Valley casinos offer new penny slot machines

Beverly Hillbillies slot machines may not pay out in Texas crude, but they’re still a big hit at Coachella Valley casinos.

Already flooded with celebrity guests in town for the annual Palms Springs International Film Festival, area casino-goers got a visit from Max Baer Jr., also known as Jethro Bodine on the classic TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

Baer was in town Tuesday at Fantasy Springs Casino and Trump 29 Casino promoting The Beverly Hillbillies Video Slots, which are the first MegaJackpots television show-themed penny slot machines in California from Reno-based International Game Technology.

Baer, who purchased the licensing rights to the show in the early 1990s, said he struck a deal with IGT in 2000, which released some nickel slot machines in Louisiana, but retooled the design and sold it as a penny machine.

Joe Kaminkow, the company’s vice-president of engineering and design, was in charge of the project.

“He said, ‘Max, penny machines are the future of gaming entertainment,’ ” according to Baer’s account. “The game is like the show, it’s really a rags-to-riches game.”

The MegaJackpots top award starts at $200,000, but in order to win the big money, players have to wager $1.50 on the five-reel, 15-line game.

Fantasy Springs bought eight of the machines four months ago.

Bob Jones, director of slots for Fantasy Springs, said they were the first penny slots at the casino.

“They were so successful we’ve added a hundred machines,” said Jones.

Jones said the Beverly Hillbillies slots have consistently been the most popular, however, and that the only problems the penny slots cause are the occasional customers who think they are coin machines.

“The bets are a penny, but you play with dollar bills and pay outs are coupons,” said Jones.

Even though slots have been up and running for the last four months, IGT timed Baer’s visit to coincide with the Western Indian Gaming Conference, running from Tuesday through Thursday at the Palm Springs Convention Center and the Wyndham Hotel.

The 66-year-old Baer is no stranger to the gaming industry, as he’s been working for the last five years to launch his own casino, also with a Beverly Hillbillies theme.

Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino is planned for Carson City, Nev., which is on hold until local codes, covenants and restrictions can be resolved with other property owners.

Baer purchased a 120,000-square-foot vacant Wal-Mart location in which to build his vision.

“Most of the people who have grown up with the show over the years — their average age is 35 and above — are the people who play slot machines,” said Baer.

The casino, which would feature attractions like Granny’s Vittles & Hog Jowls Coffee Shop and Jethro’s All You Can Et Buffet, is a concept that gets its motivation right from the pages of a Beverly Hillbillies script, said Baer.

“It sounds like something right out of the show,” said Baer. “How crazy would it be to see Jed run into the kitchen yelling to Granny, ‘Jethro wants to turn a Wal-Mart into a casino?’ “