It’s no secret that Vegas casinos, as well as others, are getting much cheaper and sticking the player for all they can get out of them at every turn. This is not a new trend whatsoever, but it would seem that the lows to which land casinos will stoop are ever dropping.
Looking back on it, you start to forget what came first: Was it triple-zero roulette, perhaps it was paid parking, maybe it was Resort Fees or I guess it could have been any number of tactics that land casinos, and sometimes online casinos, use to mislead the players.
The bottom line is there is little question that casinos no longer really care about the experiences of their guests, though it used to be that they would make you feel like you were getting something in return when you played there. They also didn’t go out of their way to pinch players at every single turn, once upon a time.
According to both a thread started by the late Alan Mendelson, as well as 8 News Now, there has been a recent lawsuit pertaining to the fact that players are being nickeled and dimed every time they turn around.
No, seriously, the casinos are actually making it substantially more difficult for players to get their nickels and their dimes. Sometimes quarters and pennies, as well.
IF WE CAN’T KEEP THE CHANGE; WE WILL JUST TAKE IT
According to the 8 News article linked above, and quoting in part:
It started during the COVID-19 pandemic, with casinos reducing “touch” transactions by issuing tickets for all amounts under a dollar. If your ticket is for $4.37, you get four dollar bills and a new ticket for the amount of 37 cents. It’s a practice used at all casinos, not just MGM properties.
In the case of plaintiff Leane Scherer, who gambled at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, it was a “TRU Ticket” for $18.19. That 19 cents has the potential to be very costly for the casino giant.
The basis of the lawsuit is the fact that casino redemption machines, at some (if not most) casinos are no longer redeeming coins, but instead, printing out separate tickets for players to take to the casino cage for redemption.
The original reason for this change to redemption policies was the fact that there was, USA Today claims, a legitimate national coin shortage during the Covid-19 pandemic. Evidently, to reduce the risk of government employees being exposed to the virus, the Government substantially slowed down production of coins at the U.S. Mint, thereby creating the shortage. This production was slowed down, reportedly, for about three months and then the Federal Reserve tried to get back to it. Quoting, in part:
A June 11 news release from the Fed confirmed that coin deposits to the reserve had declined, and that the U.S. Mint had decreased coin production. The Federal Reserve, which supplies commercial banks with coins, announced it would begin allocating available coins to financial institutions based on their historical coin orders to manage its inventory.
The Mint also returned to full staffing and began working to "maximize coin production capacity."
"Although the Federal Reserve is confident that the coin inventory issues will resolve once the economy opens more broadly and the coin supply chain returns to normal circulation patterns, we recognize that these measures alone will not be enough to resolve near-term issues," the June 11 release said.
As a result, many operators (not just casinos) changed their policies when it came to paying out in coins. In fact, there were a few stores in my area that had signs stating they may or may not be able to make change (other than paper) and that exact change was preferred.
For that reason, the coin shortage would appear to have lasted for a few months, but according to The Federal Reserve itself, the coin capacity in the country is now adequate.
One would assume that this would eliminate the need for the casinos to try to get around loading the redemption machines with coins, right? After all, The Federal Reserve now says that there is a sufficient supply of coins and one would assume that casinos, on the whole, deal with a greater percentage of cash transactions than any other business type out there, short of businesses who ONLY take cash.
WHY ARE CASINOS NOT DEALING IN COINS NOW?
It’s not that the casinos aren’t dealing in coins; it’s that they are making it harder for the players to actually get the coins. Furthermore, this situation is not at all unique to Las Vegas, or even Nevada, for that matter. In casinos around the country, redemption machines are giving players the, ‘Option,’ to, ‘Donate,’ the change to one charity or another (I’d like to see proof that this information is being properly stored and that the charities are actually getting all of this money) with the alternative being to have a separate redemption ticket printed for the breakage.
Of course, I can say that this makes sense, at least from the standpoint of the casinos, for a few different reasons:
1.) Labor Costs:
- Obviously, it’s easier just to stock the redemption machines with ticket printer paper and paper currency as opposed to having to keep the coins filled all the time. Of course, these machines can typically hold plenty of coins, but it’s still a non-zero effort to fill the machine from time to time, so simply, the coins are one less thing the casinos have to worry about.
2.) It Helps Players—In One Sense:
- Also, when these redemption machines would run out of coins, they would often automatically put themselves out of service, which causes congestion for people wanting to cash out their tickets. It also causes players to have to run all over the casino looking for other redemption machines, or alternatively, creates congestion at the casino cage as people wait in line.
3.) People Rarely Redeem the Coins:
- For the most part, people who use the redemption machines are either going to choose to, “Donate,” the breakage off of whole dollar amounts, or alternatively, print the ticket out and simply throw it away. If all players were to instead choose to print off the separate ticket, and take it to the cage, then there would be lines for miles at casino cages and the casinos, one would assume, would go back to putting change in the redemption machines.
OF COURSE, THE MONEY IS NOT ALWAYS DONATED
In the case of Nevada, for one example, and according to the 8 News Article, this change is not always donated—particularly not when the tickets are printed out. In the case of casinos located in Nevada, by state law, the tickets must remain valid for 180 days; after that, they become void and there is a revenue split with the state getting 75% of the uncashed tickets and the casino getting 25%.
This is honestly starting to sound a lot like the plot to the movie Office Space.
In any case, at least in Nevada, it would appear that all is above board and in accordance with state law. Even when players print out the tickets and throw them in the trash, as many do, the casino eventually gets 25% of the amount of the ticket. One has to assume that there is some sort of database that stores the ticket amounts and handles the accounting for this automatically, perhaps on a daily basis, as the tickets go 180 days unclaimed.
ON THE REDEMPTION MACHINES
In the thread on WoV, Zcore13 points out that players may simply go to the cage if they want their coins, but isn’t that kind of the point of all of this?
The reason that the casinos have redemption machines in the first place is twofold:
1.) It saves on labor costs as it would take longer for cage workers to cash out all player tickets as opposed to having players go to the redemption machines, which are filled from time to time and can handle the tickets for hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of players before they need to be filled again.
- With that, one of the two reasons for redemption machines to exist in the first place is so that the casino can save on labor costs. It would seem, at least in states such as Nevada, that not only do casinos want to save on labor costs, but they also want to get some extra free money from those players who, for one reason or another, do not choose to redeem these breakage tickets at the cage.
2.) It makes it more convenient for players as there are no long lines at the cage.
- Of course, it should be mentioned that the redemption machines are also a positive for players, especially on busy weekend evenings, as the alternative would be to have long lines at the casino cages as people went to get their tickets cashed.
Overall, that seems like it would be a win-win sort of situation, but evidently, the cost savings that the machines represent on labor are insufficient, so now, the casino also wants to get their 25% of the uncashed tickets for the breakage.
Zcore13 states in the thread:
The machines are for convenience. A casino does not have to and shouldn't be required to keep them full of coins. You want coins, go to the cage.
I agree that the machines are for convenience, but the question is—whose convenience?
The post, in my opinion, makes it sound like ZCore is trying to imply that the players are the only ones who benefit from the redemption machines which the casinos put in place to better serve the players and from which they derive no benefits whatsoever.
Of course, that’s not at all true. We already mentioned the fact that the casinos save on labor costs by not having so many people come to the cage, but more than that, the casinos benefit from not having so many players waiting in line because that means that players can spend more time playing and casinos can, occasionally, consolidate operations.
What do I mean by that?
Once upon a time, a player could walk into even a relatively small regional casino and there would be a cage and players club that existed independently of one another. While that is still sometimes the case, the redemption machines, in some casinos, have enabled the properties to consolidate the players club and the cage into one area which is both cage and players club.
I suppose that may be convenient for players who have chips/tickets to turn into cash and also have a players club related transaction to do at the same time, but in other cases, it simply means that the lines end up being the same length they were before (especially on busy nights) the redemption machines came in.
For those casinos that have some sort of promotion going, or when players are signing up for new players cards (which takes a few minutes), who is going to look at a line ten people deep and decide that the wait is worth the $0.99, or less, to get the separate ticket cashed.
If you answered, “Almost nobody,” then you get today’s prize.
And…that’s the idea.
With that, casinos purportedly put these redemption machines in place for the convenience of the players, but they also convenience the casino when it comes to saving on labor costs and, potentially, consolidating all players services (club and cage) into one area. On slow days, casinos often have a single employee who does all of these functions.
That doesn’t mean that players don’t benefit from the reduced wait times, in fact, the redemption machines are typically so numerous (relative to how many people are actually in the casino cashing tickets) that there is often no wait whatsoever.
But, as with anything else, the casino eventually ended up using this purported, “Service,” as a way to extract more money out of players. One can hardly be surprised.
We see the same thing with this coin situation. Originally, there was, at least reportedly, a legitimate coin shortage in the U.S., so casinos decided to make it so that the redemption machines would not give people coins. The coin shortage has now been rectified, but casinos are operating redemption machines as if it had not been rectified, in order to prevent themselves from having to pay, sometimes literal, pennies.
HOW MUCH MONEY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, players abandoned 22 million dollars in tickets last year (2021) of which the casinos’ collective cut would have been 5.5 million. The Review Journal also spoke to one player who cited the redemption machines not giving change as a big reason this occurs, quoting, in part:
But one thing she doesn’t like — ticket vouchers. When Pierce ends her gameplay and redeems her money at an ATM/ticket-in, ticket-out machine, she’s stuck with a paper ticket for the change value.
“That’s one thing I hated about the ticket vouchers,” Pierce said. “They don’t give out less than a dollar. You have to go all the way to the cashier’s cage to cash them out. Sometimes that’s a pain, especially when it’s 30 or 40 cents. It’s become a hassle.”
That’s obviously true. I don’t know how much people value their time, but for me, I put my time doing non-recreational activities at a MINIMUM of $25/hour, so when you’re talking about a ticket for $0.40, based on a minimum time value of 41.67 cents per minute, cashing the ticket is not worth my time if it even takes me slightly more than a minute to walk to the cage—not to mention the time spent waiting in line and waiting for the ticket to be scanned in.
Of course, that’s what casinos seem to be hoping for; they want players to decide that cashing the separate ticket for the change, or waiting in line at the cage to cash out the full (original) ticket in order to get the change is not worth the hassle.
That said, when we are talking about the casinos across the entire State of Nevada collecting a total of 5.5M dollars, it would seem that the casinos aren’t exactly getting rich off of this policy. I suppose it might add up to tens of thousands per year, perhaps more, for some of the largest properties, but that’s a drop in the bucket for them.
Even though the casinos aren’t necessarily making a ton of actual revenue on this, it bears repeating that they save some non-zero amount on labor as a result of not having to restock the redemption machines with coins. One would also assume that the redemption machines will require service less frequently because, not only are there no coins for them to run out of, but also, not having the machine spit out any coins makes it impossible that there will ever be a problem related to coins getting stuck.
FOR MY PART
For my part, I don’t really care about this issue at all, and for me it only confirms that casinos will not hesitate to rip people off, in addition to pissing them off, for a few pennies-which I had already kind of suspected.
I never really cared for coins anyway, so what I would usually do is find some machine where a player can make as low as $0.01 total bet and I would play my tickets up or down to the nearest dollar anyway. When I wasn’t in the mood to do that, if I did have change on my tickets, I would usually take the quarters and leave everything else in the tray; sometimes, I just left all of the coins in the tray if I didn’t suspect I would need a parking meter anytime soon.
With that, this change does not have any personal impact on me as I never wanted the change anyway. I simply choose the donation option, when I don’t feel like playing the ticket up or down to a whole dollar amount and hope that the money actually goes to the charity in question—which I suspect it actually doesn’t and is often treated, at least in part, as abandoned.
The coin issue, therefore, is not particularly relevant to me, but as we saw from the Review Journal article, many players are displeased with the inability to get their little pieces of metal.
HOW ELSE TO GET RID OF COINS?
Of course, there are equitable ways by which a casino could cease dealing in coins such that, in total, players are not getting ripped off.
Here are a few ways I can think of:
1.) Coins Stay on the Device:
- The easiest way to deal with coins, in my opinion, is to simply have all coins stay on the device the player is playing. At that point, even the cage would only have to stock quarters and that’s only so they can deal with pink chips ($2.50) at Table Games. I suppose Pai-Gow Poker tables (traditional, with commission) would also need to have some quarters on hand to deal with the commissions.
The only problem that I see with this idea is that you would get a new version of Buffalo-Hunting, which refers to people who just run around the casino printing off cash out tickets and adding them to each other on one machine before cashing out. The new Buffalo Hunting would be people who just run around the casino, particularly on penny and nickel machines, looking for enough change on the machine to pay for a spin.
The result of that would be security having more to deal with as they would probably want to remove such individuals from the property. Not so much because this person gets to take free micro-shots at the casino (the spins still have a House Edge, so while it is free for the individual taking the shots, the casino still has an expected win), but because having these people running around like rabbits checking all the penny and nickel machines for abandoned credits would quickly grow annoying and disruptive for other players.
I suppose another problem with this would be states such as Pennsylvania and Colorado, which have anti, “Finders Keepers,” laws in casinos, which the latter actually enforces, that technically make it illegal to play the machine if there is anything on it. I guess the states could strike those laws, or simply not enforce them, but I don’t think that would happen in Colorado as the state really seems to enjoy prosecuting people for taking literal change.
2.) Every Machine has Wager Saver:
- If you’re not a slot machine player, you might not be aware of this, but many machines come with a function called, “Wager Saver.”
The way Wager Saver usually works is a player attempts to make a bet that exceeds the balance that the player has on the machine, as a result, the, “Wager Saver,” mechanism appears and, at that point, the player can choose to risk the balance in order to receive one spin at the desired bet amount. Whether or not the Wager Saver is perfectly proportional to the expected value of every spin I have no idea, but I do know that they often result in the player getting the spin.
If this functionality were to be put on every machine, but adjusted to automatically trigger when a player cashes out (only to the extent of the coins), then that would eventually eliminate all coins from being on the ticket. Either the player would win something on the spin, and now have some other balance on the machine, or the player would lose and all coins would be gone.
The only problem that I could see with this is that, if there is a Wager Saver result that would yield coins STILL being on the machine, now the player has to do it all over again. Essentially, they have to keep spinning until they eventually have a whole dollar amount, lose on Wager Saver or win on Wager Saver, but lose on the spin that Wager Saver gives.
I would also like to give credit to rxWine, in the linked thread, for the Wager Saver angle. I may or may not have thought of it, but that’s where I saw it first.
- Another method by which to deal with the change that makes sense to me is to set the redemption machines up to not even give the option of donating the change, or getting a ticket, but instead all breakage automatically goes into a drawing that takes place on the first day of the month, or perhaps quarterly, depending on how much change there is involved.
For really small casinos, it could also be an annual drawing that takes place on the first of the year, that way there is a reasonable accumulation of change.
This would actually be fun for players and would attract people to the casino to try to win the drawing. It really doesn’t cost the casino anything because they have, essentially, been holding that money the entire time. The money taken from players would ultimately be going back to the players and you could create an entire event out of it, especially if you only do it annually.
Not that it would be a big deal, but I think this would have to be a cash promotion, as opposed to free play, because the free play (in most cases) comes with an expected loss. Instead, the casino would have a drawing to give one (or a few) players a more meaningful sum of money than the coins ever were to begin with.
Also, this would include all breakage that, to this point, was either redeemed by players at the cage or donated, so it would add up pretty quickly.
For those players not wanting to participate in this, the signage on the redemption machines could be changed to the effect that players have to go to the cage if they want coins, otherwise, the coins will be broken off and added to the funds for the monthly/quarterly/annual, “Keep the Change,” drawing.
At least, that’s what I would call the drawing.
4.) Give it Back Directly:
- I don’t know how this plan would work for those not playing on a player’s club card, but another option would be for players club cards to either create a cash balance, or alternatively, break off the change every time someone cashes a ticket from the machine in question and add the change to either the rewards credit balance or the free play balance, whichever is preferred by the player.
I also don’t know how much work this would take, but I suppose it might be technically possible to have a third balance associated with the players club card simply called, “Redeemable cash.”
If the player has a, “Redeemable cash,” balance, assuming that any such could be created, then the casino could simply have a policy that the guest could redeem that balance at the cage in whole dollar amounts starting at $5.00, or something.
That would still enable the casino to stop having to deal in change, but at the same time, would not be taking anything away from the player indirectly by hoping that the player won’t wait in line at the cage to get cash full tickets or separate change tickets.
Of course, I see no reason why the players simply adding the change to their Free Play balance or Resort credit balance wouldn’t work. If the player chooses to do that, then the casino actually gets the cash, but the player at least gets something of value for it. It either eventually gets put back in action (via the free play) or spent, as resort credits.
THE POINT IS
The point of that is the difference between the casinos simply not wanting to have to deal with change, or, the casino not wanting to deal with change AND also wanting to indirectly stiff players by making getting their change too undesirable.
Of the suggestions that I made above, certainly one of those would be workable when it comes to allowing players to keep their change, or alternatively, putting the change into some sort of drawing or promotion.
The change, in theory, could also remain on all of the machines (which otherwise would make the most sense to me), but as I mentioned, there are the problems with Buffalo-Hunters, who I guess would now be Buffalo Spinners and states that have laws against players actually using that change to be considered.
Either way, if the entire goal is not to have to deal with coins, then I think there are superior ways for the casinos to effectuate that end goal without irritating the subset of players who both do not want to wait at the cage and also want the casino to not take their coins.
Personally, as I have stated, I don't really care about the coins, but it is evident that there are many who do.
In any event, the fact remains that there are a great number of players highly irritated with the fact that casinos have chosen to make it impossible to get their coins from the redemption machines. So irritated, in fact, that not only has the Review Journal mentioned it, but there has also been a class-action lawsuit against MGM over the matter.
I guess the one thing that I can say about the lawsuit is: At least the legal costs are probably going to be such that keeping all their players’ change won’t be net profitable for the land casino industry titan!
I have also identified a handful of ways for the casino to both no longer have to deal in coins, and simultaneously, not actually be taking anything away from players, on net.
Do you agree with any of the suggestions that I have made for giving the change back to the players? Can you think of any ways for the casino to do it that I didn’t think of? Let me know in the comments!