Tales from the Slot Floor, a new publication edited by David G. Schwartz, Director of the Center for Gaming Research, inside UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives (Cover design by Nikole Herrold and Erik Swendseid of Bergman Walls & Associates)
Earlier this summer, Tales from the Slot Floor, the latest publication from the UNLV Gaming Press, was released. The book came about through an oral history project generously funded by the UNLV Libraries Advisory Board. Thanks to their help, I was lucky to have the opportunity to interview twenty men and women who have made their careers in slot machine management, both on the operations and manufacturing side. I selected excerpts from those interview and compiled them into Tales, which shares the story of slot management in the words of those who do it.
One of the most interesting things I heard was the shift in how managers entered the field. Those that started before 1990 tended to fall into slot operations without much initial thought. Attracted by the pay, or the technical challenges, they started at the entry level, either as technicians or attendants. While in many cases they did not participate in formal management training, they learned the skills they needed over many years on the floor.
Those who started after 1990, by contrast, often came into slots knowing they wanted to be managers. Many had already received hospitality degrees and were fast-tracked into a management associates program. This younger generation of slot manager tended to rise through the ranks quicker, with perhaps a better knowledge of general business operations.
One thing both generations agreed on was the necessity of responding quickly to changing customer tastes. One chapter of the book is devoted to the simple question, “What do customers want?” The managers interviewed had surprisingly diverse responses. Another chapter asked them to look back a describe the changes they’ve seen in slots over their careers. Interestingly, at least one of the interviewees started after most casinos shifted to coinless machines (2002/3), which provided an entirely different perspective.
The final chapter asks the interviewees to share their advice for young people looking to following in their footsteps, and this should be required reading for anyone pursuing a career in casino management, since these men and women have done it.
Author and editor David G. Schwartz, Director of the Center for Gaming Research in UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives. Tales from the Slot Floor now joins his several other books on the development of casinos and gambling history.
Working on this book, I was humbled to have a small part in the preservation of this slice of casino history. The interviewees were more than generous with their time and insights, and I think it rounds out our understanding of how slot machines have changed over the years. Hopefully, other scholars will continue to use these interviews to better inform their own interpretations of history.