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Bits, Bytes and Bets

Casinos are going high-tech converting cache into cash
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Matthew McConaughey, March/April 2011

(continued from page 3)

At Cosmopolitan (which has the newest version of this system), the gaming machines can actually get smarter about customers. "If we have something on the screen that provides a list of the top 10 wineries in Napa Valley and you click on it, we learn about your preferences and passions and use that as a guide to presenting offers that you might find appealing," says Lanning.

A couple miles away from Cosmopolitan and the Vegas Strip, Shuffle Master is doing its best to change the way we gamble. For casinos where dice are not allowed by law, the company has created a digitized version of craps, which plays like the real thing but satisfies certain state regulations by using random number generators instead of dimpled cubes of plastic. Already in Vegas casinos is the blackjack variation played with real cards but virtual chips. Players make their wagers and gaming decisions on a touch-screen in front of them.

"We offer side bets that you can't find on a traditional blackjack table," says Jim Jackson, acknowledging that this hybrid game can take some getting used to, though it already seems to be catching on inside Planet Hollywood, Red Rock, and Barona in San Diego. "Normally a table has a Royal Match 21 side bet [a suited King and Queen, pays 25-to-1] and not many others. But these tables can have that bet and five more to go with it. All the calculations are done by the computer."

It should be noted that none of those side bets are particularly favorable to players (the true odds of winning are considerably longer than the payouts would seem to indicate), but the prospect of hitting a big return on a small wager is irresistible for many of us. Besides, if we wanted to do things that statistically favored us to win, we would not be gambling in the pits of casinos.

While other entities dream up new forms of casino-playing technology, Cantor Gaming's Amaitis is not exactly sitting on his hands. In a room behind the sports book at M Resort, Amaitis watches a few attendants tracking the games and betting-inflows on computers and TV monitors. Just outside of this Spartan room inside the sprawling sports book, gamblers root on their teams and play In Running like it's a video game. Back here, Amaitis expresses optimism for the future.

He lets slip that he'll be introducing brand new games, which are currently unavailable elsewhere, "with life-changing numbers: $10-million payoffs." As more and more casinos align with Cantor, he expects handle to go up and In Running limits to increase. By the start of the 2011 NFL season, Amaitis anticipates catering to the ever-growing legions of fantasy football fanatics. "People are interested in rushing and passing yardage?" he asks. "We're devising a way to put up prices for those wagers. We're also going to field a fantasy football team here. Then we'll let you put together a team and go up against us."

Whether you pick a team of less-than-stellar players or a group of all-stars, Midas will pitch odds to make the wagers sensible.

As of this writing, gamblers can wander around Cantorized properties, gambling from the eDeck at the pool, in the casino, in the restaurants-pretty much wherever there is surveillance. By the time you read this, though, Amaitis hopes to have cleared the regulatory hurdles to take his concept out of the casino and across Nevada.

He has the technology to build an electronic fence around the state so that people can legally gamble on In Running from anywhere in Nevada, via computers and smart phones. "We're going to blow the doors off in handle," predicts Amaitis. "Right now all of Nevada does $2 billion in sports betting. I expect it to go as high as $20 billion and we will be the lion's share of that because of the platform we're building."

He hesitates for a beat. Then he says something that few of his forward-thinking competitors would argue with: "The world of gambling is going to change."

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