Should I Stay At The El Cortez Hotel Casino In Downtown Las Vegas?

I’m thinking of staying at the El Cortez? I like the nostalgic thought of “old Vegas” but I want somewhere clean and nice. Also, is that part of downtown Las Vegas safe?

Lynn D.

el cortez las vegas lobby interior
The Lobby Stairs of the El Cortez Hotel Casino Las Vegas

The El Cortez is an often overlooked gem. If you want traditional, stay in their normal rooms (not the newer, hipper, more expensive Cabana suites across the street). The traditional rooms are clean and well-kept.

Located on East Fremont Street, it is a quick 2 block walk from the Fremont Street Experience. It is generally very safe, and surrounded by a number of great bars and restaurants.

The El Cortez has a full gambling casino with slots, table games, a sports book, and even keno! The slots are loose, and the table games have low limits with good rules.

Locals love their Parlour Bar happy hour with $5 appetizers, 1/2 priced draft beer, and 2-1 cocktails. Their other bar Ikes has similar (minus the appetizers) from 11PM – 1 AM.

Click for more info: El Cortez Hotel Casino Las Vegas

When Will Las Vegas Casinos Get Back To Customer Service and Decent Slots?

When are the casino’s going to realize that the main reason that most people come to Vegas is to play the slots? When they keep returning less and less it becomes no fun any more. When it becomes no fun people eventually quit playing. When they remove all hope of that winning streak that used to happen one time in ten, people will quit playing.

I live in Illinois and the casino’s here have done the same thing. I was talking to a casino host and she said ever since they put all the penny slots and reduced returns to players,the crowds just keep getting smaller.

I also was talking to a couple about this problem,that had just returned from Vegas. They said the casino’s were not as clean as they used to be, employees were not friendly, food way too expensive,and slot machine play was even worse than here in Illinois. They said they used to go to Vegas twice a year and now they don’t think they will return at all.

I think its time for the casino’s to give us back that small glimmer of hope if they want us dedicated slot players to become regulars again. My wife and I never missed a year since 1980, until now. We haven’t been there in two years, and don’t plan on it until things change. Old fogy maybe so, but until a glimmer of hope returns I’ll keep my money here in Illinois.


Ted Responds:

The trend toward penny slots has resulted in tighter slots, no question about that (a number of reports have been published on the topic). I won’t touch them. You have to put more than a few pennies in anyway. To really win, you need to be playing 50 cents or more per spin. Give me the quarter slots where I have a shot at winning!

No question some of the debt-ravaged major gaming players here need to step up the cleanliness and maintenance issues. There are glimmers of hope but you need to know where to look. The Stratosphere was just redone from head to foot, literally. The casino, the rooms you name it. Huge investment and everything is really nice. We’ll have a full report coming soon.

Station Casinos is more of a local place, but Palace Station (just across the freeway from The Sahara) has rooms that were remodeled just a few years ago and in great shape. As we’re reporting in a future issue, they are also really increasing their help and employees there are very friendly. We’ve also found great video poker payouts and looser slots.

We keep talking about El Cortez as a place that has also been remodeled (casino and rooms) and is actually a really nice place to enjoy. Plus, downtown simply has the looser slots and (in my opinion) more friendly employees. And it still beats (by far) a stand-alone casino in another state.

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

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Las Vegas Slots Are Too Tight, When Will The Casinos Wake Up?

After all the comments of slots being tightened, meals too high priced,unfriendly casino employees,and resort fees,my wife and I were ready to try Vegas again. BUT then we just talked to some people at our local casino that just returned from Vegas. The conversation was how all casinos are tightening payouts, but these folks said “If you think its bad here in Illinois, it’s nothing compared to Las Vegas. They have been regular Vegas goers for years and now say they will never return. It has changed my wife’s and my decision to return.

When are the casino’s going to learn that the majority of people going to Vegas on a regular basis go there to play the slots?

If the return on slots is so bad that it is no fun anymore the people will eventually stop playing them. The casinos in Illinois have noticed a dramatic drop in slot play, and when you talk to people at the casino’s its always the same complaint, they have reduced the payouts to a point where there is no hope anymore. No hope means No fun, which in turn means we quit playing.

Other things mentioned by the couple that just returned from Vegas were casino’s were dirty, food too expensive, unfriendly employees, and lack of comps.

I hope the casinos wake up before it’s too late.

Ted Responds:

Not much I can add to that. Casino employees who should be happy to just have a job need to brush up on their customer service. I disagree about the expensive food. Bargains still abound (especially downtown). A celeb chef restaurant is going to be expensive anywhere in the country.

Readers, the comment box below is all yours!

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

What Happened To Certain Slot Machines In Las Vegas?

I love this newsletter and look forward to reading every issue. You all do a great job and it’s greatly appreciated. My husband and I love Vegas. I am really happy that you’re doing articles on slot machines now because I love finding out about the new slot machine games before visiting Vegas.

My question on the slot machines is what happened to the Soul Train slot machines? I was reading about the slot machine before I visited Vegas, and was looking for the machine and never found it. What happened? Did the slot machine every hit the floor? I thought it would’ve been great fun, very nostalgic and I was really looking forward to playing it. If this slot machine is in Vegas, can you tell me where to play it? Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work on the newsletter.

Ted Responds:

Hats off to our gaming writer Victor Royer who has published more books on gaming than I have fingers or toes to count! (See Victor H. Royer books on Amazon). His new book on all the latest slots is just about to come out. We’ll be letting everybody know about it and giving away a few autographed copies as well!

By the way, you can read everything Victor has written for us at our Las Vegas Gambling

Soul Train was introduced in 2005. I’m not sure how widely it was distributed. Here’s how it works: The big gaming companies (the ones that own lots of casinos especially) will look at various slot machines which are in production and decide which ones they are going to buy and give a a try. Then, they put them on the casino floor. A slot idea may sound like a home run in theory, but turn out to be a dud. (From what I understand, a Clint Eastwood slot theme was expected to do very well and bombed). Others take off unexpectedly. As you may imagine, the ones that do well get more floor space while others are phased out.

Even if a slot is successful, it will often run its course as people gravitate to the newest games. Only a few games (Wheel Of Fortune comes to mind) seem to last forever. So, casinos will sell the slot to another casino (usually one of the older properties or downtown or now in other parts of the U.S. and even world) where the game will live on a few more years.

The odds of a game being around 5 years later aren’t that great. Having said that, maybe I just haven’t seen them. (I profess to be more of a table game player). Readers… if you know of a casino that still has Soul Train slots, please comment below!

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

Where Are The Las Vegas Slots That Actually Still Pay Real Coins?

First let me say I love your newsletter. I look forward to every one of them.

We have been going to Vegas for more years than I care to remember but I think Vegas has started going down hill since the ticket machines came into play. Since they have come in the casinos now are like gaudy mausoleum’s. The only noise now is from the table games area. The sounds that they make that are supposed to sound like coin’s falling sound more like they are fed beans every hour and they are having a toot contest. It was so much better and exciting when you could walk into a casino and here that loud noise of coins hit the tray. People would get excited and loud when they hit alot of coins and now you don’t hear anything.

Sure I know they keep your little fingers clean but it sure wiped out the noise and the fun. Give me dirty fingers any time. The dirtier the better because the dirtier they were the more money I collected. I really think they blew it taking away the noise not to mention the job’s that were lost.

Thanks again for the great newsletter,


Ted Responds:

I agree with you: Feeding the machines was fun and scooping up all those nickels/quarters/dollar tokens meant you WON. And when the “ping-ping-ping” was happening (noise that coins made falling into the hopper for you to collect) around a casino, you knew other people were WINNING? Sure, you had to wash your hands. So what? You WON!

Most casinos did away with them because of the cost. They broke down more often, needed fills (money to be brought to refill the machine) when they ran empty, needed more people at the casino cage to cash you out.

Good new is they still exist in a few places:

  • Fremont Hotel Las Vegas Casino downtown – If you look around, you’ll still find selected games that pay out real quarters.
  • El Cortez Las Vegas Casino downtown – Was there a couple of weeks ago and played a little video poker and cashed out in real quarters. If I’m not mistaken, the entire casino is still “coin out” where you get paid in real coins. Add to that that El Cortez is just a block east of the Fremont Street Experience and recently completely (and nicely) remodeled and it is a great place to play! Check our our recent photos: El Cortez Las Vegas Hotel Casino Pictures
  • The D – Upstairs, they have a complete casino floor dedicated to coin-operated and older slot machines. You’ll feel like Las Vegas from 15-20 years ago! Plus, one of the last Sigma Derby (coin-operated horse racing) games left in existence.
  • Eastside Cannery Las Vegas Hotel Casino on Boulder Highway – They have a section dedicated to the really “old” video poker machines. The kind that were popular in the 80’s and early 90’s. No bill acceptors. You feed them quarters and cash out quarters. Sometimes a wait to play them at peak times.

Hope this helps!

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor