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Ask the Slot Expert: Are Vegas casinos more flexible with found money?

3 January 2018

Question: Late last year we were at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and came across a slot machine with $20 credit. After reading all the stories about being busted for stealing money, we found a slot host and reported it. He told us it is yours now. If the person before us left it then it was their problem.

After we left the machine about 20 feet in front us was a $20 bill laying on the floor. We also reported our find and was told the same thing.

Although we didn't win, we had an extra $40 to play with.

Answer: Ah, Las Vegas, where there's a much more relaxed attitude towards players utilizing found money and the precedent of Finders Keepers v. Losers Weepers pertains, at least for small amounts. I can't believe how some people have been treated for amounts that we called toll money in New Jersey.

A few years ago before I moved to Las Vegas, I was playing a machine in one of the locals casinos and I noticed a few dollar bills on the floor in the aisle near my machine. People walked right by the money. I guess they didn't notice it because no one picked up.

I debated about whether I wanted to run out into traffic and pick up the money, but then the principle of you snooze, you lose decided for me.

A youngish man gracefully bent down and picked up the money. It was a thing of beauty. He must have been a gymnast, his movement was so fluid.

If I had gone for the money, I would have bent down to one knee and blocked traffic. This guy, however, descended and ascended so quickly and smoothly that he never missed a step and I doubt the people behind him had any idea about what he had done. I gave him a "perfect 10" for his performance.

Cash is different from credits and tickets. Cash is a bearer instrument and can't be traced. Credits, on the other hand, are tracked in the slot accounting system and tickets are serialized and tracked in the ticketing system. Credits and tickets are traceable. Treat them differently.

The general rule that I and my friends follow is to feel free to put to good use amounts that are so small that we would not go back to try to recover them. Report or turn in anything over that.

The max on found cash is $20. Even though we would go back to try to find a $20 bill that we dropped, we know the chances of finding it are exceptionally small and we wouldn't expect to recover it.

The limit on credits and tickets is lower, about $10, because of their traceability. Anything less than a buck is clearly abandoned and it's unlikely someone will come back to recover it. A couple of bucks, though, is different and we'll wait a while to ensure that the rightful owner doesn't come back. Or we'll just leave it. It's not worth a potential hassle for a few dollars.

I was playing a 9/6 Jacks machine at the Palms a few days ago. I liked this machine even before it gave me a royal because it has sound and because it has good view of the Simpsons slot machines. I could watch the different bonus rounds on the Simpsons without having to play the machines myself. Much cheaper to live vicariously through other players.

A lady played one of the Simpsons machines. When her credit balance fell below the minimum bet, the wager saver popped up. (Wager Saver is a feature where you can bet your remaining credits on a chance to get one more spin. You either get another spin or you lose the credits.) Either she didn't know what the Wager Saver was or she didn't care about the small change left on her credit meter because she left the machine. D'oh! I kept an eye on the machine to see how long it would take for someone to cash out the credits.

A few people walked by the machine in the first few minutes but they didn't take the bait. Then a man sat down and made a show of making it look like he was going to play the machine. He looked at the screens — the three that are used for game play and the one on the button deck — and then apparently said to himself, " I don't think I'll play this one after all," and cashed out the credits. Woo Hoo!

On New Year's Eve I played an 8/5 Bonus Poker machine at the Suncoast. The machine was not being kind to me, but at least it was the best paytable with a reasonable strategy there and I was earning additional entries into the drawing that evening. A man walked by and dropped a handful of chips. He picked them up but continued looking around. He was short one chip. Then he gave up and started walking away. I saw a chip on the base of the slot chair at the machine next to mine. I called him back and said that I saw the chip. I bent down and picked it up. While I was doing that he said that it was only $5. I almost said, "Well, if you don't want it...." Instead I just handed it to him and said that every little bit helps.

I hoped that I had picked up some good karma and my machine would start hitting some quads. I finally did hit some good hands, but it was so long after the chip return that the two can't be connected. And I didn't get called in the drawing.


John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots