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

Only the take at the former Sands Casino Hotel topped $17,000 worth of coins that fell under or around slot machines over the past three decades.

The casino was closed last November and will be torn down later this year to make way for a new gambling hall. So when workers began removing the 2,350 slot machines for use at other casinos owned by the Sands' parent company, they expected to find some stray cash.

Just how much, however, was a surprise. It was $17,193.34, to be exact.

"We never expected this much," said Carmen Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Pinnacle Atlantic City. "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 even 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, which had not been moved in the 26 years that the Sands operated in Atlantic City.

It took four men to lift up some of the machines to check underneath them. In-house workers made guesses about how much would ultimately be recovered, but most were wildly short.

"A lot were for less than $8,000," Gonzalez said. "Mine was $4,900. You just never thought it would go as high as it did."

Workers even found money under the carpet.

"Some of the coins we had to pry up," she 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 machines are bound for other Pinnacle casinos in Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Missouri and Argentina. They were moved out in late February and early March, but the tally of found money was only recently finalized.

The non-gambling contents of the Sands will be sold off next month, and the building is to be demolished, probably with a huge controlled implosion, in the fall.