September 2, 2020
One of the last surviving coin slot casinos in Las Vegas is facing an unusual challenge amidst COVID-19 in the form of an acute coin shortage. The El Cortez Hotel & Casino had accumulated over $120,000 in coins over the years.
Following the Government’s recent instructions, as casinos slowly reopen, they aren’t fully equipped to operate the coin slot machines as banks can’t supply sufficient metal currency. The problem surfaced when an order for $30,000 in coins went out to Brinks, but they could only supply $500 worth!
The nationwide coin shortage peaked with businesses shutting down due to COVID-19. While consumers have tightened their purse strings, the health-conscious crowd relies entirely on cashless transactions to prevent the virus from spreading. The few stores currently accepting cash regularly ask customers to pay with exact change.
According to the U.S. Mint, retail transactions and coin recyclers are responsible for circulating a significant metal currency portion every day. The lockdown and subsequent fear of contamination massively disrupted this chain. The supply should gradually improve as the quarantine rules slowly ease.
Meanwhile, U.S Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged people to use coins or deposit unused metal currency to increase the flow.
El Cortez is among the oldest casinos in Las Vegas, operational since 1941. Among the 730 slot machines on the floor, 113 take coins. Revenue from slots accounts for two-thirds of its income. With players slowly returning, the casino’s coin reserves dwindled to $20,000.
To keep the limited coin supply flowing, El Cortez Management decided to eliminate the 5% fees levied on cashing out at the three in-house CoinMax counters. The staff now empty the machines daily, compared to the usual cleaning reserves schedule once per week.
El Cortez has always been a cash reserve for local businesses, lending coins to fill registers daily. However, the service is temporarily shelved until further notice. If the crunch gets any worse, Management plans to ask players to carry coins from home and empty the machines multiple times a day.
It’s the same story at Henderson’s the Skyline Casino. With 88 coin slots in operation, the Management is reeling from the crisis, although on a smaller scale. The situation is so grave; casino authorities had to purchase a $10,000 coin sorting machine urgently to recycle the limited coin pool in-house within short periods.
The nearby California Hotel and Casino, which operates nearly 40 coin slots, currently has sufficient metal to keep its operation machines. However, they are faced with a different kind of problem altogether involving ticket redemption kiosks. According to California Management, it’s been a struggle keeping coins in the kiosks for players to get exact change while redeeming their tickets.
The coin shortage is a first in the State’s history and a huge deal for regulars, as casinos struggle to secure their coin machines, jeopardizing the entire casino ecosystem.
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