For those that think the casino industry and government have enough money, this might not sit well: Visitors to Nevada casinos let $22 million in betting slips go unclaimed in the recently completed fiscal year, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).
It’s a problem among both locals and tourists and one that commonly pertains to slot and video poker players and, to a less extent, sports bettors. They redeem tickets at machines inside casinos and owing to a purported coin shortage that started during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, many Nevada gaming venues don’t dispense change from ATM machines. However, physical cashiers at the venues will give customers coins.
For example, a bettor that cashes out of a slot machine at a Las Vegas casino and receives a ticket for $300.15 and she takes that slip to a machine in the venue. She’ll get $300 in cash, but at many gaming properties, she won’t get the 15 cents.
Under the terms of a Nevada law passed in 2011, 75% of unclaimed winnings flow back to the state while the other 25% go back to the venue at which the cash (or coins) wasn’t claimed. So if a bettor doesn’t claim $100 at the Bellagio, Nevada gets $75 and MGM Resorts International keeps $25.
Increasing Problem…For Bettors
Perhaps to the delight of Nevada politicians and casino operators, the issue of unclaimed tickets isn’t going anywhere. Actually, data suggest it’s getting worse.
Revenue collected from expired tickets has increased every year since 2012, the first year the state began collecting revenue from unclaimed tickets. At that time, the state reported revenue of $3.1 million on $4.2 million of unclaimed vouchers,” reports McKenna Ross for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Nevada allows casino visitors six months to redeem bet slips. Other states give customers a year or three years to do so while other states put no time limit on cashing in tickets.
The increasing move to cashless gaming at some Nevada casinos could lead to an increase in uptick in unclaimed tickets with small amounts of change. However, the coin shortage excuse isn’t likely to hold weight with astute customers because it’s widely believed that scenario was blown out of proportion in 2020 and if the cage has coins, the machines should, too. At least that’s the argument some patrons will make.
What Comes of the Coins
In fiscal 2022, Nevada reaped a windfall of $16.5 million from unclaimed bet slips, meaning gaming companies received $5.5 million.
That doesn’t mean operators are keeping the change and booking it as profit. Cosmopolitan, M Resort and Wynn Las Vegas present customers with the option of donating change to various charities. Caesars Palace and Flamingo donate unwanted change to Meals on Wheels.
Among the Nevada casino companies that do dispense coins from machines, Boyd Gaming, which is one of the largest operators in the Las Vegas Valley, is a prime example.
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