Luck? We Don’t Need No Stinking Luck! Skill-Based Casino Games Heading To Atlantic City

Posted By Steve Ruddock on February 25, 2016

In October of 2014 the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement called on Atlantic City casinos to start offering skill based games and skill based contests.

Now they have made that process even easier.

Earlier this month the New Jersey DGE brought some clarity to the approval process by releasing the temporary regulations for these games.

The New Jersey regulations are based on similar regulations implemented in Nevada in September, just a few months after Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill permitting skill based games to be added to the floors of Nevada casinos.

Thus far, to the best of my knowledge, skill based games have not made it to the casino floors in Nevada.

In the 2014 letter the DGE told casinos, “The Division is currently authorized to approve skill-based games and is eager to receive skill-based game submissions for review.” So far only a single Atlantic City casino has run a skill-based contest..

What are skill based games?

Free throws at Borgata

When the DGE authorized skill based games, Borgata ran a free throw shooting contest that drew a sizable number of participants, as over 1,000 people registered for the $20 contest in March of 2015.

The contest, and the first place prize of $10,000 was won by a 37-year-old former Division III basketball player turned teacher.

Interestingly, despite the success of the free throw shooting contest, none of the city’s casinos have attempted run another skill-based contest

Beyond physical competitions

Skill-based games can also be non-physical, as the term extends to popular games like Words With Friends and Candy Crush. And it’s these games, which will likely have the outward look of traditional slot machines, that the New Jersey DGE recently issued their temporary regulations for.

According to the DGE regulations, skill based games fall into two categories:

1. Slot machine games with a skill based component shall be required to theoretically pay out a mathematically demonstrable percentage of all amounts wagered, which shall not be less than 83 percent for each wager available for play on the device; and

2. Games which rely entirely on skill or do not utilize an RNG are not required to achieve a minimum theoretical hold percentage.

Regulatory requirements

The regulations require skill based games on the casino to display:

  1. The rules of play;
  2. The amount required to wager on the game;
  3. The amount to be paid on winning wagers;
  4. Any rake or fee charged to play the game;
  5. The total amount wagered by the player;
  6. That the outcome of the game is affected by player skill; and
  7. Such additional information sufficient for the player to reasonably understand the game.

Further, all skill-based games must clearly note that the outcome is affected  by the player’s skill level; payback percentages can be increased through an adaptive feature but games cannot be altered during play based on the skill level of the player, unless previously disclosed to the player.

Finally, skill based games can use a computerized or skilled house player, so long as the following conditions are met:

  1. Clearly and conspicuously discloses when a computerized or skilled house sponsored opponent is participating;
  2. Provides the patron with the ability to elect whether or not to play against a computerized or house sponsored opponent; and
  3. Prevents the computerized or house sponsored opponent from having access to information that is otherwise unavailable to a patron (i.e. the opponent’s hole cards or upcoming events).

The most interesting regulation

One of the more interesting rules is the DGE’s allowance that “Skill based games may contain a feature allowing patrons to gain an advantage over other patrons provided that all patrons are advised of that feature.”

The advantages allowed are, “patron purchased enhancements, randomly awarded enhancements or other advantages.”

However, any game that allows for a player advantage must abide by the following rules:

  1. Clearly describe to all patrons that the feature is available and the benefit it gives to patrons;
  2. Disclose the method for obtaining the feature; and
  3. Provide patrons with sufficient information to make an informed decision, prior to game play, as to whether or not to compete against a patron who possesses such a feature.

Only time will tell if these games will make their way to the land-based floors at properties like Caesars and Resorts, and eventually to NJ’s online casinos like Mohegan Sun and Betfair.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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