Monday, June 18, 2007

"New" Gambling machines .. where did the fun go ?

I spent a night a the new French Lick Casino ( They recently spent about 100 million to totally redo this hotel and its 'sister' hotel the West Baden Inn, both historic landmarks of southern Indiana.

Glossing over the fact that they did a really nice job and the hotel is in great shape, looks great, and the casino is really nice, and especially glossing over the fact that in Indiana you have to be "over the water" to have gambling, and I have no clue how this casino abides by that law ... I was really dismayed at 'state of the art' of modern gambling machines.

These modern machines are a joke. They simply are no fun !

Cashless ...
Totally cashless, you insert either cash or a bar coded receipt into the machine. No clinks, no flashing. Just a computer readout with your credit amount. Winnings simply add to your credit, losses deduct. When you 'cash out' you are printed a receipt with your credit and a bar code. No coins clinking. No satisfying sound of hundreds of quarters hitting the well tuned metal pay tray. When you win you just here a 'ding' 'ding' as your credits add up. Again, no clinking, so 'feeling' of winning, just numbers up or down.

Complicated ...
Gone are the simple slots and video poker. Every game is COMPLICATED. Your simple 3-wheel slots have turned into either full fledged video game screens, or 4 or 5 wheel slots with no mechanical interaction to the arm (if there is one). Winning isn't simple either. Most games have multiple pay-lines, from 1 to 9 lines which mean you never know if you win unless the computer tells you! The lines can zig-zag across the board in no obvious pattern. You are inclined to believe that more lines are 'better' but really no intuitive way of telling if you actually have a higher chance of winning. And that's just the "simple" slot machines. I soon found myself lost in a maze of incomprehensible machines with a multitude of displays and betting opportunities and no clue at all what would constitute a win or lose. Just lots of themed icons flashing, when you hit the "spin" or "draw" or "bet" button more icons would flash, float, roll, drop, slide, or otherwise change, sometimes pop, explode, move over, ding... then you looked at the pay-out line to see if you won. No way to tell by looking at the screen full of clowns, pyramids, ducks, balloons, ice cream sandwiches, fruits, and various icons. The "payout help" screens didn't help either as they were more complicated then the game.

2 cent slots = $1.80 / pull
I was at first shocked by the amount of "2 cent" slot machines. But on further examination I found out that was simply the 'denom' (in gaming lingo) of the smallest bet. It is true you could do a 1-line 1-credit bet for 2 cents ... but you are encouraged to do a 9-line 'max credits' bet (10) which comes out to 90 credits ($1.80) per pull ... on a 2 cent machine !. Its extremely non-obvious what your actually betting, and many of the machines I found once you ramped up your bet you couldn't get it down, you had to cash out to cancel or go ahead and bet and then the NEXT round try something lower. It took a math degree to even figure out what you were betting ...

At the end, it all was down to just sticking in your $20, push some buttons and see how fast it took to get to $0.

Where did all the fun go in losing your money ?


Chris said...

Hah! That's interesting. So on one hand there's the recent fascination everyone I know seems to be having with poker, and on the other hand there's the complete de-funning of gambling altogether.

One of our group that went to Detroit actually spent the time that we spent sleeping in casinoes. I don't know how he did it.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Dave & Busters, or some variant? That's my idea of "gaming".

Anonymous said...

Well said.