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Skillin’ in Old Virginia

At one end of the slot-theft spectrum are diabolical technical geniuses. At the other end, some numbskull with a tire iron.

Skillin’ in Old Virginia

As the state of Virginia debates whether to bring casinos to the hallowed land of Jefferson, Washington and Sandra Bullock, people all over the state are playing slot machines.

Well, they’re not slot machines. They’re kind-of slot machines, but since slot machines are illegal in Virginia, people play “skill games” in parlors that look a lot like slot casinos, full of games that look a lot like slot machines. The law permits them because there’s an element of skill available to the player on every spin that can offer a better chance.

It’s what is known as a “skill stop” in the business. As an example, a player gets two 7s, and can pick when to stop the third reel. They say there’s a consistent cycle between symbols, and the player can get better over time at picking when to stop the reel.

According to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the largest operator of those skill games, Queen of Virginia, claims to have the only truly legal games in the state, because skill can improve chances, even if by a fraction of a percent.

And get this—players can even automate the skill stop and play it like a regular slot machine, but the operator says just because the option to use skill is there, the games are legal. Of course, other operators say their machines are within the state’s guidelines as well.

The problem is, there are no state guidelines. According to the article, the state has offered no guidance as to the level of skill required for a game to be a skill game, so Queen of Virginia lawyers do presentations in parking lots of rival establishments, with charts showing why their competitors are allegedly operating illegal slot machines.

The newspaper report showed a picture of the scene in front of the Lava Java in Chesterfield, with a scary-looking coffee-shop guy on his iPhone while the lawyer talked.

Man, I love playing slots at the Lava Java. You just keep going, and going…

If they’re worried about offering only games that involve skill in Virginia, why don’t they just throw up some craps tables? Now there’s some skill. And I’m not just talking about making the right bets. You’ve got to physically roll those bones, and believe me, there are more than a few people who routinely launch one of those cubes across the room. Just getting them across the table without imploding any piles of chips involves skill.

Heck, there should be a “Throwing Dice While Drinking” competition in the Olympics.

Moving on, methods of cheating slot machines have become increasingly sophisticated as technology has advanced over the past few decades. Casino security and manufacturers have responded with new safeguards, so success in swindling slot machines these days requires extensive technical expertise.

Or, you can just use a tire iron.

That’s exactly what a 29-year-old thief did last month at a California casino. In fact, he did it twice. He was suspected the first time, and was caught on surveillance video the second time, prying open a slot machine with a tire iron. Then, he was thrown in jail.

Wow. At one end of the slot-theft spectrum are diabolical technical geniuses. At the other end, some numbskull with a tire iron. Video surveillance didn’t catch him the first time he cracked a machine, so he did it again for the cameras.

“Tire iron work. Me do again.”

In other news, I see O.J.’s stirring things up in Las Vegas again. The Juice is suing The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for telling TMZ he was banned from the place after he “was drunk and became disruptive” at one of the resort’s lounges.

According to the Associated Press, Simpson attorney Malcolm LaVergne “said his client’s reputation was damaged” by the report that he was drunk.

O.J.’s reputation was damaged. Let that sink in a minute.

Well, I’m sure he’s been a model citizen in the two years since he got out of prison. He was only out of the joint six weeks when this happened. He was on parole after doing time for armed robbery and assault with a weapon at another Las Vegas casino-hotel. Then there was that whole double-homicide case on TV in the ’90s with the slow-speed chase and the glove and Kato and all that.

But to think that a Las Vegas casino could claim he was drunk? Now that’s the kind of stuff that could really damage your reputation. Why, it’s an outrage!

Boy, I’m never going to get drunk at the Cosmopolitan. (Yeah, right.)

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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