Nevada Chief Gaming Regulator Sandra Morgan Still Optimistic on Skill-Based Gaming, Says Agency Will Review 2019 Wire Act Opinion

Posted on: February 24, 2019, 08:16h. 

Last updated on: February 24, 2019, 08:17h.

Skill-based gaming machines have been slow to take in casinos across the country, but Nevada’s chief regulator Sandra Morgan remains optimistic.

skill-based gaming Las Vegas slot machines
Skill-based gaming machines haven’t attracted much action on casino floors. (Image: Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Morgan – who officially became chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) late last month, the second woman to oversee the agency – made her comments on the future of gaming technology at an UNLV Gaming and Hospitality education series event.

Skill-based machines combine elements of aptitude with chance, and are geared towards millennials.

Skill-based slot machines have not gained significant popularity on the casino floor, but there are still innovators developing these types of games to gain better traction with a younger demographic,” Morgan said, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Numerous studies have concluded that millennials are far less enticed by traditional slot machines than older generations. As a result, casinos and gaming manufacturers have been trying to develop the game of the future that will lure younger demographics.

Buzz Hangover

Skill-based gaming innovations have been all the hype in the industry over the last couple of years, but that cooled off in 2018 after casinos found that the terminals didn’t generate enough revenue to warrant their floor space. Caesars Entertainment Senior VP of Product Strategy Melissa Price admitted that placing such devices inside various casinos “was a big learning experience for all of us.”

Regardless, a recent study – albeit one carried out by a company invested in skill-based gaming products – found that seven out of 10 casinos “have, plan to, or are considering adopting skill-based games.”

Gamblit, one of the leading skill-based gaming innovators, announced layoffs this month at its California headquarters.

GameCo, one of Gamblit’s primary competitors, was recently recommended by the NGCB for licensure. Morgan, however, says there’s been minimal interest from casinos in obtaining permits to incorporate the skill-based terminals.

Wire Act Interpretation

Morgan said at the same UNLV event that the NGCB is reviewing the new opinion on the Wire Act from the US Department of Justice.

DOJ Office of Legal Counsel Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel reversed a 2011 agency opinion on the federal law that concluded the Wire Act banned the transmissions of interstate wagers that related only to sports betting. Now, the Justice Department’s stance on the 1961 statute is that it applies to all forms of gambling.

The latest opinion threatens online gambling in the four states where such laws have been passed, as well as internet lottery games and multistate formats such as Powerball and Mega Millions. “We’re still reviewing the memorandum and looking at potential options,” Morgan told attendees.

Several state attorneys general and lottery associations are asking the DOJ to reconsider the 2019 Wire Act opinion. But the man they’re petitioning – DOJ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – is expected to soon announce his resignation.

Rosenstein is accused of offering to secretly record his private conversations with President Donald Trump in order to lead to his impeachment. The DOJ official denies the allegations.