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Slot machines rule in Puerto Rico’s casinos. Walk into any casino and you’ll see tantalizing rows of these brightly lit games. Increasingly popular, slot machines total almost three-quarters of most casinos’ income. They go by a variety of names - tragamonedas (money gobblers) here in Puerto Rico, “poker machines” in Australia, “fruit machines” in Britain and, to those who are not so lucky, “one-armed bandits.”
Invented in San Francisco in the late 1800s, the traditional slots feature three or more reels of brightly colored symbols, such as images of fruits or shapes of bells and diamonds. Deposit a coin, pull a lever on the side of the machine or push a button and watch the reels spin. When they stop, the pattern of visible symbols determines if the player wins money and, if so, how much. Modern computer technology has created many variations.
Today, most games are in video format. There are video poker machines in which players hope to get a set of symbols corresponding to a winning poker hand, and video theme slots featuring graphics and music based on popular entertainers or TV programs. In Puerto Rico, money amounts used in the games range from one cent to $25. You can still deposit coins into a few machines, but most are known as “ticket in/ticket out,” using bar-coded paper tickets. While today’s slot machines are more complex and sophisticated than the older versions, the thrill of winning hasn’t changed.