AG Burnett Supports Senate Bill 9, Which Introduces Skill into Slot Machines
A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, has announced his support of Senate Bill 9, which would allow more games of skill in the casino. Traditionally, games of chance dominate the gaming floor of a casino. In this case, Senate Bill 9 would support all the inclusion of video game technology in Nevada casinos.
Burnett told an interviewer for KNPR’s State of Nevada that the games would involve “elements of skill”. In other words, the games would still be games of chance, but if a player took the time to master certain skills, then the player would improve their chance of winning the game.
Games of Skill in Casino
Certain casino games have a skill element in them already. For instance, a player who takes the time to learn basic strategy improves his or her chance at blackjack. A card counter could gain a legal advantage at blackjack, though casinos watch for such players and blackball them from the casino when they find them. Video poker also has a skill element, because a player can learn which cards to discard and therefore improve chances of winning.
What makes the current bill different is the law changes appear tied to slot machines. The slots traditionally have been pure games of chance, with no element of skill or strategy to them–despite claims by con artists and those who don’t know any better.
Interactive Slot Machines
Slot machine designers have played around with video game concepts, too. For at least ten years, interactive video slots include cut scenes and other artistic elements similar to video arcade games. These stylistic elements tend to appear on the bonus mode of slots play.
The interactive nature of these games is purely chance-based, though. For instance, players can choose one of three prizes, much like one would do on the old game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. But like that old TV show, no clue exists to help a player choose the right answer. It’s totally left to chance.
Keep Them on Slots Row
Not so, if the state of Nevada passes SB 9. The technology has existed for some time, but it’s never been in the interests of game designers to introduce such game elements. Big progressive jackpots and snazzy game features have been enough to lure players to slots row.
At present, though, there is a trend towards less play on the slot machines. Many gamblers now know they can lose more money on slots than any other game (betting at low limits), while they know the house edge is high. So adding an element of skill might keep players on slots row, where up to 70% of all casino revenues are generated.
Las Vegas Strip Winnings
Despite having nearly 45,000 slot machines on the Las Vegas Strip, gaming revenues as a percentage of the casinos’ profits has dipped significantly in the past 25 years. Where once the gaming floor produced 60% to 65% of revenues for a casino, the shows and other attractions now produce more than 50% of the Vegas Strip revenues.
Mr. Burnett believes game designers should look at ways to increase gaming winnings again–thus the impetus for SB 9. He said, “In addition to that, customers can gamble anywhere in the country. The thought here is to bolster the gaming side so new games can come to the floor. To do that the old-style gaming is going to have to make way for some new ideas.”
Six Months Needed to Introduce Them
A.G. Burnett says Senate Bill 9 would facilitate the production of such games, if casino owners and game designers agree that’s a good business idea. Burnett said, “The bill encourages regulators…to take a look at new modes of gaming, including adding certain elements of skill to our already chance-based games.”
Chairman Burnett said players would need to wait a while, even if such a law was passed. According to the Gaming Control Board chairman, game designers would need about 6 months to introduce such games into casinos.
Those who grew up in the 1980s have an idea what skill elements in a slot machine might involve. For most players, the game would be a little to hard to master. But a few players would master the skill needed and show off their talents while other players stand and marveled. Of course, no slot machine is likely to include so much leeway that the house edge would be ruined, but I imagine writing how-to posts for “optimal play slot machines”, much like you see for blackjack and video poker.
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