The Kentucky Derby is back today, better than ever. But a racing and casino legend is still going after over thirty years. SIGMA DERBY! Let’s look at Sigma Derby – A Casino Legend.

“I think there’s something beautiful about its simplicity. The fact that you’ve got five horses and you’ve got to pick the first two and you’ve got that rhythmic beat associated with it, there’s just something that’s kind of nice,”

Derek Stevens, Owner of The D, downtown Las Vegas


Would you play a casino game with roughly a 10-20% advantage and only takes quarters – no TITO! Recreational gamblers have done so for years – on Sigma Derby – A Casino Legend. And you can only find it at the D in Downtown Las Vegas.

Sigma Derby - A Casino Legend
And, their off!

Yes, I mean cult favorite. Every time, many Vegas visitors return with one thing on the itinerary – Sigma Derby.

What Is Sigma Derby?

Sigma Derby is an electric mechanical horse race introduced in 1985. Its 37-year history has made it a legend. But don’t wait too long if you haven’t played it; this is the only remaining Sigma Derby machine in the country. Atlantic City was home to one Sigma Derby-type machine called Royal Derby in the Wild Wild West hotel and casino, but that has disappeared.

Of course, it is used for gambling at the D and has Hall of Fame Status. When you can get a seat, you get the feeling of a craps game with its excitement, fun, and camaraderie. Up to ten players can buy in with quarters and place bets on the five horses.

Yes, I said quarters. But, unfortunately, you can’t slide in a $20 bill or cash – only quarters you buy from the change machine or the cashier. (See Marc Meltzer’s advice about hand pays below.)

How Do You Play It?

  • A series of odds ranging from 2-1 to 200-1 are displayed before each race.
  • You have 30 seconds to insert your quarters and place your bets
  • You wager one of 10 possible quinella combinations (two horses placing first and second)
  • Next, you place your bet at one of the ten stations surrounding the toy track.
  • Then you cheer on your chosen ponies as an elaborate series of gears hurtles them around the track for 60 seconds. (This is not mandatory, fun that everyone does it.)
  • You win the corresponding odds if your chosen horses come in first and second.
Sigma Derby - A Casino Legend

Marc Meltzer on Sigma Derby

Marc is a freelance writer and reports on Las Vegas at many media outlets. He documents Sin City with informative and valuable information beyond the usual social media consultant. He says, “Writing about steak, booze, gambling, and Las Vegas is tough, but somebody has to do it.”

Here wrote about Sigma Derby in his article, “Let your quarters ride on Sigma Derby before it’s gone for good.” Here are some quotes from this terrific article about Sigma Derby – A Casino Legend.

Sigma Derby - A Casino Legend
If you like the vintage feel of all those filthy quarters…

“It should be noted that if a horse pays out more than 500 quarters, you’ll receive a hand pay from the casino. If you’re betting a long shot at 200/1 or greater, you might want to risk two or three quarters, so you can get paid in cash if you win. Keep your wager to a quarter if you like the vintage feel of all those filthy quarters.”

“… you’re not playing Sigma Derby because it’s a moneymaker. You’re playing it because you want to play a vintage casino game and yell at the horses while they make their way around the track.”

The fandom around Sigma Derby is infectious. Every time I’ve introduced someone to the game they’ve wanted to go back to the casino to play it again. I’ll always play the game because it’s a hokey good time and it won’t be around forever.

Marc Meltzer,
Sigma Derby - A Casino Legend
It’s not rare to see people standing two or three deep, waiting to play or watch

“The low cost to play Sigma Derby often means that the games are packed with people (who are almost always pounding drinks). As a result, it’s not rare to see people standing two or three deep waiting to play or watch the game on busy nights at The D.”

Summary – Sigma Derby

There’s only one iconic machine named Sigma Derby. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep [it] going,” Stevens promises. “I love that so many people want to come to the second floor of The D just because they want to get their Sigma Derby “fix” in. It’s a great attraction to us, so that’s why the game for us is a little bit more than a game.”

Marc Meltzer sums it up by saying, “Here’s the fun of Sigma Derby: I hate the game, yet I love it.”

Well said, Marc.


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