free play is just what is sounds, chances to play for given to you by the casino for no cost. You can get them through promotions or for signing up for their players club. Those are usually the cheaper $5-$10 ones. The bigger ones $100+ are usually given in a package deal to entice people to come and stay, typically after a person has shown a certain level of play. Free play casino.
I',ve never used anything but paper money, but I beleives some will take all three.
Some casinos give you a little freeplay (say $5-10) for signing up with their players club card. Usually, it gets loaded onto your club card and you can access it at a slot machine (after you',ve entered your PIN). The bigger freeplay amounts are almost always a promotion the casinos send out to players who gamble a nice bit of money in their casino.
Sometimes a casino will run a promotion - Cosmopolitan has the "lose $100 on us" promo. If you lose $100 in a single day, they will load $100 in freeplay on your club card. // it ends Dec of this year. They did it only because this was their grand opening year - casinos do not run this type of promo very often //
Most slot/poker machines take notes or TITOs (ticket-in, ticket-out). Say you cash out $15.25 from a machine, then hit cash out -- the machine will print a bar coded ticket worth that amount. You can then insert the ticket into another machine, or go to a ticket machine and turn it into cash.
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A very few machines still take coins, but most of them are at off-strip casinos and a few downtown casinos -- but you won',t find many even there.
Edited: 3:39 am, November 20, 2011
Anyone can sign up for a card. They are the way casinos track players for comps and other promotions. The cards are free.
Technically, any win is taxable in the US, but a tax form or withholding is required under limited circumstances.
For machine play, the level is a single hit of $1200 or more -- many games have a top prize of $1199. On tables, the win has to be a 300 to one payout AND more than $600 -- so you',ll almost never have an issue at a table game even if you play very high limits.
US citizens just get a tax form to report the winnings. Non-US citizens have 30% tax withheld and will have to file a form to have the tax refunded. Don',t worry about tax withholding unless you are playing machines at the $1 or $5 level.
Edited: 5:08 am, November 20, 2011
I',m a Brit and had a $2000 win. I showed them my passport and they wrote up a 1042-S form and gave me all the winnings. If I did not have my passport they may have kept the tax and then I would need to claim it back somehow. Canadian also do not pay the tax, possibly Aussies too.
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I regularly get offers of free rooms plus $50dollars Freeplay on my Slot Club card. Also the MGM Mlife card clocks up points as I play I can convert these to freeplay. Also Express Comps, I used to part pay my room charges.