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Fantasy Casinos

Things are bound to get a lot crazier as we try to figure out the vast variety of stuff on which people in this world are willing to place a wager.

Fantasy Casinos

When I started writing about gaming—I think Coolidge was president—things were pretty simple. You had your slot machines, your spinning reels, and your quarters and dollar tokens, and lots of dings and buzzes. And you had your table games.

The table games are pretty much the same now as they were then. Slot machines, though, are getting crazier all the time. And things are bound to get a lot crazier as we try to figure out the vast variety of stuff on which people in this world are willing to place a wager.

Some measure of wagering wackiness can be found in the U.K., where they’ve been known to bet on everything from when babies will be born in the Royal Family to how many scones the prime minister consumes in a day. (OK, I made that up, but I’ll bet it’s three.) Several weeks ago, there was a big event at London’s Wembley Stadium that drew about 24,000 young people over four days, at £30 a pop.

The draw at Wembley was not some football match or world-class tennis tournament or concert. It was a show that many think is coming to a casino near you in the U.S., on land or online, very soon—eSports.

Now, I’m just a clueless American old guy, so I’m still trying to wrap my brain around eSports. From what I can gather, there’s a big screen, and two expert video gamers compete against each other in a giant 3D video game, with shooting and swordplay and chopping off limbs and other neat stuff.

And people pay to watch.

Evidently, it’s a millennial thing.

For casino operators and regulators in the U.S. looking for new skill-based games that can please millennials, it’s not a very big stretch to imagine leagues with teams of famous video game experts pitted against each other, and crazy twentysomethings who love this kind of thing flocking to wager on their favorite teams.

Some say eSports will go hand-in-hand with daily fantasy sports in the casino of the future. I just have a few problems with it. First, are there really millennials with, you know, disposable income for gambling? Because I don’t know any.

But in this case, it doesn’t matter, because eSports are skill, not gambling, right? Just like daily fantasy sports anywhere except Nevada.

Right?

Hey, fantasy sports aren’t gambling. I know, because Roger Goodell said so. And every time I watch an NFL game, I see commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel, and as far as I know, those broadcasts can’t take place without the knowledge and consent of the National Football League, which steadfastly and sanctimoniously opposes any kind of sports betting.

I even heard a comment from an NFL player on another team’s star running back, in which he said, “Wow, my wife will be happy with that performance. He’s on her fantasy team.”

But it’s not sports betting, because that would ruin the integrity of the game.

Moving on, there is still a lot of question in the U.S. whether eSports and daily fantasy sports will have to be legalized and regulated. I’m guessing this is going to put a major drag on the time it will take this new gambling business to materialize and mature.

But even if DFS and eSports tank in the U.S., there are plenty of skill-game ideas being knocked around, like those mobile-phone games where you crush candy, or break bubbles, or whatever they do with those games.

As I’ve said before, I have a problem envisioning crowds of young people going all the way to a casino so they can play games on their phones. They can do that without even getting on the expressway.

I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m old-fashioned, or simply old, but I still like gambling in casinos that have slot machines with reels, and lots of video poker, and real, live table games, where you can look the dealer in the eye as he stuffs your samolians into never-never land with that plunger they use.

Is that what they’re called? Plungers? If not, they should be.

In any event, with old-fashioned casino gaming, I get to toss the bones like a crusty World War II veteran, shout out cool-sounding gambling stuff, or, alternatively, sit for hours cursing at an inanimate object.

What, I ask you, could be better in the way of gaming entertainment?

Perhaps it’s just that I doubt my own ability to exhibit skill in knowing what teams, or what video gamers, or which Royal Family on which I should wager.

Hey, what the heck do I know? I had the Cubs.

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