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5 Questions with Blaine Graboyes

CEO, GameCo

5 Questions with Blaine Graboyes

One of the most groundbreaking products at September’s G2E was the Videogame Gambling Machines introduced by GameCo. The cutting-edge company presented several games that debuted on the casino floor for the first time in October.

GameCo’s signature product is a video gambling machine. Explain what that is, and how it works.

Our core product is called the Videogame Gambling Machine, or VGM. It’s an arcade-style cabinet that features a custom controller that we designed in partnership with Suzo-Happ. And it allows gamers to play video games on the casino floor. We build under the GLI-11 standard, which is the standard that governs most slot machines and electronic gaming machines, and we’ve built a platform that makes it very easy to adapt existing video games to play in the casino environment.

What kind of games are we talking about here?

We’re really interested in appealing to all gamers. So, everything from action and adventure to sports racing, with some casual games as well. We’ll have our first game at Caesars properties in Atlantic City in October. And we’ll have another game that we’ll release before the end of this year, and starting in 2017, we’ll release approximately one game a month.

How do the payouts work?

Currently we support seven bet denominations: 50 cents, $1, $2, $3, $5, $10 and $20. Our machine works a lot like a slot machine or EGM; it has a bill validator and a printer. So, I fund the machine with cash or a ticket, I make my bet. I have 45 seconds in our first game, Danger Arena, to play. And I’m fighting danger bots, or robots. If I take out six or more bots, I’m in the money. Ten bots, I get the highest payout. At the core of our product is our patented math model. We were just awarded our first patent on it about a month ago. And the patented math model balances a player’s skill with the game design, so we can deliver the same return-to-player as a slot machine.

There’s obviously a little bit of volatility in there. More skilled players are going to win the highest possible payout more often, but even unskilled players have an opportunity to win. We actually shy away from the terms “easy” and “difficult,” and we talk about achievability. We build our games so that players are able to achieve the highest possible payout in each game session. And I like to describe it a lot like blackjack or poker. Our first game has 10,000 maps in it, and a player is going to play in one of those 10,000 maps. Similar to blackjack, where there’s a little bit more than 10,000 possible deals, and it’s up to my skill to use those cards, or in our game, that map, to get the highest possible payout.

Is there a random number generator involved in this as well?

Yes, we are a Class III game, and so there is an RNG, or a random number generator that lives in the game. And really, all that it’s doing is picking the map that you’re going to play.

Was it difficult for you to explain this to regulators?

I’ve been making video games for 20 years now, but I was new to the gaming industry. It took me about a year to understand the regulations and how to communicate with regulators. Now, I would say, we feel very comfortable with it. The company has grown; we now have a compliance officer that helps us with the process as well. But yes, it is a bit of a challenge. The regulators have built their process to approve slot machines and poker and blackjack.

A year ago, we engaged with GLI to help author an opinion paper on our math model and game design, and they came back with the opinion that their GLI-11 standard accommodated our game design. Since then, we’ve been working with GLI and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to help them understand our game design and go through the compliance and testing process. There’s been a lot of learning there, and one of the things I would say as a new company in the gaming industry, there’s no playbook.

What I appreciate, in working with the regulators, is they’ve been very supportive and collaborative in the process. They work with us on an ongoing basis.