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Ask the Slot Expert: Borgata reunites player with money left on a machine

1 May 2019

Question: I felt sorry for the guy in your 4/17/19 column who left his ticket in a slot machine and didn't get his money because the ticket had been cashed.

A few months ago, I left $50 in a slot machine at Borgata in Atlantic City. I went to security and they said they would investigate while I went to dinner.

When I got back to the security window about two hours later — much to my surprise, they handed me my $50! YEAH.

Security explained to me why I was able to get my money back.

Turns out, the ticket was cashed soon after I left the machine. Had it not been, I was told that they would have just voided the ticket and put a $50 slot credit on my Borgata Players Card. If he had left the casino, then I would have been out of luck like the fellow you wrote about.

But they reviewed their surveillance video and watched to see where the person who pocketed my voucher went. He was still in the Borgata casino, so a security guy approached him and said they had proof that he cashed a ticket that was not his and the guy quickly handed over the $50.

WOW — I was quite impressed by Borgata's Security team for their due diligence. Borgata is my favorite casino — really the only one we play at — and this experience has made me even more loyal!

Just thought I'd share that story with you.

Answer: Thank you for sharing your story with us. It's always nice to hear about a casino going above and beyond in customer service.

Time is of the essence in these situations. If you realize you left money on a machine, run back to the machine to see if you can get there before someone cashes out the money or starts playing with your money. If you're too late, run to the security desk to tell them what happened.

As the security personnel explained to you, if someone has already cashed out the money you left behind, the best case scenario is that the ticket has not been cashed yet. In that case, the ticket can be voided in the ticket database and the credit thief now has a useless ticket. The ticket redemption machine will just reject the ticket when he tries to redeem it.

I think you were very lucky. First that Borgata put so much effort into reuniting you with your money for a relatively small amount. They could have just said that ticket had already been redeemed and that was that. Instead, someone had to review surveillance footage to see who redeemed the ticket and then follow him on the footage to be able to confront him.

Second, I think you were lucky in that your "credit thief" was an otherwise honest player. If he had been what we used to call a silver miner, someone who just looks for coins left in the tray or credits left on a machine, he would have redeemed the ticket and left the casino immediately. Instead, it seems like he found money on a machine, saw no one around, and concluded that the money was abandoned. It was still not his to take, but he came to the casino to play, not to look for money left behind.

Some credit thieves may try to launder the money by inserting the ticket into another slot machine, maybe playing a few spins, cashing out and then repeating the process on a few other machine before finally redeeming the ticket. They hope that the casino will lose the trail with so many transactions between cashing out and redeeming the ticket.

While researching the original column, I found a company that developed a system that would stitch together all of these actions to produce a timeline of everything the thief did to try to cover his tracks.

What should you do if you find money left on a machine? The safest thing to do is to report it to a slot floorperson. If you really want to play that machine, cash out and leave the ticket on top of the machine. Do that no matter the amount. I've had too many people write to me about getting hassled for cashing out or playing toll money (anything less than $10 or so, if you're not from New Jersey) left on a machine, although that only happens in newer jurisdictions. In Atlantic City and Las Vegas, casinos generally look the other way when players appropriate small amounts left on machine.

A quick story. A few years ago, a lady who was playing video poker next to me got up and left. I don't remember whether she cashed out and forgot to take the ticket or just got up and left with money on the machine. In any case, she left about $75 behind.

I figured she would eventually realize her mistake and come back for her money. I took the ticket to ensure no one else took it and continued playing fully expecting her to return so I could give her her ticket. She never came back.

The last thing I need is extra scrutiny from a casino, so I was not going to keep the money. I took the ticket to the cage when I was finished playing. I explained that a lady had left this money behind.

"So you want to cash the ticket?" the cashier asked.

I said that I didn't want to cash the ticket. The money wasn't mine. I want to turn it in in case the lady came back looking for her money.

The cashier wrote something on a Post-It note and stuck it onto the ticket. I had the feeling that this was the first time anyone ever turned in a found ticket at the cage.

We should all develop our own Standard Operating Procedures for when we leave a machine to minimize the chances that we'll leave money on it. My procedure is: cash out, put the ticket on the button deck, enter the data for the session into my phone, take out my players card, pick up ticket, stand up, check that credits are zero, and leave the machine. I used to redeem the ticket when I was done for the day at a casino, but I found that it was easier to balance my bankroll with tickets than with cash.

When I first started keeping the detailed records needed to file as a professional gambler, I discovered that I needed to balance my bankroll to ensure that my records were accurate. First, I recorded how much money I started the day with. Then I recorded the amount I inserted into a machine each time I put money in a machine, and how much I cashed out of the machine. I also recorded these other events that might have occurred: taking out or paying off a marker, giving a tip, and winning a cash prize.

At the end of the day, I balanced my wallet by taking the money I started with, adding the net from play, adding markers taken, subtracting markers settled, subtracting tips given and adding prizes won. That total should match what I had in my wallet at the end of the day.

Doing this process cash-based gave many opportunities for error. I could make a mistake when I recorded the money I put into the machine or I could miscount the money at the beginning or end of the day.

Keeping some of my bankroll in tickets minimized those error opportunities. Many times I don't need to touch the cash I have with me, so it's easy to verify that I entered the right amounts for cash-in and cash-out in my Playing Sessions table. Cash-In is the value of the ticket when I started and Cash-Out is the value of the ticket I cashed out. If I never touch my cash and my bankroll doesn't balance, I must have made a mistake in recording the value of a ticket.

Holding on to tickets, though, created a new problem. When I redeemed the tickets, I always had the ticket in my hand after I left the machine because I was on my way to a redemption machine. I had no doubt that I had remembered to cash out.

When I started holding on to the ticket, I would put it in my wallet before I left the machine. Then, when I was about 20 feet or so away, I would question whether I had remembered to cash out. So I would circle back to the machine to double-check that I had remembered to cash out.

Triple-check, really. I cashed out before I recorded the session data. I double-checked that credits were zero before I left the machine. Still, I would always have a moment of self doubt and have to go back to the machine to make one last check.

Now I hold the ticket in my hand until I'm well away from the machine so I don't have to go back to it. when I've convinced myself that I did remember to cash out, I put the ticket in the back of my wallet upside down with the amount facing backwards. This way, if I have another moment of "did I remember to cash out?" panic, I can just open my wallet at the back and see the amount on the ticket.

I'd like to end this column with a quote from Tokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear's distant cousin:

"Only you can prevent leaving money on a machine."


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