ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – It used to be the signature sound of gambling: the clacking of coins spilling into metal trays on slot machines. But newer electronic machines that spit paper vouchers or credit winnings to cards now emit only canned noise.

Now Atlantic City’s oldest casino is bringing back the real clang amid indications that some gamblers miss the way things used to be.

“You think you’re playing a real slot machine here,” said Jeanette Snell of Union, who won two $25 jackpots less than five minutes after she started playing Friday at Resorts Atlantic City. “This feels like a game; the other ones, it’s just losing money.”

She cashed out soon afterward, enjoying the clacking sound as 47 $1 coins spilled into a metal tray at the bottom of her machine. She grabbed an oversized plastic cup – they used to be EVERYWHERE in Atlantic City casinos – and scooped up her winnings.

“This is real money!” she said. “I like this better.”

Resorts is banking on others liking it, too. It became the nation’s first legal casino outside Las Vegas when it opened in 1978 and has since seen more than 14,000 slot machines come and go.

Its coin experiment is definitely swimming against the tide in the casino industry, where nearly 90 percent of the 900,000 or so slot machines in use in north America do not accept or pay out in coins. None of Atlantic City’s 33,010 other slot machines use coins, though a small handful use tokens for high-denomination bets.

The trend accelerated in 2003 when the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened in Atlantic City as the resort’s first coinless casino. Casinos liked the fact that the new machines didn’t jam nearly as often, had to be maintained far less, and best of all, required fewer employees. No longer was it necessary to pay workers to stock machines with coins, transport them to or from cash cages, count and roll them.

“It’s very time-consuming and costly to run coins,” said Christopher Downey, Resorts’ director of slot operations. “As soon as this technology became available, the industry grabbed onto it.”

Resorts opened eight of the coin machines this week, and will add others if they catch on. The casino, with one of the oldest customer bases in Atlantic City, has been doing well with a nightclub called “Boogie Nights,” where ’70s disco rules.

They used the “Boogie Nights” retro theme for the slot machines as part of a deliberate appeal to older players.

Some of them gamble at the Skyline Restaurant and Casino in Henderson, Nev., where half of the 420 slot machines use coins. Those machines generate about 15 percent more revenue than do the paper voucher ones, said general manager Mike Young.

“It fills a niche, particularly for the older player,” he said. “They just love the coins. They like to get their hands dirty, they like to cash out, they like to hear the money drop into the trays.”

Nonetheless, coinless slots are the future of the industry, said Ed Rogich, vice president of IGT, a leading slot machine manufacturer.

“There was that casual player who liked the sound of the coins and being able to handle them and the sound of hearing the coins clinking into the tray,” he said. “But today that’s been replaced by flat-screen TV panels or LCD panels of fireworks and celebratory noises, and people like that, too.”

AP-ES-04-03-09 1432EDT

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