APNewsBreak: Gambling regulators OK skill-based slots

Posted October 13

— New Jersey gambling regulators have approved a New York firm to become the first in the United States to deploy skill-based slot machines on casino floors in which payout is determined by the player's ability.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement gave approval late Wednesday night to GameCo, Inc. to deploy its machines at three Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment. The machines could start being installed as soon as Monday at Harrah's, Caesars or Bally's.

The machines, called VGMs, are expected to undergo several weeks of testing, and are expected to usher in a new era of gambling aimed at attracting young people who grew up playing video games.

"With this approval from the DGE, the VGM is officially the first skill-based video game gambling product approved by any U.S. gaming jurisdiction regulator," said Blaine Graboyes, the company's CEO and co-founder.

The company has been in a race with rival firm Gamblit, which last month announced plans to put similar machines in California and Nevada in October, also at Caesars-owned casinos. Other manufacturers working on similar products include IGT and NanoTech Gaming.

The machines are aimed squarely at millennials and those who like playing games on social media networks or on their phones, and who may be less inclined to play traditional push-button slot machines.

Titled "Danger Arena," the games give the player a brief tutorial, make sure the customer knows how to use the controls and that they are working properly, and then presents the customer with a map, or game scenario. This scenario will vary randomly, and constitutes the element of chance or randomness that is the hallmark of traditional slot machines. It is then up to the player to maneuver through the playing field in 45-to-90-second increments.

Each game also includes a secondary random winning opportunity, with a possible instant cash win ranging from $1 to $5,000, Graboyes added, so that even poorly skilled players have a chance at winning, he said.

GameCo plans to deploy three triple-unit carousels at Caesars, two at Harrah's and two at Bally's, with a total of 21 playing stations. It plans to expand them to additional states within the next six months.

The company was licensed in Atlantic City through the Division of Gaming Enforcement's New Jersey First program, which speeds approvals for new gambling products if they are introduced first in the resort town.

"We have been at the forefront of encouraging innovation, and are pleased that the efforts of GameCo and division staff have culminated in this skill-based video game becoming available in Atlantic City before any other jurisdiction in the United States," said David Rebuck, director of the gaming enforcement division.

Gamblit plans to debut its machines at Harrah's Rincon in southern California. After field trials, Caesars Entertainment anticipates putting machines with 125 Gamblit gambling positions into multiple Nevada casinos, and intends to put 100 more positions into additional markets in early 2017.


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