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Want to see a classic movie or TV show? Newfangled slot machines may be your ticket

If you’re in the mood for a classic movie, you’ve got a lot of options: You can turn on the TV, pop in a DVD — or you can head to an area casino, or all the way to Las Vegas.

At any of those gaming spots, no matter which way you turn, you’re likely to see a movie-themed slot machine — or a wide variety of games offering popular TV show themes.

And they just keep on coming.

It’s not hard to see why, with nostalgia themes that play well to baby boomers and the older crowd — and remarkable technological advances that have turned many of the video slot machines into sophisticated, entertaining enterprises familiar to younger computer-gaming enthusiasts.

Some of the latest ones — most of them incorporating high-definition movie scenes — are themed games based on such box-office giants as “The Dark Knight,” “The Hangover,” “Sex and the City,” “The Lord of Rings” series and “Jaws.”

Not to mention — the biggest nostalgia draw: a whole series of “Wizard of Oz” slot machines,loaded with familiar movie clips. Here’s the latest “community event” version where a bank of four players all share a bonus round. And then here’s the first “Oz” game.

Casinos part of gambling debate
The gambling debate is in the news just about every day, with supporters touting casinos, racinos, electronic pull tabs and the like as relatively pain-free ways to raise funds for everything from a stadium for Zygi Wilf to more classroom teachers for our schools. Opponents, of course, worry about gambling’s impact on the poor, among many other perceived social ills.

From my view, the truth lies somewhere in between, and an occasional casino visit certainly strikes me as a legitimate entertainment option when handled in a socially and financially responsible manner.

And marketers and gaming manufacturers have made sure the new generations of slot machines will attract attention and be fun to play — like this brand-new “Ghostbusters” slot.

A decade of changes
And if you haven’t been to a casino in a few years — or ever, for that matter — you may not be aware of the electronic, high-tech wonderland of oohs and aahs — not to mention the high noise level — beckoning from casino slot floors.

Here’s a bit of the marketing philosophy behind the trends.

The biggest changes in the last 10 years have been the rise of the penny (and even half-cent) slot machine — and the so-called Ticket In/Ticket Out technology that has nearly eliminated coins from the casino floor.

As a matter of fact, most — if not all — slots no longer accept coins of any kind — only cash or a print-out ticket issued by another slot machine. So, when patrons “cash out” of a machine, they receive a ticket that can be redeemed at automatic kiosks or inserted in another slot machine.

The resulting marketing illusion has been a psychological triumph for casinos — now, when you put a $20 bill in a penny slot machine, the screen will show 2,000 “credits” (or in a $1 slot machine, for example, you’d see 20 credits).

At the same time, slot machines have multiplied the number of lines you can play. You can still find a one-line quarter reel machine. But when it comes to video slots, you’re more likely to see 50-line or even 100-line machines. That’s particularly true for the penny and half-penny machines (50 lines for 25 cents, for example). And of course, you’re welcome to bet more than one “credit” per line.

The end result of all this is that the innocent-sounding “penny bet” now can sometimes be as much as 1,500 credits a spin — which, psychologically, doesn’t sound half as expensive as “$15 a spin.”

So, be forewarned.

But, experts will tell you, the survival trick for casino patrons is setting a gambling — ahem, an “entertainment” — budget you’re comfortable with spending (that is, often losing) and when you’re money’s gone, you stop.

In the process, though, win or lose, you can find fun in trying some of the games — slot machine manufacturers have seen to that.

Here’s a small sample of what movie and TV fans may find on the ever-changing slot floors of casinos throughout the nation:

• One of the newest is the Batman slots — including “The Dark Knight,” another “community event” shared-bonus game. (You’ll also note that gaming manufacturers in many instances have produced slick videos touting the games and all their bells and whistles.)

• Even more awesome is “The Joker’s Heist” stand-alone machine, starring Heath Ledger’s Joker and filled with more Batman scenes.

You’ll note, too, that spinning wheels like the one in “Heist” are a big deal in many games, building excitement as folks wait for the wheel to stop and award their prize.

• And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that one of the most enduring series of slot machines is based on “The Wheel of Fortune” TV game show. “Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle,” for example, is another recent game, this one featuring multiple wheel spins.

Another popular “multiple” is the number of screens.

“Godzilla,” a new high-tech wonder, features two screens, while the “Sex and the City” and “The Hangover” slots feature four screens. Each, of course, requires a separate bet.

Themes aplenty
Theme-wise, there’s something for everybody. Here’s a small sampling:

• Do you like gangster shows? How about “The Godfather” or “The Sopranos”?

• Comedies? You can find “I Love Lucy” slots and “Happy Days” for TV fans and “Airplane” for filmgoers.

• A sci-fi fan? How about multiple versions of “Star Trek,” or “Star Wars” slots, or even “Alien”?

• Or a romance fan? You might like the “Dirty Dancing” slot.

Whatever you do, though, go for the fun — and know when to quit.

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