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Ask the Slot Expert: Are casinos sanitizing cash?

16 December 2020

Question: Your story on 12/9 about twice meeting up with the same grifter reminded me of a similar incident a few years ago. I was playing at the Flamingo at a bank of VP machines which were close to another. Some dude came up to me and excitedly said that I could have his hit on a machine in that other row because he had an emergency to take care of. His goal was to distract me or make me get up from my seat so he could then cash out my play. I told him to buzz off and he left. Out of curiosity, I cashed out for the moment and took a look at his machine. It had no credits on it.

The very next morning, I was at Planet Hollywood, playing more VP. The very same guy came up to me with the identical "emergency" and offered me his "winning credits". I told him he didn't get away with it the night before at the Flamingo and he was out of luck again. He dashed off and I went to security to report him. I gave them a complete description but I have no idea if they followed up. I never saw that guy again. Maybe he went to Red Rock Casino to find a pigeon.

Answer: No credits on the other machine. Gee, what a surprise?

The scam is illogical, if you think about it. Let's say he had both a hit and an emergency. How long does it take to hit the cash out button?

The only thing he'd have to wait for is a handpay. Today, because ticket-in/ticket-out has eliminated hopper fills, the only time a machine requires a handpay is when a tax form is needed. Are you going to claim another person's jackpot knowing that you're going to get a tax form?


Question: We usually visit Vegas several times each year, but have not been there since the pandemic broke out. We have read about the casino re-openings and the safety steps they have employed for their guests.

My question has to do with the handling of cash and currency in the casinos. This would include taking out a marker upon arrival, cashing out a ticket either through a machine or through one of the change personnel on the floor, to (if one were lucky enough) being hand paid for a nice jackpot. Are any steps taken, or even available, to sanitize the cash in any way?

Thank you, and be safe.

Answer: To witness firsthand any procedures used to sanitize cash, I redeemed a ticket at a kiosk and at the cage, took out a marker, and hit a handpay (well, the handpay was just lucky -- got dealt four aces playing dollar five-play 8/5 Bonus Poker).

Kiosks dispense currency just as they always has. This casino is one of the casinos that is conserving coins, so the cents part of the ticket I redeemed was paid with another ticket. There was a little bit of a hiccup printing the ticket and one of the numbers in the value was a bit smushed. Unfortunately the hiccup also smushed the bar code, so none of the machines I tried would accept the ticket.

I returned a few days later with enough change to make an even dollar and went to the cage to cash the ticket. I told the cashier that machines can't read the ticket.

She tried to read the bar code with her bar code scanner. When that failed, she rotated the ticket to read the ticket number and entered it by hand. (When I was doing projects with Optical Character Recognition, we always printed identifiers in two orientations on a form, so if there was a glitch in printing or scanning, one of the identifiers would still be complete and readable.)

The system verified that my ticket was good. She counted the change I had given her, then reached into her drawer, pulled out a dollar bill, and put it down on the counter in front of me.

I said, "Don't you have to put that through the counting machine?"

She said, "I think I got this one right."

The marker I took out was given to me in a ticket, so that doesn't say anything about the casino's currency procedures. The handpay, though, was just like any B.C.E. (Before Covid Era) handpay, except for the masks and gloves. The only thing remarkable was when the casino employees recognized me. Glad to see that another regular was okay.

I asked the employee who gave me the money whether the casino was cleaning the cash or taking any other precautions with currency. She said that she didn't know of any.

The re-opening guidelines from the Nevada Gaming Commission does not specifically address currency, but it does talk about sanitizing cards and chips. The CDC's document COVID-19 Employer Information for Banks does not say anything about sanitizing currency. (Maybe all the cocaine on the money kills the germs.)

We've learned much about SARS-CoV-2 since the disinfectant/toilet paper panic-buying days at the beginning of the year. Fomite transmission, transmission via objects or surfaces, is now thought to be theoretically possible, but highly unlikely. In Coronavirus on Surfaces: What's the Real Risk?, Dean Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital says, "You'd need a unique sequence of events." First, someone would need to get a large enough amount of the virus on a surface to cause infection. Then, the virus would need to survive long enough for you to touch that surface and get some on your hands. Then, without washing your hands, you'd have to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

A few months ago, I wrote about the case in Germany where they thought that Patient A infected Patient B when Patient B asked to borrow the salt from Patient A. They were sitting back to back in the company cafeteria and that was the only interaction they had. I wonder whether the real route of transmission was through the air, even though I don't know if anyone else who was in the cafeteria at the same time got sick. If you look at the infections arising from Trump's superspreader events, some people get sick, some don't, even though everyone was in the same place at the same time.

Casinos in Nevada are not taking any special actions with currency. (If your casino is, please let me know.) The risk of getting sick from currency is very low. And we know what to do decrease the risk further -- wash our hands or use sanitizer frequently.

You be safe too.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

Over a million new cases each week. Over 2,000 deaths per day. What is there to say? I'll just repeat what President Trump has said about the worsening pandemic.


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