US Coin Shortage Causing Issues at Las Vegas Casinos With Coin-Play Slots

  • Casinos cannot access the number of coins now as they did pre-pandemic
  • The El Cortez Casino has removed a 5% fee on machines to help with the shortage
  • Skyline Casino is using its own coin sorter to put coins back in circulation within the property
  • The shortage should be temporary and improve as more businesses get back to work
Closeup of a pile of coins
A United States coin shortage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to casinos with coin-play slots scrounging for change. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

No coins, no gaming

A coin shortage in the United States is affecting the ability of Sin City casinos to offer coin-play slots. Only a few casinos in Las Vegas offer the vintage experience of coin-play games, including the El Cortez and the Skyline. Both of these properties are having to work hard to come up with enough coins during the shortage to allow the games to stay in operation.

shortage has affected the way businesses conduct their operations

The coin shortage stems from business closures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This shortage has affected the way businesses conduct their operations as well as the ability for patrons to pay for items when shopping.

Coin-play slots at El Cortez

Many years ago, the main sound you heard on the casino gaming floor in Las Vegas was the lclanking and pinging of coins falling into a slot machine’s hopper. Players placed a coin inside a slot machine and pulled a lever. If the jackpot was won, coins would come pouring out of the machine in massive amounts. While the majority of these machines have been phased out for electronic options, some are still available on casino floors.

El Cortez has around 100 of the coin-operated slots. General manager Adam Wiesberg told the Las Vegas Sun that before the pandemic, the casino had around $120,000 in change for the machines. The change consisted of nickels, quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins.

When Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the casinos in the state to close back in March, most of the coins were deposited back into the bank. Wiesberg said the casino only maintained around $30,000 in coins. Trying to get coins now has proven to be quite difficult. He added that they realized the coin issue was a problem when they ordered more coins after reopening.

When the Brinks people came, they brought us just $500 in quarters.”

“Our first coin order that we did after reopening, in July, we ordered $30,000 in quarters,” Wiesberg said. “When the Brinks people came, they brought us just $500 in quarters.”

To help with the issue, El Cortez has stopped charging a 5% fee when a player uses a coin-play machine.

Same issue at Skyline Casino

In nearby Henderson, the Skyline Casino, with 88 of the coin-play slots in operation, is facing a similar coin shortage issue. General manager Sam Kiki ended up purchasing a $10,000 coin sorting machine so that the casino’s coins can be recycled on-site.

Kiki said the casino used to order coins every day or every other day. Now, coins can only be provided about once a week.

The coin shortage beyond casinos

Across the United States, businesses are requesting that customers use exact change or debit/credit cards because of the coin shortage. Coins are not circulating as they normally would because of business closures and consumer spending cutbacks.

People concerned about their health are also not using cash to avoid touching paper money and coins in fear of contracting the virus. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is urging citizens to turn in their coins to help with the supply need. It is expected that the coin shortage will lessen as the economy continues the reopening process.

Currently, the US Mint is on track to produce 1.65bn coins per month. In 2019, the Mint was able to produce around a billion coins each month.