It was when I was recently departing from Nick Harding’s office at Praesepe in Milton Keynes, UK, that I noticed the old Jennings Indian Head bench-type slot machine on display. It brought back memories.
I made the point: “Do you know, I really believe that if that was put into a club location today it would still take good money…” Nick, a highly-skilled operator, did not disagree.
I can remember George Coughtrey, a Nottingham-based machine distributor, who handled Jennings in the old semi-legal days of around 1960. He had hundreds of them going out into clubs where they made fortunes. Players loved the "feel" they got from pulling a handle; they were convinced that the manner in which they pulled the lever had an influence over the outcome.
They also loved the visible dropping jackpot… A little reservoir of old one shilling coins with a glass cover. Get the reel symbols aligned and down would come the coins in a cascade and you’d have to buy a round for everyone in the place.
Great days; great machines. But would they compete with a Category B3A (I think that’s right) - what we used to simply call a club machine, that was available to patrons in a private club, which could be a political or sporting club, ex-servicemen’s club, miner’s club, or any other club where you have to be a member to enter.
Well, would they compete? How would they fare against all of the technological bells and whistles that a modern club machine can seduce you with - its lights, sound effects and challenges?
I would like to think that the simplicity of those old machines, their ability to give you a buzz without having to think too hard about it as you go and their readiness to accept the casual coin in your pocket, all for the siren lure of that visible dropping jackpot, would still do well.
Give me handles before buttons any day. But then, I am old…