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Vegas Tip #3,421: Airport Slot Machines

Airport Slot Machines

Are slot machines at Las Vegas airport a tourist trap with bad odds?

I’ve been to Las Vegas so many times, I have become an expert on all things Sin City.  I’ve given so many Vegas Tips over the years to friends and associates that I figured I’d just continue the trend right here on our blog.

Obviously, since this is a new blog, you didn’t get a chance to hear the first 3,420 tips I gave out to my power circle.  However, instead of starting over and back tracking to help you catch up, I decided to just keep moving and start with Vegas Tip #3,421.


When you arrive in Las Vegas for your expo, you will walk off the gate to the sounds of bells, whistles and sirens.  There are approximately 1,300 slot machines at McCarran International Airport.  And while it’s kind of fun and exciting to make that entrance,  it’s rare that you will actually sit down in front of a machine and begin gambling.  Most folks like to get to their hotel quickly so they can give all their money to that venue.

It’s only when you’re leaving town that these machines start calling to you as you wait to begin boarding.

I’ve always been told to stay away from those slots. I’ve been warned that they are programmed with less odds than the machines on the strip.  Not being much of a gambler my whole life, I believed that advice and never put anything into those puppies–until one strange two hour business lunch.

About ten years ago I was asked to fly to Vegas from Los Angeles for a business lunch.  My flight was to land at 11am and my next flight back to LA was leaving at about 3pm.  Pretty much enough time for a two hour meal and brief conversation.

The engagement was very productive and as I got back to the airport to head home, I felt pretty good about the potential relationship with this party I had connected with.  I was a smoker back then so I made my way to the smoking room at the airport to have a couple butts before my flight boarded.  In Las Vegas, the smoking rooms are full of slot machines.

“Ah what the heck,” I thought as I opened my wallet to see how much cash I had.

There were two twenties in my bill fold and I decided to stick them both in the dollar machine.  Even not being much of a gamer, I know to always play MAX credits when using slots.  It makes no sense to play the minimum bet because the pay out is much larger with all allowed credits in the game. This game had a $2 max credits requirement so with $40 on a dollar machine, I was gonna get 20 spins.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I got down to my third cigarette and my final spin and bam!  One seven, two sevens, three sevens and all the bells went off.  In my subconscious mind I knew I won something but didn’t think it was gonna be all that much so I had a very casual response as people started gathering around me.

“You just won $5,000.00,” a little elderly woman said to me with a beaming smile.

“I did?” I asked.  I looked at the machine and yes, I most certainly did.


Vegas fun for your iPhone. Click on logo to download.

Truth be told, after paying taxes on it, it was more like $3,200 in winnings, but even still, not bad for a little lunch break out of town.

According to Gray Cargill of, “I’ve seen many reports on TripAdvisor’s Vegas forum from people who won enough money at the airport to make them happy.  According to Chris Jones, Acting Manager of Public Affairs and Marketing at McCarran, two players at McCarran won $392,000 and $259,000 respectively within four days of each other in May 2008. One lucky traveler won $3.9 million at a progressive Wheel of Fortune machine in January 2005. ” released some great slot machine myths and facts.  Here’s a few below:

Myths and Facts

Just about everything that players believe about slots is untrue. Here are the most common myths and facts.

  • Myth: Slot machines are programmed to go through a cycle of payoffs. Although the cycle can span thousands of spins, once it reaches the end the outcomes will repeat themselves in exactly the same order as the last cycle.
  • Fact: This is not true at all. Every spin is random and independent of all past spins.
  • Myth: Machines pay more if a player card is not used.
  • Fact: The mechanism that determines the outcome of each play does not consider whether a card is used or not. The odds are the same with or without one.
  • Myth: The machines by the doors and heavy traffic flow areas tend to be loose while those hidden in quiet corners tend to be tight.
  • Fact: I’ve studied the relationship between slot placement and return and found no correlation. Every slot director I’ve asked about this laughs it off as just another player myth.


Of course, the best way to win in Vegas is…to simply not play.  About 80% of people who gamble anywhere on their visit go home in the negative.  Another 11% come back even.  And the remaining 8-9% return ahead.  You’ve worked too hard to hand over your earnings that easily.

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Las Vegas Lodging Cost Cutter

Treasure Island

Treasure Island (ti) is only one cross-bridge away from The Sands Convention Center.

The Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada is home to countless expos every year. Frequently, because of the many different expo halls it offers, multiple conventions are put on in this show place at the same time.  For those who don’t know, The Sands connects directly to The Venetian Hotel on the Las Vegas “Strip”.

For convenience, but also sometimes because of lack of knowledge, many exhibitors and attendees that come to the shows, book their lodging at The Venetian.  People can keep everything in one place, don’t have to pay for cabs or walk long city blocks in the windy cold or draining heat (depending on what time of year you attend).  Not to mention, the rooms are very nice and the hotel has pretty much everything you need built into it–from restaurants to gift shops to entertainment.  You basically never have to leave.

I used to come to town twice a year for conventions at The Sands. I came with a partner and brought a team.  I’m not gonna lie, if money wasn’t a factor, I would have stayed at the Venetian every time I came. I really like the hotel. Unfortunately, when considering costs for me and staff members, it made no sense when there was another option that cut costs almost in half, and was in walking distance from The Sands.

Treasure Island, or as it’s called in it’s new and improved, trendy title, “ti”.

When you walk out the front door of ti, you walk a short distance to a foot bridge that goes over the Las Vegas strip and into The Venetian.  Once inside, you follow the casino carpet around a bit until you enter The Sands Convention Center.  Even if you’re carrying heavy bags of merchandising, lap tops or walking in high heels, it’s a very do-able adventure that saves your company money.

It also gives you a place away from all the action if you feel like you want to escape once in a while.  Obviously, we attend these events to network, mingle and make new connections. But when you’re staying in the hotel where the show is and the place that most of the attendees are staying, you can never escape if you do decide you want a breather. Treasure Island doesn’t offer as many bells and whistles as The Venetian, but it’s clean, it has a couple great restaurants and as I mentioned, very affordable.

Unlike most hotels and resorts who change their rates based on seasons and prime calendar dates, Las Vegas changes their rates daily based on events.  You can stay at almost any top shelf hotel and casino on the strip for $99-$149 on a night when there is nothing special going on during the week.  However, if that same hotel books Celine Dion to sing in their theater the very next night, those same rooms could cost you $299-$499. I believe that a similar pricing structure is put in place at hotels during big conventions that come to town.

Getting back to Venetian vs. Treasure Island, let’s look at the current rate structure that they are both advertising right now on their websites:

  • Advertised Weekday Rates, standard room, 1 king, The Venetian: $149 to $599
  • Advertised Weekday Rates, standard room, 1 king, Treasure Island: $59 to $279
  • Advertised Weekend Rates, standard room, 1 king, The Venetian: $309 to $339
  • Advertised Weekend Rates, standard room, 1 king, Treasure Island: $247 to $292

I find it interesting that the weekend rates at the Venetian never get higher than $339 a night.  However, there are scattered days throughout the next month where their weekday rates soar to $599 a night.  Regardless, as you can see, there is a considerable difference in price and Treasure Island frequently has specials that make longer stays more attractive.

Finally, once you arrive to whichever hotel you choose, never be too embarrassed to ask for a free upgrade.  Hotel clerks have a lot more power than they may admit and the worse they can say is, “no”.  My wife and I always have a pleasant conversation with front desk clerks when we travel and we always ask for a free upgrade.  More then HALF of the time we ask, we get ’em!  Try it.