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Atlantic City Casinos Relying Heavily On Penny Slots

The Atlantic City casino industry was built around the premise that high roller gamblers would come from all corners of the Earth if they could gain free lodging, food, and drinks at top gaming resorts. AC casinos provided that platform, and the revenue rolled in for decades.

The 2008 economic recession put an end to that type of gambling in Atlantic City. Like Las Vegas, Atlantic City suddenly had the problem of Macau taking many of their high rollers. It is a problem that was compounded when the recession also took away thousands of US customers.

Over the past three years, both New Jersey and Nevada had casinos searching for ways to bring gamblers back. In Atlantic City, the casinos found lowering their wager limits as the easiest way to ensure players would come back. The casinos on the Boardwalk turned to penny slots, a concept unheard of in the past.

"The casinos were panicking," said Gaming Analyst Steve Schwartz. "The customers stopped coming, and casino executives assumed it was because of the recession. So the logical answer for these executives was to allow customers to bet in smaller increments. It was a smart move by the casinos."

A couple of years later, and the penny slots have become the most popular machines in most of the AC casinos. Walk into the Showboat, Resorts, Trump Taj Mahal, or Bally's, and penny slots are everywhere. Upon our recent visit, it appeared harder than ever to find $1 machines. Players, too, have noticed the difference.

"I am certainly not a high roller, but I do like to play slots and have lost upwards of $1,000 in a sitting in the past," said Nelson Battle, who was playing a nickel machine at Resorts on Tuesday night. "Now, it's pretty hard to lose that much playing on the penny slots. I don't like to walk around a lot once I'm in a casino, so I don't have the patience to search around for the $1 machines."

We attempted to contact several AC executives for their view on the penny slots, but our attempts were unsuccessful.

While the casino officials do not like to talk about their move towards the penny machines, players are not shy when discussing the gaming machines, and not all of the opinions are negative. Some players actually enjoy AC casinos more now that they can afford to play more often.

"I used to come and lose $100 in ten minutes when the machines cost more money," said Walter Backman. "Now, I come two or three times a week instead of once a month, because I can sit at the machines for hours and play with the same $20. It is much less stressful now than in the past."

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