On Friday we learned of a new online gambling bill in Nevada that calls on the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) “to adopt regulations which encourage manufacturers to develop and deploy gaming devices that incorporate innovative, alternative and advanced technology.”
The bill (SB 9) was pre-filed on December 19, 2014 by the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was also referred.
According to the bill’s text, SB 9’s intention is to:
- Define and differentiate between the requirements for and the outcomes of a game of skill and a game of chance;
- Allow flexibility in payout percentages or the outcome of a game as determined on the basis of nondiscriminatory identifiers;
- Support integration of social networking technologies;
- Facilitate among enrolled players the interactive and concurrent play of games supported by networked server computers;
- Accommodate secure account wagering and transactions using electronic commerce; and
- Require, when applicable, appropriate information to be disclosed to a player explaining that the outcome of a game will be affected by skill or identifiers.
The bill seems aimed at new technologies, and the new, unregulated areas of the gaming sphere, namely social and skill-based games.
However, as Chris Grove noted, the bill would seemingly give the NGC the power to regulate a broader scope of games, including the aforementioned social games, but the bill may also possibly allow the NGC to delve deeper into real-money online games beyond poker. This seems similar to what the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement was touting in 2014, calling on social gaming providers to come to New Jersey and submit their games for regulatory approval.
Like New Jersey, Nevada may be trying to outfit their casinos with variants of skill-based games such as the popular Words With Friends and at the same time take on an oversight role for social games. The following passage seems to be aimed at regulating social games (i.e. social casinos) and attracting gaming developers to develop skill-based games that could be deployed in casinos:
“Existing law also requires the Nevada Gaming Commission to adopt, amend or repeal regulations for purposes of carrying out those provisions… This bill requires the Commission to adopt regulations which encourage manufacturers to develop and deploy gaming devices that incorporate innovative, alternative and advanced technology. This bill also provides that such regulations may include technical standards for the manufacture of gaming devices that incorporate certain features.”
Social gaming operators downplay regulation
Channeling their inner Pink Floyd, social gaming providers have long held that their products are not gambling and because of this “we don’t need no regulation.”
The idea that states would move to regulate social games was roundly scoffed at by social gaming providers and operators I listened to at G2E 2014, but industry analysts have seen the potential for gaming commissions to step in and impose stricter regulations on the nascent industry for quite some time.
The products are generating quite a bit of revenue, and in the case of social casinos are nearly indistinguishable from real-money gambling, with the exception that at a real casino you have the chance to win money, something that can’t happen at a social casino.
While you cannot win money at a social casino you can certainly lose money by purchasing virtual coins, and in some cases players are rewarded with real-world prizes for achieving certain ranks. It may not be gambling in the classic sense, but it does walk like a duck and quack like a duck.
In fact, a number of casino operators also run social casino platforms for a variety of reasons – a source of revenue and player acquisition being just two of the reasons.
Gaming expansion on the table in many locales
2015 is shaping up to be a big year for gaming expansion, both online and land-based. California and Indiana have also introduced gaming expansion bills, and several other states from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania have intimated they will be doing likewise.
Considering the early introduction of these bills, and the chatter taking place in other states, I fully expect 2015 to be a very interesting and fast-moving time for gaming.