Gaming Commission approves regulations for skill-based 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.

Nevada’s foray into skill-based slot machines took a big step forward today when state regulators gave final approval to the rules that will govern the new games.

The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved a set of regulations previously crafted by the Gaming Control Board over the course of multiple public meetings. The entire process was kicked into motion earlier this year when the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 9, which directed regulators to adopt rules promoting “innovative, alternative and advanced technology” in casino games.

The regulations create three distinct game categories: traditional chance-based games, skill games, where a player’s abilities largely govern the outcome, and hybrid games, where a combination of skill and chance affect the result.

They permit the pay tables of games to vary depending on a player’s skill level and allow for group play of such games, among other changes.

By allowing skill into slot machines, which have long been dominated by randomness, regulators and industry leaders hope to appeal to younger customers who may visit casinos but aren’t attracted to the traditional game format.

The idea is to make slot machines more like the arcade and video games Millennials have grown up playing and bring more technological advancements to the casino floor.

The regulation changes have been championed by the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, which represents slot machine companies.

“With these games, a player’s dexterity in driving a racecar, their strategic ability in military game or their knowledge of movie trivia will be the subject of gaming play,” said attorney Dan Reaser, who represented the manufacturers’ group. “It may be several people on a machine or several machines that are linked together. It will be a more dynamic and social event.”

Limits are imposed on the new games as well.

Once a customer begins playing an individual game, for example, the device can’t suddenly change the rules of play or “the probability and award of a game outcome.” And games can’t depict content that is obscene or offensive on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.

Commission Chairman Tony Alamo praised the industry’s step toward skill-based slots, evoking his time playing arcade games growing up.

“It really touched a personal note for me,” he said of the skill regulations. “I grew up with these games.”

Commissioner Randolph Townsend, a former state legislator, lauded the process as a good example of private sector gaming licensees identifying a demand from their customers, then pushing for the changes necessary to meet that need.

“While there is still a demand for an older component, there is a growing demand for something new,” Townsend said.

More work remains before skill-based slots roll out on casino floors, including the finalization of technical standards, which will dive even more into the technological details of how such games will function.

But the regulations passed today put much of the framework in place — just in time for the annual Global Gaming Expo, where slot machine companies will showcase their newest games in two weeks.


J.D. Morris can be reached at 702-990-7714 or [email protected]. Follow J.D. on Twitter at