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Casino Hoops?

Skill games for the millennial casino player are supposed to test hand-eye coordination and dexterity gained through countless hours of sitting in a bedroom with a joystick and nachos

Casino Hoops?

The Borgata in Atlantic City just announced a new tournament linked to the player’s club that will consist of a basketball free-throw competition.

It’s more than a player-club event, though. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is looking at it as the first experiment in skill-based games for money—competitions with skill to replace dumb luck in deciding the outcome. Joe Lupo, the Borgata’s senior vice president, told the Associated Press the free-throw contest is “a first step… A year from now, you’ll probably see a lot more of these skill-based tournaments or even games on the casino floor.”

The Borgata says this is the first of many skill-based contests that “allow gamblers to take greater control over the outcome of their bets.”

I knew skill-based gaming was coming. It’s the only way these millennials are going to sit in a casino as we of the baby-boomer generation do—that is to say, sit in one position gambling until your moss-covered remnants are found by future archeologists. However, I always envisioned “skill-based gaming” as referring to video games—Super Mario Brothers, or that Konami game Full Metal Jacket Gear, or Solid Metal Skillet, or whatever it’s called.

What I’m trying to say is that skill games for the millennial casino player are supposed to test hand-eye coordination and dexterity gained through countless hours of sitting in a bedroom with a joystick and nachos. This Borgata thing sounds a lot like gym class. And as it happens, I couldn’t hit a free throw on a basketball court if my life depended on it.

You could even give me a step ladder right in front of the basket, and help me lift my arms up to throw, and I’d still miss it. And this is the gambling skill game they come up with. What’s next? A chin-up competition? (My limit is one.) Shimmying up ropes? Maybe a dodge ball tournament?

(That would be pretty cool, actually.)

I had always hoped that when skill games came along, it would somehow involve pinball. Yes, go ahead and color the cartoon mustache gray, because that’s where I come from. It’s actually curious that my generation migrated to slot machines so easily, having spent countless hours honing our ability to shoot steel balls at flashing bumpers while avoiding the dreaded “ball drain.”

I’ve said before that casinos and slot manufacturers are afraid to place classic pinball machines with cash winnings out on the floor, because most boomer males can summon up that old bowling-alley skill to crush a pinball game.

I’ll bet they’re approaching millennial-style video games with the same caution. I can envision slot managers visually aging—hair falling out, hands shaking, posture declining into a hideous, twisted form—as gangs of Red Bull-swilling millennials reach Level 50 on a for-money video game to slaughter the month’s casino win.

So what we’re left with is a free-throw competition to start the era of skill on the casino floor. Oh, well, at least there will be fewer slot-floor fatalities in Taiwan.

I’m referring, of course, to the 32-year-old man found dead in front of a sweepstakes computer in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. A worker discovered the man slumped in a chair in front of the machine he always plays. According to a Daily Mirror report, the man, “known only by his surname Hsieh,” was a regular at the place, where he would typicaly play for days on end, taking periodic naps right at his play station.

Evidently, at some point during this particular night, Hsieh went for the Big Nap. The police report listed “sudden death” from “prolonged computer gaming.” Police chief Weng Chun-neng said cold temperatures and over-exhaustion from intense game-playing likely contributed to Hsieh’s demise, and advised people to get up and move around every couple of hours while playing, so as not to, you know, croak at the machine.

Cold temperatures? What, are these games out in the woods or something?

This isn’t even all that rare in Taiwan. Last New Year’s Day, another guy was found dead at an internet café in New Taipai City. That guy was only 38.

For the record, you hardly ever find boomers dead at a traditional slot machine.

I love when I play a slot machine and don’t die. It makes me feel young. (I needed it this month—I was still trying to come to grips with Bob Dylan being on the cover of AARP magazine.) But sorry, Borgata, I can still do without gym class for money.

Having millennial children, though, I can still muster up a mean game of Super Mario, so I’ll wait for that.

Don’t forget to comp the nachos.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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