A Change for AC Slots

Miss the jingle of coins hitting the tray of a slot machine? Retro slots are back -- in a small part of Atlantic City.

When I was a kid, my siblings and I spent summers at the Jersey Shore. On rainy days, my mother took us bowling at the Showboat in Atlantic City. On the way back to the parking garage, we’d stop at the gaming floor so my mother could play $1 in the slots.

The ritual was a big thrill. What wouldn’t be thrilling about a casino to a grade schooler? There were bright lights and sounds and a chance to win! We’d watch from the hallway (within my mother’s view — she never let us out of her sight, especially in mid-‘80s Atlantic City). Every quarter was a chance to hit the jackpot, and she’d make a big show of putting each quarter into the machine and pulling the lever.

She never hit big, but sometimes the machine spat money back out. Clang clang clang! Whatever she won after those four quarters (she never played more than $1, even if she won) was put into a plastic bucket provided by the casino.

It’s a fun, shiny memory — I still have a Trump bucket — but I’m not much of a gambler. I don’t get jazzed by the opportunity to lose money. But writing my book about the Jersey Shore, I figured I’d do what my mom did and gamble $1.

I sat down at a machine, put my dollar in, and watched the symbols spin by. On my fourth try, I won. It wasn’t much, but I won something. Like mom, I figured I would walk away while I was ahead. So I pressed the button to cash out and expected a flood of quarters to wash over me – clang clang clang!

Nothing. No clangs, no quarters, nothing but a piece of paper showing my winnings. Change had gone the way of bell-bottoms and mood rings, replaced by digital printouts. I’m glad I won something, but taking a printed receipt was not nearly as much fun as collecting quarters and carrying them around in a plastic bucket. (Actually, the winners in the digital conversion might be the players. Before the Sands casino was torn down, the clean-up crew found more than $17,000 in loose change along the gaming floor.)

The point of my story? Resorts is bringing back coin slots on April 3. Of course it’s a promotion, and only for a few machines, but in a little corner of Atlantic City, the clang clang clang is coming back.

No word on the bowling alley in Showboat, though. I hear it’s used for storage.

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