US coin supply shortage causes headaches for casinos

Due to millions of Americans suddenly abandoning their normal spending habits, the U.S. is suddenly facing a shortage of coins. As the Federal Reserve looks to address the issue, all sorts of businesses, including casinos, are trying to find ways to cope.

On August 7, the Federal Reserve’s website addressed the issue:

“Business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins. While there is an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has reduced available inventories in some areas of the country.”

For most Americans, the effects of this shortage can be seen in businesses where payment can only be accepted either in exact change or by credit card. In fact, it’s a time to clear out that coin jar, as convenience stores like Wawa will give you a free sandwich in exchange for $50 worth of coins.

CalvinAyre has learned that casinos that still use coin slots have also had to find work arounds. Las Vegas’ El Cortez Hotel & Casino previously kept a reserve of $120,000 in coins for their slots. After cashing in $90,000 of that amount at the beginning of the pandemic, they then ordered an additional $30,000 when operations were back up and running in July.

For their request of $30,000, they were only able to secure $500. The casino tells us that these old-style coin slots are still a huge draw for tourists, so they need them up and running.

To encourage locals and tourists to give up some of their coins, Coinmax machines on the property have had their standard 5% fee removed, allowing anyone to exchange their coins for cash at no fee. That should get more coins into the system and get things running smoothly again.

The Fed notes that they are minting coins as fast as they can to get supply churning again, and hopefully that has an effect soon. The real return to normal for the coin supply may not return though until the economy gets up off its knees.