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Why does Las Vegas’ airport have slot machines?

Every once in a while, you’ll hear a remarkable story about slot-machine players trying to make their last score at a machine at Harry Reid International Airport.

The way it usually pans out, players, waiting for their flight home, win an incredible jackpot and must hang around to fill out the IRS paperwork, missing the flight.

But it doesn’t matter — the jackpot is well worth the wait and the flight rebooking.

It’s impossible to determine how many times that scenario has played out, but it’s something that can happen at one of the few U.S. airports that have slot machines in them.

Reid International is one of two airports that currently have slot machines – the other is Reno-Tahoe International Airport. That is expected to change after the Illinois Legislature, in a law granting a single gaming license for a casino to be built in Chicago, enabled slots to be installed at O’Hare and Midway International airports.

A timetable hasn’t been established for that, but in the meantime, Reid enjoys the rare privilege — and revenue source — that legalized gambling provides.

Other details about Reid International’s slot machine concession:

— Airport officials say having slot machines at the airport helps keep costs down for airlines choosing to serve the airport. An airport representative said the presence of the machines “adds to the unique sense of landing in Las Vegas.”

— Michael Gaughan, who owns and operates the South Point Hotel & Casino, is the slot machine concessionaire for the airport and has held it for more than four decades. Michael Gaughan’s Airport Slot Concession Inc. in February, announced it is replacing its existing slot machine management system with a system developed and released in June by Light & Wonder.

— Las Vegas-based Light & Wonder worked on the system with Amazon ML Solutions Lab and has a platform that gathers and disseminates near-real-time machine health data and communicates that information to a centralized management system, which minimizes downtime for slot play.

— In November 2022, Gaughan said the airport concession surpassed $1 billion in gross gaming revenue and 86.5 percent of that win is forwarded to Clark County.

— Airport officials say in fiscal year 2023, slot machines produced $58.5 million in gaming win from more than 1,000 machines. The exact number of machines fluctuates because machine sizes and configurations vary.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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