Thursday, Nov. 2, 2000 | 5:01 a.m.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Sweating your losses? In casinos, almost everyone does.
But that may no longer be a bad thing, thanks to "Pedal 'n Play" slot machines.
The machines, which debuted last week at Tropicana Casino Resort, marry traditional 25-cent slot machines with stationary bicycles, creating a bizarre hybrid that's a sure bet for fitness-crazed gamblers and athletes seeking indoor action.
Equipped with a small monitor, the machines keep track of the calories you've burned and the time you've spent pedaling while pumping quarters in.
They have handlebars equipped with buttons that let gamblers control the amount bet and spin the wheels without ever touching the slot machine part of the apparatus.
They even have cup holders, so there's a place to put your quarters.
The pedaling only works if you're playing the slot machine.
The machines are the brainchild of Kathy Harris, a mother of four from Fairfax, Va., who found herself walking out of the Tropicana's casino one day so she could go get some exercise in its spa.
"I was riding the bike, thinking 'Where's the slot machine?' This is a casino. It didn't seem right. I thought, 'They should have slots attached to a bike.' So I said 'I'm going to invent a bike that's married to a slot machine. And I did."
That was 2 1/2 years ago.
Harris founded Fitness Gaming Corp., installed herself as president and developed a companion machine called the Money Mill, which is a slot machine equipped with a treadmill. She hit the road, trying to sell her ideas to casinos and government regulators.
So far, the Pedal 'n Play machines have been used only on cruise ships. The 10 that have been installed at Tropicana are the first ones at any land-based United States casino.
"It's a form of exercise and gaming all in one," said George Mancuso, vice president of slot operations for Tropicana. "We're hoping some people will walk away (from playing the machine) a little more satisfied."
Tropicana plans to install new signs and may staff the area with an employee who will serve as personal trainer/slot attendant, he said.
"It's another niche. We don't know how far it's going to go," Mancuso said.
If the slot crowd at Tropicana on Thursday morning was any indication, the idea might need some selling.
"This is for kids, I got news for you," said Rose Rappa, 64, of Tallman, N.Y., trying one for the first time. She quit after five minutes. "The exercise was good, my heart rate was good, but the machine's a big loser."
George Longauer, 47, of Conneaut, Ohio, gave one a try, too. He gambled $10, won nothing and pronounced it "a good gimmick."
"My legs are tired. The thing is, you pedal faster thinking you're helping the (slot) machine. Just wait until somebody dies on it, though," he said.
Casino officials have thought of that.
"There are some concerns, but that company (Fitness Gaming) has insurance as well as we do," Mancuso said. "Hopefully, people will use good common sense and get a reasonable amount of exercise."
Said inventor Harris: "I look at it like this: You're killing two birds with one stone. Even if you lose at gambling, you walk away a winner."