Classic One Armed Bandits all but gone from Las Vegas

Video Slots killing One Armed Bandits in Las VegasThe flashing lights and chiming reverberations of slot machines are one of the most iconic symbols of Las Vegas. For nearly a century, one armed bandits have attracted gamblers from around the world. And as much as we all love modern technology, from the Keurig coffee pots that deliver our morning boost, to the smartphones and tablets that accompany us through everyday life, the disappearance of classic, coin-op slot machines on The Strip isn’t sitting well with everyone.

Most of today’s millennials don’t even know what it’s like to insert a coin, pull a lever and feel the triumphant exhilaration of a win as the slot machine pours nickels from its hopper to the drop box. Rarely do we see players carrying buckets of coins from one machine to the next. Today, the industry strives on printed tickets that represent the money we’ve won, akin to receiving an IOU from the casino.

At one time, Las Vegas casino floors were lined with one armed bandits, but they are rapidly disappearing from existence as operators look to more sophisticated electronics to expedite wagers, payouts and the overall experience. Most of us can appreciate time-saving technology, but today’s video slots aren’t so appealing to everyone.

Little Momma Loves Her Coin-Op Slots

Twyla McFarland – or Little Momma, as she’s better known on The Strip – has been visiting Las Vegas for more than three decades. She was seated comfortably at an old-school slot machine at Circus Circus recently when David Montero of the Los Angeles Times approached, asking for a moment of her time.

She was more than happy to oblige, eagerly sharing her opinion that today’s flashy, bling-embossed video slots, with their ticket-in/out systems, hold no interest for her. She prefers to feel the metal between her fingers as she inserts silver dollars into the machine, pulling the lever with high hopes of seeing triple blue 7’s adorn the reels.

I love it,” said McFarland, who’s been a regular at Vegas casino since 1979. “Nothing beats these coin machines. Just the sound of them hitting the tray.”

One Armed Bandits All But Extinct

But these one armed bandits are coming close to extinction on the Vegas Strip. Where they once lined the gaming floors of every casino, now only a few still maintain them, and their numbers are falling fast.

At Circus Circus, only 30 coin-op slots remain. A few can still be found at the Bellagio, and New York New York casinos. MGM Grand has just one game that still takes coins, and it’s not even a slot machine, but rather an old-fashioned horse racing game where players bet on the trifecta as little plastic ponies bounce their way around a model track.

Eric Fitzgerald, General Manager of Circus Circus, said his casino will keep its one armed bandits on the floor for as long as they continue to work. Since no one manufactures them anymore, he says, “it’s become more and more difficult to find parts for them, but we have a few slots we can take parts from still.”

While these antiquated machines make up less than 3% of the casino’s revenue, Fitzgerald knows there’s a core group of clientele that – like Little Momma – rely on Circus Circus to keep them around. And for McFarland, and all other players like her, Fitzgerald will make sure video slots don’t overtake the entire gaming arena for as long as possible.

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