Handheld gaming devices might find way into casinos - Monday 28th of November 2005

A whole generation is growing up using cell phones, BlackBerries and playing hand-held computer games.

Come mid-2006, casinos will be able to offer the small devices to allow customers to play the slots, blackjack, craps or baccarat while theyre in lounges, swimming pools or restaurants.

The state Gaming Control Board on Tuesday held its final public hearing on a regulation to allow operation of "mobile gaming systems" in casinos.

"We see an appetite by a generation of people that have grown up using mobile devices," said Joseph M. Asher, managing director of Cantor Gaming, whose company is going to manufacture the mobile devices. "Everybody has a cell phone. People have their BlackBerries. Systems like Nintendo and Xbox -- entire generations have grown up with these things."

Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said the regulation would be ready for full board consideration in January at a meeting in Las Vegas. The commission could give final approval in February or March.

Cantor Gaming has already applied for a state gaming license. After the regulation is adopted, Cantor would submit its system to the Control Board for review to check for security and other issues. If cleared, it would go into a casino for a 60-day or more trial period, after which it could be licensed.

"Each system will have to go through full board and commission scrutiny," Neilander said.

The Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission would establish where the devices could be played.

Michael Wilson, chief counsel for the Control Board, said the devices would not tie into the Internet.

Cantor, which has an office in Las Vegas, now makes the devices for off-track, horseracing bettors in the United Kingdom. Other companies are expected to manufacture the systems to get a foot in the door to what may be an emerging industry.

The 2005 Legislature authorized the use of the devices, and gaming regulators will adopt the rules on how and where they will be used.

Bob Faiss, a Las Vegas lawyer representing Cantor, told Neilander that the company also wants to include nongaming items on the devices such as concierge service. But Neilander said the board was not ready to approve the units with nongaming systems included. He suggested the company manufacture a second device for those services.

The regulation will not prohibit the devices with nongaming uses, but the board wants to see units with gaming only on the first go-around.

Under the proposed method of operation, a player would deposit up-front money or use his credit at a casino to get one of the devices. A customer would have to show a drivers license, passport or other identification before a unit would be issued. The casino would have to make sure the person was 21 or older.

"I certainly think you will see people in various areas of the resort, whether its out by the swimming pool, convention center or shopping area or whatever areas the system will be able to be used, maybe playing a few hands of blackjack," Asher said. "Its about making the gaming experience more convenient."

The regulation would prohibit operation in parking lots, garages and hotel rooms. They could be used only in casinos with nonrestricted licenses with at least 100 slot machines and a table game.

The devices would be taxed the same as a slot machine. Under the present system, a slot machine is assessed $330 a year and then the casino pays 6.75 percent on the casinos gross win, including the money won from slot and table-game gamblers.

The Control Board also held its final public hearing on several other proposed regulations, including one to allow casinos to charge a fee for entry to special events that have gambling.

The 2005 Legislature passed a law allowing casinos to get permission from the board to charge a fee for entrance to the events, but it prohibits barring people based on race, color or creed. The prohibition does not extend to gender.

Wilson explained that the bill originally had a section that would have prevented sex discrimination. But that was eliminated by the lawmakers. He said it would be "inconsistent with legislative intent to bring it back in."

Before a hotel could operate a fee-for-gambling event, it would have to get approval from the Control Board and would have to set up internal controls and provide a diagram of the placement of the slots and games. The board could deny, limit or restrict the license.

Another proposed regulation would tighten the regulations on issuing credit. It would require a person seeking a marker to sign a separate form that he understands the Nevada law on how the debt is collected.

Wilson said the proposed regulation has been reviewed by the check fraud unit in the Clark County district attorneys office.

"It will help in prosecution," he said.

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