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Gambling News by Gambling Headquarters

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Nevada Gaming Commission: Wireless OK, But Which Way?

 

Rules governing the use of wireless hand-held gaming devices in casinos, after laboring for two years of through the state's legislative and regulatory processes, were adopted Thursday by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

But what form the technology will take is still to be determined.

Conceivably, the gaming commission's unanimous approval gave casino patrons the right to place wagers on hands of blackjack or spins of a roulette wheel from poolside or while waiting in line for the buffet using a device similar to a personal digital assistant.

While technology company representatives, their legal advisers and gaming regulators applauded the end of the regulation drafting process, all agreed more work lies ahead before the first bet is placed.

"It's the beginning of something, but I'm not really sure what that something is," Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said. "Over time, we'll see technology introduced that will become a system that is exciting for the public, while at the same time, meets our concerns as well."

Bernhard said an influx of casino patrons raised on technology might find interest in mobile gaming.

Longtime gaming attorney Bob Faiss said the approval marked the beginning of another evolution in the gaming industry.

The matter was one of almost two dozen new gaming regulations approved Thursday, but none of the other changes attracted as much interest as mobile gaming. Regulators commented that New Jersey was also beginning to consider enacting wireless gaming laws.

The hand-held gaming software will include firewalls so the devices can't be used outside of public areas, such as hotel rooms, or outside the boundaries of a particular hotel-casino. Also, safeguards will be used to ensure the devices can't be used by minors.

During the next few months, gaming and technology companies are expected to begin submitting proposed wireless gaming products to the Gaming Control Board for testing.

"We're looking forward to the next step in the process, and it's a process that will go on over a period of months," said Joe Asher, managing director of Cantor Gaming, an affiliate of New York-based financial services company Cantor Fitzgerald.

"It will be up to the Gaming Control Board to determine when they are satisfied with the technology," Asher said. "They will need to get comfortable with the technology."

Cantor Gaming made the initial approach to state lawmakers in 2003 for mobile gaming, lobbying during the session for approval of wireless and hand-held gaming laws. The company believed the technology behind the wireless hand-held devices used by bond and securities traders could be adapted for use in casinos.

"Mobile gaming is the next step of gambling technology because it allows the patron to gamble when he or she wants in the appropriate areas of the casino," Asher said. "There is an entire generation that has grown up with mobile devices. People like to do what they want on their own terms. That's what mobile gaming allows."

For a time, Cantor Gaming was the only hand-held gaming player on the scene. But in the last year, as the regulations were debated, other companies began to step forward. Shuffle Master and Progressive Gaming International Corp. are two Nevada licensees that are planning to submit wireless, hand-held gaming devices for testing.

"We were the ones who started the process, but we always expected others would join the party," Asher said. "The gaming industry is a very mature and competitive environment and we're comfortable where we stand."

Asher said Cantor Gaming has applied for a Nevada gaming license to distribute the devices to casinos. After the products have been investigated, field testing inside casinos would be the next step.

"There has been a high level of interest by the casinos that's only going to intensify after today," Asher said.

Like Cantor Gaming, Diamond I Technologies has filed paperwork for gaming licensing.

"We've got the equipment and the software and we're about 80 percent there," said company President David Loflin, who said he has agreements with some casinos that would be outfitted with the hand-held games.

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