Saturday, December 22, 2007

Slot Machine Hygiene -- Cold and Flu Season Hits the Casino

Well, I didn't get a flu shot this year . . . and I've picked up my first virus of the season. It's not so bad, really . . . just a sore throat resulting in a whiskey tenor. Do I think I picked it up from a slot machine? Absolutely.

You see, casinos are a veritable hot bed of infection. Certainly you've heard the stories of the germs lurking in hotel rooms, and the nasty Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. I bet you've even been grossed out at the Buffet, especially on king crab night, watching people lick their gluttonous chops and fingers and then return again and again to handle the serving tools. How often do you ponder the cleanliness of your slot machine? If you're like me, often.

I'm a pretty consistent hand washer to begin with, not compulsive, but thorough. I probably wash my hands five to ten times a day, depending on what I'm doing, and where I've been. Granted I'm not phobic like Howard Hughes, just cautious.

In the summer I developed a mysterious rash in the webs of my fingers, and palms of my hands. It was barely noticeable, but present none the same, and I had no idea what it could be. One evening I was watching the news, and a short story grabbed my attention. An outbreak of SCABIES was being linked to more International travelers in casinos, and the popularity of slot machines! I never found an internet link to this story, but as I live alone with little or no contact with other people, I believed my slot habit to be the culprit.

I began to really ponder slot machine hygiene, and began to look for way to disinfect the surfaces I touched so frequently.

I thought about the towelettes that used to be so prevelant when slot machines coughed out real coins. They could be found here and there, and I found the company that makes them online. Mostly now, you will find the generic looking "Winners" towelettes made by Sanfacon Mills -- but back in the day every casino had customized designs. It's not really clear what is in the towelette to combat germs, although some appear to have alcohol as an ingredient.

I waited for the Global Gaming Expo to find a suitable product, and I wasn't disappointed. A company named Germstar appears to have a system that would work well on the casino floor. The representative told me that mostly they are being used in the back of the house and are finding their way into the dealer pits, but casinos have been reluctant to make them available to the players. The active ingredient is rubbing alcohol, and I was given a couple of sample bottles of the citrus scented spray.

I began to look around casinos in Vegas and did spot a few of the units in place in the pits. I also found a couple in the Women's bathroom in the Star Trek casino at the Hilton.

I must admit, I have not been carrying around my spray bottle in my purse, falling on my old habits. I suppose I feel my hand washing is enough, after all, I do visit the restrooms at least once or twice in a slot session and wash up thoroughly there.

I do wonder how effective the folks that clean the slots are, with their rags and such. Do they wipe down the slots with a different rag than the area between them? Are they really just spreading more germs around? I've never really watched the process close enough to guess.

The good news is my scabies cleared up, and in time my cold will too. But if you ever meet me, and refrain from shaking my hand, I completely understand.

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