Casinos bet on slots, chips with star images - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Celebrities are cashing in at casinos by allowing their images to appear on slot machines and poker chips.Slot machines featuring comedians Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez and tennis star Andre Agassi will appear in casinos this summer. Drew Carey's machine recently was launched. Pamela Anderson and Donald Trump hit the Atlantic City Boardwalk to inaugurate her Playboy machine at the Trump Taj Mahal, following its premiere earlier this year in Las Vegas.

Some celebs have had slot machines for a few years: Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor and The Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers. And actors appear on slots with TV or movie tie-ins such as Star Wars, The Addams Family and Saturday Night Live.

But in recent months, the gaming industry has been focusing on younger entertainers.

Marcus Prater of Bally Gaming and Systems, which manufactures the Pammy Playboy machine, says the gaming industry is eager to dispel the image that only blue-haired grannies play slots.

"Las Vegas is attracting younger players, and we want to capture some of that gaming interest. Pamela is a good way to do that," Prater says.

Celebrities also are appearing on casino chips. In the past two years, Vegas' Palms Casino has unveiled chips picturing reality-TV star Nicole Richie, model Brooke Burke, Survivor winner Amber Brkich and motorcycle builder Jesse James. Across town, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has chips featuring artists who have played at the resort, including Coldplay, Motley Crüe, Billy Idol and Lenny Kravitz.

"So much of Vegas life is so visual that it seems like such a natural fit to turn a boring red or white chip into something significant," says Hard Rock spokesman Spencer Villaseñor. Because the chips have become collectibles, many are never cashed in, he says. That also equates to more cash for casino coffers.

Celebs on chips usually get a bundle to use on games such as poker, roulette and craps. "The idea is that they receive some of their own chips, and they get to gamble for free," Villaseñor says.

Slots are more lucrative. Though no one would reveal specifics, a celebrity can be paid an upfront sum, a percentage of each machine's take or a combination, Prater says.

Only certain celebrities are suitable for casino sovereignty, he says.

"There's a limited pool of celebrities that command the icon status. I love Britney Spears, but she's not iconic enough to warrant a slot machine that appeals to the masses."

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