Back in the 1950s and '60s, when Sinatra, Dolly Parton and Guy Lombardo performed at places such as the Stardust, the Wigwam and the Waldorf, Roberts was the guy who knew and nursed slot machines.
Nowadays, at the age of 75 he is still on it, in retirement at home in Waldorf. His house is a showcase of vintage slot machines, each lovely restored by one of the last craftsmen who can recreate the sweet whirrs of the three cherries spinning, and that special moment when a coin shower falls on a player’s hands.
At Roberts’s time, slots meant an interesting way of gaining money, fun and jobs and it was an economic boon to a place that had previously struggled to get by on tobacco and wheat.
At home, Roberts has restored the Bursting Cherry, the Rol-A-Top, the High Top and other classic machines that collected gamblers’ coins until the state banned slots in 1968. If you pull the lever just right, you can be sure of winning a $7.50 jackpot.