NORTH KANSAS CITY, MO. Slot machines will begin spinning at 8 a.m. Friday at Kansas City area casinos. Employees expect big crowds.
Dave Vigness lugged his tool tray to the brightly lit machine and opened its front door as if he were grabbing a snack from a small refrigerator.
Three plastic cylinders resembling three-inch wide film reels -- black bars, red cherries, and blue-and-violet 7s -- suddenly spun and stopped. One, two, three.
"This one's ready to go," he said.
So are the gamblers who will make the machines spin by feeding them coins.
Vigness, one of several "slot techs," is busy these days, working to give gamblers the opportunity to hit the jackpot.
On Friday morning, Delores Adams, winner of the largest slots jackpot ever -- $9.3 million -- will pull the first slots lever at Harrah's North Kansas City Casino, for good luck.
A crowd of gamblers is expected to follow, both there and at nearby Argosy Riverside Casino in Riverside, Mo.
The pulling of the levers and pushing of the electronic spin buttons will commence at 8 a.m. Friday at the casinos, housed on boats docked on the Missouri River.
"I won't be here at 8, but I might be here at 12," said Dixie Haling of Overland Park, who was gambling at Argosy Riverside Casino on Wednesday.
She said many people prefer slot machines to poker, keno or blackjack because slots don't require as much strategy or gambling insight.
"You just pull the lever and the machine does the rest," she said.
On Friday, nearly 400 quarter, 50-cent and $1 machines will be on-line at Harrah's; about 500 quarter and $1 slots will be ready at Argosy, employees said. More than 1,000 machines at Argosy and 800 at Harrah's will be operating by the end of the month.
Each slot machine costs an average of $6,000.
After casino slot technicians set up and test the machines, the slots are inspected by officials from Missouri's gaming commission. The machines are then sealed with special tape to prevent tampering.
With names like "Jackpot Jungle," "Double Wild Cherry" and "Red, White and Blue," they are being installed in Missouri riverboat casinos following statewide voter approval last month.
In April, Missouri voters rejected a similar measure.
"Harrah's had a real setback when they didn't pass it in April," said Matt Palmer, marketing services representative. "We kind of had to regroup before getting everything ready."
Employees said that the machines over time will pay back between 90 and 98 percent of the amount played. But until someone hits the big jackpot, slots account for up to 70 percent of all casino profits.
"There'll be a lot of jackpot winners the first day," said Jim Frankie, slot manager at Argosy.