Buying a used slot machine in the United States is a lot more complicated than you might think. Not only do you have to locate the gaming machine, but you have to pay for expensive shipping costs. Also, you’ll need to know whether it is illegal or not to own a slot machine in your state. The last thing you need is to have local and state law enforcement show up to confiscate your gaming machine and assess a stiff fine–or worse, threaten a jail sentence.
Where to Buy Gaming Machines Online
Finding a used slot machine vendor online is the easy part. With a minimal amount of research, gaming memorabilia collectors can find countless Internet vendors: a small list includes Slot Machines Unlimited, Slot Machines USA, Old Time Slots, LA Slot Machines Co., Bright’s Antique Slot Machines, San Diego Antique Slot Machines, and Wee Chin Electric Machinery Inc.
EBay Vintage Slot Machines
Those who don’t want to shop at outlets they are not familiar with can try the biggest online markets. While Amazon does not seem to have many casino slot machines for sale, EBay is a gold mine for such transactions.
EBay’s list of used slot machines includes categories like Antique, Bally, Glass, IGT, Jennings, Video, and Vintage. The Antique Coin Slot Machines page contains everything from spare parts for $6 to full antique machines ranging into the thousands of dollars. The Vintage Slot Machines listings include a lot of knick-knack items from the first half of the 20th century. Make sure you understand the size of these items you buy because many tiny replica machines are on sale online. If a machine costs $10, make sure it isn’t a toy.
Besides price and availability of gaming machines, potential buyers should not overlook the gaming laws of their home state. Outside of the 1961 Wire Act, the 1992 PASPA law, and the 2006 UIGEA law, the U.S. federal government allows states to decide most gambling laws. Slot machine collectors do not need to be concerned about national laws against gaming machine ownership, but they do need to be cognizant of state and local gaming laws. Largely, the state gaming laws matter.
For that reason, most of this article focuses on state laws regarding slot machine ownership. All 50 States and the District of Columbia have their own laws on slot machine ownership. You might wonder why states legislators would care, but if a person cannot own a slot machine, they won’t get the temptation to open their own gaming parlor. Also, some lawmakers don’t want people to enjoy the one-armed bandits at home. They would prefer you play the slots at brick-and-mortar casinos, where gamblers pay local businesses and state treasuries to entertain them.
Below, I have categorized the states according to the type of slot machine ownership laws they have passed. This should make it easy to browse and find out whether your state allows you to own the gaming machine of your dreams.
What Isn’t Allowed
Forty-one states allow people to own used slot machines. Only 9 states have a total, 100% ban on buying and selling used slots. Most of the other states have restrictions and conditions placed on the legal purchase of second-owner slot machines, but they have a wide range for what is allowed.
To allow people to browse easier and quickly find shorts list of banned, legal, and restricted sales of slot machines, below I break down the categories. Americans believe in the decentralization of power and the concept of checks and balances, so the United States of America is a patchwork of jurisdictions. Most gambling laws are handled at the state level and state’s rights are often championed by local citizens. That is good for the people of the country because it keeps corrupting power out of a relatively few hands. But it is bad when it comes to trying to understand the gambling laws state-by-state.
States Where Owning Slots Is Illegal
In 9 different U.S. states, it is illegal to own slot machines. Many of the states listed are anti-gambling bastions. Hawaii is one of two states which ban all forms of gambling, along with Utah. It is no surprise to see a comprehensive ban in the Hawaiian Islands. Southern states like Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina tend to enact laws based on socially conservative values, so one should not be surprised to see a ban on private slot machine ownership there. Nebraska is a red state and Wisconsin is currently the home of Gov. Scott Walker, so both lean conservative at the moment, too.
Connecticut is a gambling-friendly state, known for its two massive tribal gaming casinos: Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun. Connecticut might have anti-ownership laws for slot machines to protect their native gambling industry.
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
States Where Owning Slots Is Legal
In the following 12 U.S. states, it is legal to own any type of slot machine. No restriction exists on owning slots at all. As readers can tell from the lists further down the page, restrictions usually exist on the age of the gaming machine. The idea is to allow vintage gaming machine aficionados to own older slots. At the same time, gamblers who want to own the latest, cutting-edge electronic slot machines often cannot make those purchases legally.
The twelve states listed below have no such restrictions. It might not seem strange to see that Nevada has no such restrictions since Las Vegas and Reno are gambling-friendly. What might seem strange is to see Utah, where all gambling is illegal, has no such restrictions. Texas and Arkansas, which hardly are gaming capitals, also have no restrictions. Kentucky, which usually features its horse racing industry over casino gambling, does not ban the ownership of slots.
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Slot Machines Must Be 25 Years Old
Seventeen states have a law which states that slot machines owned by private non-licensed citizens must be 25 years old or older. Note that does not mean the owner has to be 25 or older. It means the gaming machine must be a quarter of a century old. The idea is the machine must be an older make or model, so the collectors of the machine are likely to want vintage slot machines for the sake of nostalgia.
When many of these laws were written, the 25-year rule meant that owners would be collecting mechanical slot machines, instead of the EGMs used in casinos these days. Note that several of the states listed are gaming-heavy states: California, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and the state of Washington. Some simply tend to have liberal laws.
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- Washington (state)
What Is Allowed – Older Machines Can Be Bought
A handful of states also stipulate that a gaming machine must be a certain age, but have arbitrary time frames besides 25 years. Below is a list of seven U.S. states with time stipulations in the laws. Next to each state is the age a gaming machine must be before it can be purchased.
- Florida – 20 Years Old
- Illinois – 20
- Massachusetts – 30 Years Old
- Missouri – 30
- New York – 30
- Georgia – 50 Years Old
- Idaho – 50
Legal to Own – Year Stipulation
Five states and the District of Columbia take a slightly different approach to the states which set a time limitation on slot machine purchases. In the following states, a slot machine has to have been manufactured before a certain year in order to be legal. In most of those cases, the machine has to have been built in the 1940s or 1950s, in the Golden Age of slot machines. In those cases, the people who buy such machines are likely to be collectors of rare items.
In the case of Colorado, a slot machine has to have been produced before 1984 in order to be legally purchased. The early-to-mid 1980s is when slot machines stopped being built with mechanical reels and instead were designed as electronic game boxes with microchips and video screens. Therefore, Colorado gaming law restricts sales to vintage machines with mechanical reels.
- New Jersey – Prior to 1941
- Pennsylvania – Prior to 1941
- Kansas – Prior to 1950
- Washington DC – Prior to 1952
- Vermont – Prior to 1954
- Colorado – Prior to 1984
This should give you a basic understanding of the places you can buy used slot machines online, how much shipping you’ll have to pay to have them delivered, and whether it is legal to own such a fun device in your part of the USA. I recommend that those who live in places where slot machines are illegal should avoid any chance of breaking the law. You don’t want to have to explain how your vintage slot machine collection is not used for profit. Even if you convince the sheriff he doesn’t need to arrest you, he might confiscate your high-priced used slot machine.