updated 4/4/2007 6:46:42 PM ET 2007-04-04T22:46:42

Construction workers preparing to tear down an Atlantic City casino found more than $17,000 worth of coins that had fallen under or around slot machines over the past three decades, spokespeople said Wednesday.

It’s the casino equivalent of reaching under your couch cushions and finding a buck or so in loose change.

The Sands Casino Hotel was closed last November and will be torn down later this year to make way for a new gambling hall. The 2,350 machines had not been moved in the 26 years the Sands operated in Atlantic City, so workers removing them expected to find some stray cash.

Just how much, however, was a surprise.

“We never expected this much,” said Carmen Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Pinnacle Atlantic City, of the $17,193.34. “It was just shocking.”

The money belongs to Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., the Las Vegas company that purchased the Sands last year. New Jersey gets 8 percent of the money in taxes — the same as it would had the money been won from gamblers.

The money was coins, casino tokens and a $100 bill.

Some had rolled into small spaces between machines, but most of it was found underneath them. The older-style machines contained buckets inside to hold coins that were deposited, and when they overflowed, sometimes coins rolled underneath the machines.

Workers even found money under the carpet.

“Some of the coins we had to pry up,” Gonzalez said. “They were stuck to the floor, they had been there so long. They were real gunky and dirty, and had become like part of the cement. We had to dig them out of the floor with a knife.”

The Sands is to be demolished, probably by a controlled implosion, in the fall.

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