If you fly around the United States at all, you can’t help but notice that McCarran International airport – Las Vegas’ only large commercial carrier installation – is nicer than most. Clean, well-heeled,  and with plenty of jazzy shops to spend your money in, McCarran sets the tone for the Las Vegas experience: “Hi, we’re gosh-darned friendly and pretty and colorful. Come on over and set a spell, won’t you?” it seems to beckon.

Airport Slots

And while other swank, big-city airports may also boast nice eateries and upscale retail establishments, no other airport in the U.S. has what McCarran has: slot machines at every turn. (Chicago’s O’Hare is considering getting some, but the possibility has not met with a warm reception from either voters or legislators overall).  And for McCarran’s prolific array of slot machines wherever you look, you can thank one man:  Michael Gaughan.

Gaughan – who sold his healthy interest in all his Coast Casinos back in 2004 to Boyd Gaming for $1.3 billion, then bought back the South Coast (now South Point) Casino in 2006 from Boyd for below his build price of $600 million – is clearly a savvy businessman. This week, the Clark County Commission approved without comment giving Gaughan a 70 percent rent credit so he can upgrade all his admittedly slightly dated slot machines there.

Slots Support McCarran

Gaughan’s current concession garners McCarran 86.5 percent of the net revenues brought in by the airport slots, which is a nice chunk of change; so nice, in fact, that Gaughan’s machines make him the single largest contributor to McCarran’s overall budget after the airlines themselves. For fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, McCarran collected slot revenue gaming fees that totaled $25.7 million, a significant amount of the airport’s $355.4 million in total operating revenues.

The new rent credit was determined to be 70 percent of the monthly lease  or purchase cost for the new hardware Gaughan will be getting for his capital improvements at McCarran.

Now that you know, next time you fly in or out and drop some change at a McCarran slot machine, you can tell yourself you are just helping with airport upkeep.