oughly 833,000 slot machines are in play in the United States, up from about 600,000 machines in 2005, according to a report this month by the American Gaming Association. When adjusted for inflation, gamblers are spending only slightly more on slots than a decade or more ago, according to the report, which examined states that long have had gambling, including Nevada, New Jersey, Iowa and Illinois.
In Las Vegas, visitors spent on average just under us$ 70 per visit on slots in 1992 compared with just under us$ 80 per visit in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, the study said. It’s no secret that in the aggregate, slot players in Nevada are wagering millions less than they were during the boom years. What’s less known is that many fewer machines are still in operation.
As of June 30, there were 168,504 slots in Nevada casinos, about the same number that were operating in 1997. The number of slots in Nevada peaked in 2001 with 188,705 machines in “nonrestricted” locations, excluding bars, grocery stores and other noncasino businesses that may offer up to 15 machines. The decline in slots over the past decade seems to contradict the growth of the industry over most of that period, which yielded more elaborate casinos that in some cases replaced smaller properties.
The trend is mostly explained by the transition to machines that offer multiple games to choose from, such as several varieties of video poker and keno, said Frank Streshley, chief of the Gaming Control Board’s tax and license division. By purchasing slots offering a menu of games in one machine, casinos no longer need to offer as many individual machines, he said.
The change has been dramatic in some of Las Vegas’ bigger casinos. The Rio, MGM Grand and Circus Circus each have about 1,200 fewer slots than they did in 2001, Control Board figures show.
On a much smaller scale, some casinos have removed selected machines from their floors to cut costs, as rarely used machines may not justify the taxes and other maintenance costs required to keep them on the floor, Streshley said.
Nevada casinos pay a tax of us$ 250 per machine each year on top of a quarterly fee of us$ 20 per machine.