There are three major reasons why an individual might buy a slot machine. The most common is as a collector’s item; early models are considered antiques, and they make a good investment. A second reason is for recreation, not unlike owning a pinball machine or an arcade game. The third is for business use to generate revenue, most often in conjunction with a retail outlet and requiring a license from the local gaming authority.
Legal Ownership of Slots
Despite the popular belief that owning a slot machine is against federal law, there are no United States ordinances at all regarding slot machines. The matter is entirely a matter of local law, decided state by state, thirteen of which allow private ownership of all types of slots. They are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
On the other hand, slot machines are completely illegal in eight states: Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Other states permit ownership with restrictions. For example, some U.S. states insist that the machines themselves be of a certain age. Slots made prior to 1950 can be legally owned in Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The state of New Jersey draws the line at pre-1941; Vermont states that private slots must be pre-1954; and Colorado has its cut-off set at pre-1984.
Most of the other states insist that privately owned slot machines must be at least 25 years old. They include California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Washington, and Wyoming. However, the minimum age is 30 years in New York, Missouri, and Massachusetts, and it is 20 years in Florida.
Almost all jurisdictions limit ownership to individuals aged 21 or older. They state that machines must be intended for private, personal entertainment, not for gambling. A permit may be required if a machine is to be displayed in public. Regulations are always subject to change, too, so a bit of research is in order before anyone rushes off to order a personal slot machine.
After confirming that buying and owning a slot machine is legal, the would-be owner has lots options available. Gambling suppliers or manufacturers offer machines in good operating condition. Their products may also come with a warranty or service agreement, so that maintenance will not be a concern. But machines sold by manufacturers will always be used, not new. The makers only offer new releases to casinos. The ones they sell to the public are “retired” versions that their newer machines have replaced.
Many times machines are retired because they are not in good working order. Those are sold to vendors who will in turn refurbish them before offering them for resale. The best sources of reliable machines are distributors, suppliers or manufacturers who do their own refurbishing. Brokers may purchase and sell slots on the cheap, but they will be unable to guarantee functionality.
Second-hand slot machines can also be purchased through auction sites via the Internet. There are numerous mail-order dealers, too. Buyers should expect list prices to range from a few hundred dollars for used three-reel mechanical slots to $3,500 for newer electronic versions that are still seen in casino play. Crating and shipping will add another $150 to $300 to the final price.
Following delivery, a slot machine can be plugged right into a standard 120-volt home electrical outlet. The seller should have provided a key for opening the machine to fill its coin hopper and access its paper currency acceptor. Ideally, an operation and repair manual will be included as well.
Keeping a slot machine in working order is not rocket science. The most common problems are jammed bills going in or coins coming out. Using a computer keyboard aerosol spray to clean the mechanisms once every few months should prevent that from happening.
Light bulbs and internal batteries need to be replaced occasionally. The items needed are available at just about any hardware store. The reel strips on which the slot symbols appear may become loose or detached—easily remedied by the application of a bit of clear packing tape.
For troubleshooting of a more serious nature, such as reprogramming or replacing computer chips, consulting a specialist may be required. Otherwise, the slot machine’s reseller should be able to assist in replacing any broken parts or making repairs.