Circus Circus Las Vegas is the only casino on the Strip that still offers coin-operated slot machines. And while the traditional three-reel devices have long been a thing of the past at most other casino resorts in Southern Nevada and across the country, Circus Circus is making them even more a part of its future.
Coin-operated slot machines at Circus Circus. The Las Vegas Strip casino recently expanded its coin slots offering with additional games. (Image: Casino.org)
Circus Circus officials last month detailed its approximately $30 million update. It will focus on returning the famed casino popular with budget seekers to its “glory days” of the 1970s and 1980s. Those times included coin-in slot machines.
While Circus Circus has always offered coin-operated slots, the casino says its overhaul will only result in more of the traditional terminals. The resort, owned by billionaire Phil Ruffin, who additionally controls Treasure Island and a 50% stake in Trump Las Vegas, has brought in higher denominational coin-operated slots to its gaming floor.
Circus Circus casino visitors can now gamble on coin-operated slots with bets ranging from $1 to $5 per play. The casino says the traditional reel games are some of the loosest terminals on the Strip, with an average 97.4% payback.
It’s been many years since Las Vegas slot machines involved gamblers inserting physical coins into the terminal and the machines dispensing tokens when a winning payline was hit. Instead, machines today typically accept cash and dispense winning tickets that are redeemable at the casino cashier cage.
Guests who still prefer the nostalgia of gambling with actual coins have limited choices. But along with Circus Circus, the D Las Vegas downtown features one of the most iconic coin-operated games in Las Vegas history.
The D’s Sigma Derby horse racing game challenges bettors to choose which two horses in a five-horse race will finish first and second. Each horse is marked one through five, with each horse’s odds randomly changing for each race.
After the bets are fielded, the five mechanical toy horses race around a track to reveal the finishing order. Las Vegas lore for decades said that Sin City visitors would enjoy a lucky stay in town should their first wager of their trip be on a Sigma Derby race.
D Las Vegas gamblers play Sigma Derby in May 2022. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Once common in nearly every Strip casino, today the D Las Vegas’ Sigma Derby game is the last one in operation. D owner Derek Stevens brought the classic game to his downtown Las Vegas casino in 2012.
When we bought Fitzgerald’s, we wanted to give the second floor a vintage feel. I always had a special place in my heart for Sigma Derby and it was perfect for the vibe we were going for,” Stevens told Casino.org today in celebration of the game being at the D for 10 years.
“The game has a true fan following, and we’re proud to have put in the time, effort, and mechanics needed to keep those horses trotting for 10 years,” the D and Circa owner added.
Coin Slots Linger Downtown
Though coin-operated slots on the Strip are limited to Circus Circus, two downtown Las Vegas casinos continue to offer the traditional games. Along with the D, coin-operated slots and/or poker machines can be found at the California and El Cortez casinos.
Coin-run gaming was replaced by ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) technology, because the latter provides casinos with easier monitoring of play and less operational overhead. But for many long-time gamblers, a slip of paper just doesn’t have the same allure as a bucket of metal tokens.
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