ATLANTIC CITY — The casino that boasts a Gold Rush theme is offering modern-day prospectors a chance to pick up some real gold and silver.
No, they don’t have to pan for it in a remote mountain stream, descend deep into some dark, dank mines or rob Fort Knox.
But they will need some cash to make purchases from Atlantic City’s newest novelty, a “Gold to Go” machine. The machine made its glitzy debut at Golden Nugget Atlantic City on April 26, when the casino staged a grand opening ceremony to celebrate the completion of its $150 million renovation project.
Loosely resembling a gigantic gold bar, the machine acts like an ATM — but it dispenses gold and silver coins and trinkets instead of cash. Inscribed on the side of the machine are the words “The gold ATM.” It is located in Golden Nugget’s atrium, just off the casino floor.
This is the first such machine on the East Coast and only the second one in North America, said Brian Kendrella, director of operations for Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a precious metals dealer and operator of the machine.
“It is absolutely something that catches your attention,” Kendrella said.
The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, sister property to the Atlantic City casino, has the country’s other “Gold to Go” machine. Sales have been brisk in Vegas.
“It’s neat. We sell so much gold that I’m shocked. It’s just weird,” Tilman Fertitta, the Houston billionaire who owns the Golden Nugget casinos, said of the public’s fascination with the machine.
The gimmickry of “Gold to Go” seems to be stirring interest in Atlantic City, too.
Kendrella said customers immediately began asking about the machine when it was being installed. Even more excitement followed when it was formally unveiled during Golden Nugget’s grand opening ceremony, he added.
“Sales are going pretty good now,” he said. “We’ve seen a number of transactions and a number of people who are interested.”
Currently, the machine accepts only cash, but there are plans to also offer credit card purchases in the future. Kendrella said the cash-only sales requirement may be discouraging customers from making big-ticket purchases. For instance, a one ounce gold bar was selling for $1,853 on Thursday.
“We’ve sold more of the less-expensive items instead of the full ounce of gold,” Kendrella said. “I don’t think people necessarily have that kind of cash in their pocket, even though they are walking around the casino.”
The machine spits out silver and gold pieces ranging from five grams to one ounce. It is linked by computer to the precious metals market, so prices are updated every 60 seconds.
As of Thursday, the cheapest item was a $39 Liberty silver coin weighing one ounce. The priciest item was a one-ounce gold Eagle coin costing $1,910.
Although rather expensive in some cases, the coins and small “bars” of gold are more of a souvenir item or gift than a full-blown investment in precious metals. They drop out of the machine neatly packaged in a small, decorative black box.
Mark Ebert, of Mays Landing, a waiter at Golden Nugget’s Grotto restaurant, ventured over to take a look. He thought of making a purchase for his girlfriend’s three young children.
“I wasn’t sure if this was real. I wanted to see what it was,” Ebert said.
A few minutes later, Ebert inserted $42 into the machine to buy a silver Eagle coin. He smiled as he broke open the sealed box and checked out his gleaming goods.
Bill Kranyak, a Golden Nugget customer from Chester, Pa., said he already has a gold and silver collection and may use the “Gold to Go” machine to add to it.
“It’s very unique. I think it’s a great idea,” Kranyak said of the novelty for customers. “Gold is a great hedge against inflation. You could always leave it to your kids or pass it on to your grandchildren.”
If customers want to see even more gold, they need only stroll down the Golden Nugget’s retail corridor, a short walk from the atrium, to marvel at another glittery attraction — the world’s largest gold nugget. Dubbed the “Hand of Faith,” the nugget weighs nearly 62 pounds and is valued at more than $5 million. It was delivered to the Golden Nugget on April 26 under the protection of armed guards and is on public view in a super-secure display case.
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