, unless we are adopted by Derek and Greg Stevens.”
Mermaids and Glitter Gulch will be integrated into a new resort (being informally referred to as 18 Fremont) that will include the site of the closed Las Vegas Club.
Don’t freak out, the iconic Vegas Vickie sign above Glitter Gulch will be featured in the new hotel-casino.
Sorry, she’s taken. She married Vegas Vic in 1994. No, really.
Nevada gaming regulations require a casino to distribute any outstanding progressive
jackpots prior to removing slot machines from its floor. Jackpots can be transferred to other machines, but if a casino is closing, they have to give the money away.
Remember the Lion’s Share slot machine at MGM Grand? That’s a well-known example of a
jackpot on an obsolete machine that had to either be transferred to another machine or paid out. Part of the lore around that machine had to do with the misconception that particular machine had to pay before it could be removed or retired. That wasn’t the case, but it made for a great marketing device. Good times.
It should be mentioned the rules about giving away progressive jackpots only apply to
slot machines the casino owns, by the way. “Networked” progressive machines owned by
game manufacturers, such as Wheel of Fortune or Megabucks, and are excluded from the
So, Mermaids has to give away its jackpots. That means tens of thousands of dollars are
up for grabs. La Bayou is giving away its jackpots, too, although the amounts are much smaller.
This blog’s usual “Helping You Win $10,000” fee applies, of course.
Here’s how the giveaway will work. Mermaids will have a “contest” from June 17 (9:00
a.m.) to June 25 (10:00 p.m.), 2016. During that time, players will qualify for entries
in the form of tickets.
On June 25, at 10:00 p.m., winners will be chosen and the money will be given to a few
Because progressive jackpots will continue to increase through the giveaway date,
there’s no way to know how much will be given away, but we can say there’s a Triple
Double Diamond machine with a jackpot of $11,118.01 and a Red, White & Blue machine
with a jackpot of $8,385.69
There’s nothing saying you couldn’t just straight-up win this progressive jackpot before Mermaids closes. Get on that.
To get an entry ticket, you can do any of the following: Hit a bonus playing a 90 coin
bet minimum, hit a jackpot of $100 or more, get a keno payout of $100 or more, hit any
video poker four of a kind paying $100 or more or hit any royal flush on video poker.
How will the prize pool be divided up? It’s complicated.
The first place winner will get 46% of the prize pool. Second place gets 28%, third
place gets 23% and fourth place gets 3%. Don’t kvetch, fourth place winner. It’s free
Mermaids will also give away a 55-inch big screen TV. (Technically, that prize comes
from a Mermaids beer vendor, but let’s not quibble.)
As for the drawing, entrants must be present to win. If no one claims a given prize,
they’ll keep drawing until somebody claims their cash.
You weren’t the biggest casino in Vegas, Mermaids, but you certainly had some of the most convenient restrooms.
So, if you’re looking for an excuse to visit Mermaids before it closes, this could be
We’ve heard lots of visitors are planning to swing by Mermaids one last time for a
deep-friend Oreo or Twinkie, the casino’s claim to fame. Go for it, thrillseekers!
Here’s what’s up at La Bayou, another slot joint across the street.
Come for the jackpot giveaway, stay for the weird stuff on the ceiling.
If you swing by Mermaids during its final countdown, you’re likely to be in good company. Many folks who rarely (or never) visit a given casino will do so when it’s closing.
The Riviera, for example, had a massive surge in guests and gambling in the final two months it was open. It’s been said the Riv’s last two months generated more casino play and profit than any two-month period in the 20 years prior to that!
Stop by Mermaids for its last hurrah—get some free beads, bid farewell to the deep-
friend eats and take a shot at winning the casino’s remaining progressive jackpots.