It’s probably still true to most people that Sigma Derby Is The Most Popular Game You’ve Never Heard Of in Las Vegas casinos. Fans of the 30-year-old mechanical horse racing game are the loud minority of casinos visitors in Las Vegas.
Sigma Derby is rare. There are only two of these horse racing games in Las Vegas casinos today. You’ll find Sigma Derby on the Vegas Strip at Level Up inside MGM Grand and in downtown Las Vegas at the Vintage Vegas casino inside The D Las Vegas.
Since the two vintage games are over 30 years old, they tend to break down often. The technology is so old that only a few experienced casino technicians know how to fix them. However, when the Sigma Derby game at either casino is operational there’s always a loud and boisterous crowd playing, (often) drinking and cheering.
Sigma Derby is unique because there are no other games like it in the casinos. This coin operated mechanical horse race game that was introduced in 1985. Huge advancements in technology over the years make Sigma Derby feel even older. The horses are guided by magnets and chug back and forth around a race track.
The horses are guided by magnets and chug back and forth around a race track. You wager on the game by choosing the first and second place finishers of each race. There are five horses that comprise a total of 10 different 2-horse combinations to choose from. The odds for each combination are random and shown around the outside of track. The combinations pay a different amount every race.
A major part of the popularity of Sigma Derby is that the minimum wager is only a quarter. You don’t find games in a casino nowadays that cost only $0.25. These games are so old that they still use actual coins.
Moreover, the Sigma Derby machine is the only coin-operated game in either MGM Grand or The D. The wagers can pay out handsomely since the odds for a race can be above 200-1. Since you’re paid in quarters, that’s more than 200 coins clanking out of the machine if you should win the race and wager.
Each game has 10 seats around the racetrack. This gives Sigma Derby a community feeling that you don’t see at many machine operated games. This communal feeling is a large part of why people love Sigma Derby but it’s not the reason that so many love Sigma Derby.
There have been newer versions of horse racing games over the years, but nothing seems to give players the same emotion. Beyond the communal play, there’s something special about Sigma Derby that may never be replicated. That vintage feeling when a player uses actual quarters adds to the fun. The old technology hits a soft spot in the heart of older players that. However, there’s one specific thing that binds all of these ingredients together to make Sigma Derby so popular.
Complimentary drinks are the secret ingredient. Sure, the nostalgia, communal gameplay, and cheap entertainment are fun but the alcohol helps increase each emotion. Not everyone needs the booze, but it amplifies all emotions players feel for the game. It’s also what may help usher the Sigma Derby out of one of the casinos.
When Sigma Derby moved from the main casino floor to the Level Up millennial gaming area at MGM Grand, the older players were perplexed. The majority of Sigma Derby players aren’t millennials. Fans of the game are typically from Generation X or Baby Boomers.
Despite the strange placement, the devoted Sigma Derby fans went into a bar they may normally not visit. At first, it appeared as though MGM Grand stopped offering complimentary drinks for players. There was an uproar and the complimentary drinks returned. This may be what forces Sigma Derby out of the casino.
MGM Resorts, the parent company of MGM Grand, has been looking for ways to cut expenses in the past couple of years. You may remember last year they began an assault on complimentary drinks. MGM Resorts reduced how much alcohol was poured for each drink. They also started to install drink monitoring systems at some bars to limit the complimentary drinks to video poker players. There’s rumor that might extend from the bar to the casino floor later this year.
Sigma Derby is not set up for any of these newfangled systems. The 30-year-old machines have a difficult time standing up to normal wear and tear of being a popular game. Between the low-profit margin of this $0.25 game and constant need for repairs, it would not be very surprising to see Sigma Derby leave MGM Grand altogether soon.
At the same time, moving Sigma Derby into Level Up may be its last chance for survival. If the game tests well with younger customers, there might be a reason to keep it. However, if it continues to break down and not bring the old customers to an area where they may or may not receive complimentary drinks the game may be set off to pasture.
This is just speculation, but if you love Sigma Derby you may want to visit the game at MGM Grand while it’s still around. Once the game leaves MGM Grand, you’ll still be able to play Sigma Derby at The D whenever it’s in working condition. As I write this, the game is down for repairs…again.