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Are skill-based games the next big thing in gambling?

Sat, Jul 29, 7:55am by Staff Writer

After establishing a foothold in Nevada and New Jersey, American gambling machine manufacturer GameCo is looking to bring its line of so-called ‘skill-based’ video pokie games to Australia.

In a two-part series of reports published by the Sydney Morning Herald this month, GameCo’s co-founder and chief executive officer Blaine Graboyes targeted the lucrative Australian market as his company’s next conquest:

“Australian operators have shown interest in skill-based [machines] and our games.”

“We are looking forward to skill-based gaming gaining acceptance and exploring the opportunities for our products in the region.”

“There are a number of efforts under way within the region to consider how skill-based gaming may be considered.”

The concept of skill-based pokie machines is relatively new, with GameCo and chief rival Gamblit competing for dominance over the emerging market.

GameCo’s skill-based machines blend aspects of video gaming which incorporate skill – such as hand-eye coordination, target shooting, and memorization – with traditional pokie gameplay elements like escalating pay tables, progressive payouts, and random side games.

The company’s flagship product is Danger Arena, a first-person shooter style game in which players move through a course looking to eliminate enemy targets. Doing so successfully captures prize payouts on an escalating scale, with players hoping to hit six or more “danger bots” to qualify for a payout. From there, additional ‘kills’ are rewarded with increasingly valuable prizes.

Other skill-based machines in the GameCo lineup include Pharaoh’s Secret Temple, a drop-based puzzle-solving game akin to Candy Crush, and the basketball simulator Nothin’ but Net.

In October of last year, GameCo became the first approved supplier of skill-based gambling machines in the state of New Jersey. An initial trial run was conducted at the Caesars Palace casino in Atlantic City, before GameCo transferred its machines to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Graboyes, a veteran video game designer, told the Sydney Morning Herald that GameCo would be presenting its products at the Australasian Gaming Expo, which begins August 15 at the International Convention Centre in Sydney.

But while Australian expansion is certainly part of GameCo’s plans for the future, Graboyes made it clear that the company is poised to become a player within the global gambling industry:

“We are currently working with partners for expansion throughout Latin America, the UK, the Netherlands, and into Asia, particularly Macau.”

The potential for pokie machines that offer an element of control over the results should be intriguing to punters, but gaming regulators have already launched inquiries into the skill-based machines.

Marlene Kairouz?, who serves as Gaming Minister for the Victorian government, told the Sydney Morning Herald that she has sought input on the potential for addiction, and other consumer protection issues related to skill-based pokies.

A spokesperson for Kairouz outlined the Minister’s current thinking on the matter:

“The government is monitoring the emergence of skill-based gaming machines through the Responsible Gambling Ministerial Advisory Council.”

“The council will look closely at any relevant research and approaches taken in other jurisdictions and will advise the government on any action it could take.”

Dr. Sally Gainsbury, ?deputy director of the Gambling Treatment & Research Clinic at the University of Sydney, provided the newspaper with a glimpse into how opposition to skill-based pokies may be framed:

“People essentially think they have a strategy, that they are better than other people, and they will continue to play in the hope they have a big win.”

“If you have betting machines that have an element of skill, the concern is that people will not have an understanding of where skill is involved and what comes down to just chance. And they could think that the more they practice the better they may get.”

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