The Sex and the City slot machine, a breakout hit at the new Resorts World Casino in Queens, sits next to a game called Cougarlicious and within earshot of Renoir Riches, which depicts the French painter peering out from under an immaculate pompadour. Gamblers take a seat at one of six chairs and use a touchpad and buttons to play, rather than pull the traditional slot-machine arm. Clip art of cosmos, diamonds, high-heeled shoes, and limos whirls past. Hit the right combination and a short video plays, along with a bonus game.
On a recent evening, not long before midnight, the casino floor, deafening to begin with, echoed with the encouragements of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. The biggest winners this night were a pair of sleekly dressed women—a jewelry designer, Janis Savitt, and her assistant, Cheryl Somar—both visiting from Manhattan. “I came just for this game,” said Savitt. While on business in Las Vegas, she had played a version of the same machine and walked away with $450. “It was more fun than doing work.”
Savitt offered to tutor a novice in the finer points of the game. “It’sa beautiful instrument,” she said. “But you have to play it right.” She and Somar leaned over the shoulder of the newcomer.
“Oh, my,” Somar said, and tugged at the hem of her black jacket. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you are really being a Charlotte.”
“You have to be bold,” Savitt said. “Put in money to make it.”
The novice anxiously clutched his remaining $10, then inserted the money. The reel spun. The machine shimmied and shook. Chris Noth appeared, grinning, above a cascade of zeros.
“A Mr. Big bonus!” Savitt shrieked.
Unlike the slot machines of yore, modern video slots dole out winnings by “units”—100 equals a buck, 1,000 equals ten bucks. Mr. Big—besuited, smug—was worth 2,600 units, or $26. The newcomer reached for the button marked CASH OUT.
Somar sprung forward. “You must continue,” she said. “This is a sign.” She mashed a few buttons. Amid a cloud of puffy pink hearts, a second bonus appeared, this one featuring Sarah Jessica Parker, swanning around a shoe store.
“Hello, lover,” the screen read.
“Hello,” said the novice, out loud.
The screen filled with a row of unmarked shoe boxes.
“Choose carefully,” Somar said.
The novice clamped a hand over his eyes and swung wildly at the screen. “Oh my God,” Savitt said. “Look.”
Everyone looked. The chosen shoe was a winner. The balance clattered up to a hundred bucks. A small crowd gathered around the machine. Savitt elbowed them back. The heart of the novice thumped. There may have been some undignified yelping. (“I was striving for noncommittal, but I was worried I had just bordered on shrill.”—Carrie Bradshaw.)
“Don’t worry,” Somar said. “I’m going to get you through this.” Her eyes were big and kind. (“Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.”—ibid.) The last bonus was Charlotte’s Change of a Dress.
“Oh, Charlotte,” Somar sighed.
This bonus game was a variation on Memory. Uncover enough matching dresses and win a prize, plus whatever multipliers could be mustered along the way. Reader, I was a star. My hands seemed to move on intuition alone. Above us, on a larger video display, the four Sex and the City ladies chatted around a restaurant table. Below the main screen, the points were amassing in piles: 7,500; 9,000.
“It’s over,” Somar said, after a few seconds. “You have to know when to quit.” Still dizzy, I cashed out my $90.
“Let’s go get a stretch limo,” Savitt said.
Somar scoffed. “This isn’t the nineties anymore.”
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