If you are planning a trip to Las Vegas and have never seen the Fremont Street Experience, you're in for a special treat.
Just about everybody I know who has ever visited Glitter Gulch enjoys the Fremont Street Experience, the canopy of stars and images that hangs over the downtown area and makes people think they are in DisneyWorld.
Through the use of computer technology, the casino owners along Fremont Street can recreate rock concerts, Star Wars, movie scenes, rocket ships, dancing elephants and just about anything else they wish to dream up.
It's no secret why casino moguls like Benny and Jack Binion, who owned Binion's Horseshoe, and the owners of the Golden Nugget, Fremont, Fitzgerald's (now called D Vintage Vegas), Four Queens and the other casinos in the area built the Experience. They were tired of losing revenue to the Las Vegas Strip. They wanted something different, and they got it.
I lived in Las Vegas while the Fremont Street Experience was being constructed. We had no idea what the end result would be, but when the show opened -- WOW! We were impressed.
I remember the night Credence Clearwater performed a free live concert at the end of the street. Thousands of people crowded around the outdoor platform dancing and moving to the music as security guards and officers from the Las Vegas Metro Police force controlled the crowd. The pungent odor of reefer smoke was so strong that a poker playing friend grinned and said, 'Even the police dogs are high.'
That night, I even saw two cops dancing with a mini-skirted chorus girl from one of the Strip casinos who had come downtown to watch the legendary rock band perform.
One of the downtown sights that draws tourists is the world's largest slot machine. Known as Slotzilla, it stands 128 feet tall. The architect to this slot phenomenon even added two zip lines -- one 77 feet high and the other 114 feet up.
I have never played Slotzilla so i don't know how it pays off. But I suspect the experts who insert those computer chips that determine a slot machine's rate off payoff made it a little more generous than the average machine just because it's Slotzilla.
Big slot machines have always attracted me. The bigger, the better.
In fact, the largest payoff I ever received on a slot machine came from Big Bertha at Circus Circus which for years was the largest slot machine in Las Vegas.
Big Bertha was a .50 cent machine, which gave you two pulls for a buck. One night I watched while a couple played the machine for more than an hour. While they didn't win a lot of money, they didn't lose a lot as their pulls of the giant handle kept paying off. To hit the big prize of $500, you had to line up three pink elephants.
Real slot players are probably laughing saying, 'Only $500? That's peanuts compared to what the slots pay today.' Maybe so. But in the 1970s, a $500 payoff was enough to get slot players excited. After the couple left, I walked up to the machine and dropped a $20 bill into the slot.
Within 10 minutes, three pink elephants lined up. I was so excited, a security guard who escorted me to the cashier's cage to get paid off told me I jumped eight feet into the air.
'You jumped almost as high as Big Bertha,' he said, smiling.
I played another big slot machine at Indigo Sky Casino near Seneca, MO. It was a dollar machine that stood taller than me. The casino manager had placed it at the halfway point in the casino and it drew its share of attention.
I decided to give it a try.
It paid off. Not once. Not twice. Not three times but every time I ran a hundred dollar bill through the machine for at least three months! Afterr I had profited by a couple of thousand dollars, just as mysteriously as the machine had paid off, it turned colder than the Arctic Circle and stopped paying.
My advice: if you visit a casino for the first time, find the biggest slot machine in the place and give it a chance to pay off. If it does, remember who gave you the tip.