Nevada casinos find that profits from penny slots really add up

High rollers are helping the Strip weather the economic downturn but lower rollers might just be keeping Nevada’s entire economy afloat.

And these folks don’t wager millions at baccarat. Their game is “penny” slots — devices with countless “paylines” that allow wagers of as little as a penny per spin, although most players bet on more than one payline and more than one coin per line. Not a bad option for people on a limited budget, although penny machines generally pay back a lower percentage than higher-denomination machines.

Penny slots have caught on in locals casinos and have replaced many of the older 25-cent and dollar machines. They’re now taking over the Strip and raking in record revenue.

With 2,481 fewer slots in December than a year ago (in part because of the closure of the Stardust and New Frontier casinos), Strip casinos still offered 1,205 more penny slots at year-end. And they offered 985 additional multidenominational slots, which can typically be played for dollars, quarters or pennies.

Statewide in 2006, penny slots represented 16 percent of all slot revenue; a year later, the share had grown to 19 percent.

Penny slots on the Strip won USD 498.6 million from gamblers in 2007, 29 percent more than a year earlier and a greater percentage increase than for any other kind of slot or table game. Multidenominational slots won USD 1.3 billion, a 6 percent increase.

Statewide, penny slots won USD 1.6 billion, a 25 percent increase from 2006, while multidenominational slot revenue increased by 4 percent to USD 3.6 billion. That topped baccarat’s monster win of USD 908 million and even good ol’ blackjack, which won USD 1.4 billion last year.