Sandoval signs bill allowing for skill in slot machines

A man operates a joystick for a skill-based bonus game on an IGT slot machine during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) at the Sands Expo Center on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office today announced that he signed legislation paving the way for the state gaming industry to introduce skill into slot machines.

Senate Bill 9, first reported by the Sun in February, directs Nevada gaming regulators to adopt rules promoting “innovative, alternative and advanced technology” in casino equipment. And it provides a pathway for a new skill element in slot machines, essentially allowing them to play more like video games.

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval

The idea is that the bill will enable casinos to appeal better to younger customers who are increasingly hesitant to embrace simple, chance-heavy traditional slot machines. The move has been supported by gaming regulators, representatives of casinos and equipment manufacturers and, now, the entire state government.

Sandoval’s office noted in a statement that skill-based games “may be appealing to a new generation of visitors.”

“In order for our state to sustain its edge in an increasingly competitive gaming industry, we must continue to expand, evolve, and embrace the potentials found in the 21st century,” Sandoval said in the statement. “This bill allows gaming manufacturers to use cutting-edge technology to meet the challenges prompted by a younger, more technologically engaged visitor demographic.”

The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, the bill’s leading advocate, detailed how the bill might work in practice after it unanimously passed the Legislature earlier in the session.

A machine’s 88 percent payback for all gamblers could jump to 98 percent “if you’re particularly skilled at shooting down enemy planes in the bonus round or outracing your friends in a road rally,” the association said.

For operators, the overall payback would rest somewhere between the two payback percentages, according to the statement.

Advocates say the bill will transform the casino industry.

“I believe we will look back on the passage of SB9 as a monumental moment for the gaming industry and its overall evolution,” association Executive Director Marcus Prater said in the statement. “The slot floor will not transform overnight, but this will allow our industry to capitalize on radical new gaming concepts and technologies and give AGEM members the ability to unleash a new level of creativity for their casino customers.”

The bill’s passage also won praise from the Washington, D.C.-based American Gaming Association. Its president, Geoff Freeman, said in a statement that the bill “will allow for innovation among gaming equipment manufacturers and suppliers and help gaming reach a key customer demographic.”

Freeman urged states across the country to follow suit.

It will now be up to Nevada’s two oversight bodies, the Gaming Control Board and the Gaming Commission, to adopt regulations putting the bill’s ideas into place.