Big Haul at Little Vegas

slotsIf you thought gambling wasn’t allowed where you live think again. In nearly every town, a small children’s casino is operating under the disguise of a pizza parlor.

At the pleading and begging request of a cute little five year old, my teen girl and I took her to this seemingly innocent place armed with a coupon for free tokens.

After ordering, we sat at a booth waiting for our pizza of questionable quality to arrive, and I attempted to figure out where things went wrong at the cash register…I had a coupon! Three drinks, 2 salads, one pizza and 125 shiny tokens for the cost of a kidney transplant. Visions of a nice Japanese restaurant that we could have enjoyed for the same price where quickly erased by the cling-cling from the cup of coins being shaken in front of my face.

“Let’s go play some games!” I barely heard the words over the the mix of carnival and casino sounds from the game area. You guessed it right. We are at Chuck E. Cheese.

Back in the days when my older two were little, this place had actual arcade games. They have been replaced with what boils down to slot machines for kids. Each game is a random chance to win a random amount of tickets so you can cash in on BIG PRIZES on the way out.

I sighed and pictured us spending the next two hours trying to use up all 125 coins which would allow us to escape out of here. This place ranks just above the OB-GYN office on my list…just barely.

After losing five coins in her haste at the toss a coin in the dragon’s mouth game, little one was happy to see my teen bouncing enthusiastically from around the machine with a fist full of tickets. “Look what I got in less than 2 minutes!”

If you think you may have a gambling problem,
Come to ChuckECheese. We have coupons!

There it was…the machine with the ridiculous 25 ticket payout…The SpongeBob machine.

Talking little one into playing this took no effort at all. In less than one minute she had a hand full of tickets. It is like playing the slots only you don’t even have to waste time pushing a button or pulling a lever. Just drop the coin in. One by one we crammed them in as fast as we could as tickets continuously sputtered out.

Nervously aware of our deliberate exploitation of this machine, I anxiously kept an eye out for Bubba the casino bouncer who was sure to knock us off the machine. Two elderly ladies walked by talking about how it was just like playing slots. Hey that’s what I said!

At speeds of over 100 tickets per minute we worked the machine in a caffeine induced frenzy. Like gluttons we stood there with tickets spilling out of our hands while seeing others walk by with only a few tickets. Surely this is going to be in the record books…the day Chuck E Cheese was cleaned out.

Suddenly we realized we were down to 3 coins. EEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR Brakes on! What?!

We blew through the entire cupful in less than three minutes. A sure sign that we don’t have any business being in Vegas.

Feeding the tickets into the counter we watched the count keep going…100…200….300. Whoa! A whopping 347 tickets!! Surely that is enough for a stuffed animal or model kit that are on the top shelves…you know the fancy ones that are worth almost 5 real dollars. After explaining to 2 girls with gleaming-gambling eyes that I didn’t have any cash to purchase more tokens…are you kidding!…we ventured up to the toy area. With so much awesome stuff to choose from, this process took a painful ten minutes.

What does 347 tickets get you?

I’m glad you asked. Feast your eyes on these wonderful prizes that I believe are available at the Dollar Store 10 for a $1. I’ll make the picture bigger so you can see it in all its grandness and I can get my money’s worth out of it.

You can’t Outgame the Mouse

As much as we thought we had outsmarted the machines, we still lose.
Dinner $15 value
Drinks $5 value (I’m being generous here)
Tokens $3 I’m just guessing it was $3 worth of fun…$1 a minute
Prizes $2

Actual Cost $54 <- Mouse wins Happy little girl with a plastic it is actually $54...I know I'm so not over it yet. Learning you may have a gambling problem...priceless...that probably saved me a few hundred. Planning another trip soon? Not on your life.


  1. Marianne - The Sister... says:

    LOL Are you sure they weren’t bought out by one of the big Casino chains…training up the new generations, so they’ll visit the real casino’s when they grow up? Not planning a visit there anytime either.

  2. Melinda, I remember the Skee-Ball ticket-eject-o-matic. Little did we old-timers know we were being primed for a vicious cycle of Lottery tickets, Slot machines and Starbux.

    We must break this tyrannical grip, slay the rodent and his insidious henchpersons.

    Besides, their pizza sucks.



    P.S. Love the purple spider thingie, though. Does it slither down the window when thrown? (Not that I would let baby girl see you doing THAT! She might experiment with rubbery spheres of a denser quality. Oops!)
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    • Skee-ball. I couldn’t remember the name. We did play that a few times first. That’s still there. I think that thing is too big to get rid of it. It pays terribly in tickets thought. None of the loot does the cool walk down a glass door. Rip off!! 🙂

  3. Sucker! lol Actually, I’ve only been to Chuck E. Cheese 3 times, and twice it cost me a lot of money to entertain the kids. One time, my first, was when I was 19 and Chuck E Cheese had just come into the area and I went with some friends because it was pizza, not knowing it was supposed to be for kids. Man, I’m glad we didn’t have smartphones back then, that’s all I’ll say. But in general I feel the place is a money pit and that probably get better options at local carnivals.

    Then again, I think the pizza is better at Chuck E. Cheese; I might have to find a kid and go again some decade.
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  4. No one beats the house. So what I’m picturing here is row after row of kids, feverishly plugging in coins hoping to hit that jackpot. It’s just like the local “real” casino, where row after row of elderly, blue-haired seniors are feverishly plugging in coins hoping to hit that jackpot.

    From the cradle to the grave! The casinos have it all figured out.

    I think Chuck E. Cheese was actually a mob enforcer from back in the day. It’s the only thing that makes sense. You might have to consider yourself lucky you got out with only a $54 loss. A little longer and you probably would have had to sign over your house! lol…
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    • Lol great theory. I’m starting to wonder if the two elderly ladies weren’t just there for a slot fix while they wait for a Vegas trip. It all seems so clear now that it is training the next generation of gamblers.

  5. Chuck E. Cheese is a great way to spend all your money!Lol! A happy kid is equal to a well spend $25 . Great bonding story with kids! And I also love the little jelly creature for prizes! 🙂
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  6. I haven’t been to Chuck E Cheese in ages. I didn’t really miss it. Their rubbery, microwavish pizza is almost torturous combined with the whole token obtaining and deciding process. The least they could do is offer a buffet, don’t you think? Especially since you can never actually cash in all of your tickets & they just hang around the house taunting the kids to take them back for more! Your loot had me in hysterics! Wooo hoooo! Jackpot, baby! You forgot to calculate the A+ blog post you got from the event. I’m not so sure the mouse has such a big advantage 😉
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    • My daughter found 2 tokens in her pocket when we got home. She swears she didn’t know about them so now I think they have reverse pickpocketing going on to make sure a coin makes it home. Genius. Yea I guess the extra $ was worth a post.

  7. As a former (riverboat) casino employee I get a constriction around my heart at the thought of children being taught the same hard lessons adults were by my employer. Thankfully you were not duped. You did the math and a fistfull of tickets did not send you off on a frothy frenzy to buy more tokens. Well done, Melinda.
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  8. You have a new reader Melinda – tonight instead of bedtime stories, my three year old son wanted to look at the computer – not mine, but my wife’s – she opened her email and I noticed she had 9,000,026 unread messages from today -what are the odds that my son would pointed directly to your message and when it was opened, he laughed at the slots picture of what he is repeatably calling “washing machines.”

    don’t be surprised if he starts to follow you on twitter!
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    • Lol!! They could be washing machines. Well he’s officially my cutest reader. I hope he doesn’t have nightmares or decide he wants to see what that place is all about. Little ones on Twitter would be bring new meaning to “Lil Pumpkin just checked in at his crib via Foursquare”.

    • Whoa I just realized one in 9 million is like hitting the jackpot.

  9. I never thought of them like gambling machines! I wasted a few hours in a similar place with my nephew when he was a lot younger (now 19), except there was no food, just pounding music and machines honking and clattering away! And I agree – when you see the fistful of tickets you think, whoo hoo, this is enough to get a small car surely? But noooooooo, just some worthless plastic toys that last 3 nano seconds then fall to pieces. This post brought back some memories and gave me a giggle.
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  10. You know what?? YOU ARE SO RIGHT! I had never really drawn the parallels between CEC & Vegas, but you are so, so right. Yuck, Chuck!
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  11. Hundred bucks says those toys are already lost.

    I actually think Chuck E. Fleece will be thrilled by this post. You gave such a generous value to their dinner, drinks, and toys.

    Let me share with you their estimated costs:

    Dinner $1.50
    Drinks $.75
    Tokens $0
    Prizes $.12
    TOTAL $2.37

    Amount legally fleeced: $54 <- Mouse laughs all the way to the bank
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  12. I cant help but laugh, back when i got my first job it was at an arcade in Australia. No food or drinks just an arcade but over half the games were those that dispense tickets. The ticket value was about 5c with each game costing a dollar per play, if the little tot did not have quite enough tickets to buy the toy then parents could supplement the ticket difference with cash. On a good run most games would dispense 10 tickets, normally 2-3 though. The interesting thing is that when the ticket values were set for the prizes it was more like 2c = 1 ticket. The place made a lot of money, especially with a few young minimum wage staff to run the place.

  13. More than anything, for me, it was the noise — the hideous carnival sounds coming out of those machines, screaming kids, wailing babies, tokens dropping into slots. It was like a nervous breakdown with prizes. I had a lot more fun reading about your experience.
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