Las Vegas – When it comes to gambling in Las Vegas, nothing is guaranteed. Except for this: a new video poker machine ensures a certain amount of playing time, no matter how bad your luck.
The video poker slot machine is called „Guaranteed Play.“ It was conceived not in the back room of a casino or at a slot machine laboratory, but at inventor Jay Walker’s office in Stamford, Conn.
The device, which is expected to be offered in Las Vegas casinos within six months, allows players to buy a certain number of video poker hands up front for a set price.
For example, Walker’s games can offer 150 hands of „Jacks or Better“ for USD 20 and 400 hands for $ 40. Those hands could take 20 minutes to an hour to play. Games offer more or less hands for the money based on the type of video poker game and the odds that apply to that game.
The gambler should assume that he will lose his money — but that he will have enjoyed playing a guaranteed number of games in the meantime.
„At the movies you know you’re getting about an hour and a half plus some popcorn,“ Walker said. „You don’t have that in a casino. We can assure customers that even before they leave their house, they know they’re going to be on a game for a while.“
The idea of paying for gambling the way consumers pay for dinner and a movie seems to remove the ancient allure of gambling, which involves taking risks and shedding inhibitions.
Not so, according to Walker.
„Human behavior is not rocket science,“ Walker said. „Consumers like packages. They like a bargain.“
Many players are casual gamblers who throw a few bucks into a machine because they happen to be walking through a casino, he said. Other players are intimidated by gambling or are regulars who want more control over their gambling budget.
„Casinos want people to have a good time. I don’t have to win to have a good time. But if I lose my money quickly and have to leave, is that fun?“
The devices represent a breakthrough opportunity for casinos to cultivate new players, said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor newsletter.
Casinos could offer a hotel guest attending a convention USD 20 of video poker with the assurance that most people would give it a shot, he said. Some players will end up buying more after trying out the games once or twice, he said.
„I think people are looking for ways to justify activities they want to try but think they shouldn’t,“ Curtis said.
Walker began working with slot maker International Game Technology a few years ago to design the game. IGT also has a stake in Walker Digital Gaming, a Walker company that owns several hundred casino-related patents.
IGT has been testing the machines at some local casinos.
For many players, the opportunity to gamble for a certain amount of time is more attractive than chasing the off chance that a smaller initial bet can last several hours — or yield a big jackpot.
In focus group tests, players have said they like the ability to see where their money is going, said John Daley, IGT‘s director of video poker.
„Our biggest challenge has been players who say it’s too good to be true,“ Daley said. „They’re looking for the catch.“