Making arcade-style games fair in casinos

LAS VEGAS — The complicated road to put arcade-style video games in Nevada’s casinos include drafting regulations to ensure players know what they’re getting into at the outset and that rules don’t change mid-game.

But at least one game developer hopes players don’t get weighed down with warnings before they can even bet and that how well they play remains central to potentially winning.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board met for a second time Thursday to develop regulations for the new games anticipated to join the land of chance-based slot machines.

“The notion is one of fairness,” said board chairman A.G. Burnett during Thursday’s meeting.

Among proposed requirements are laying out game rules and outcomes up-front.

Stephen Riesenberger, creative director with NanoTech Gaming which is developing a pinball machine for casino floors, agreed Friday that important how-to instructions are needed up-front, for fairness, as well as the gambling odds the player is up against.

“In our game, we show you the math. This is your chance to win,” he said.

But he reminded regulators at Thursday’s meeting that players often learn as they go along.

He pointed to “Space Invaders.” Players know to shoot down the alien enemies but they may not know the advancing aliens speed up the closer they get, he said.

The nuances are part of playing the game.

“I don’t want to get bogged down with having to explain everything,” he said. “It’s going to be a very fine balance between too little information and too much information.”

Riesenberger’s background is in traditional video games (arcade, console and mobile games) so he also asked regulators to keep language in mind when crafting the rules. Probability could mean one thing for a chance-based slot machine and another for a game reliant on skills.

On Friday, Burnett said the intent of the proposed rules wouldn’t require players read strategy manuals before playing.

“I doubt people playing ‘Call of Duty’ read the manual first. They just start playing,” he said of the first-person shooter game.

But, there has to be enough information disclosed so that his board doesn’t see an uptick in disputes from players feeling cheated.

That’s why regulators are also proposing assurances that the rules can’t change mid-game after a person has placed a bet.

Jim Barbee, chief of the board’s technology division, suggested the example of a dart-throwing game involving five bullseyes. If a player hit the first three, the game wouldn’t be able to shrink the next two because the bettor turned out to be good at hitting bullseyes.

Regulators expect to meet again next month to further discuss the rules.


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