Coming someday to a casino near you: GambleBoy

It was bound to happen. We have portable phones and portable toilets, so why not portable gambling?

The Nevada Legislature is poised to approve Assembly Bill 471, which for the first time allows "mobile gaming systems" to be used in casinos.

What's that mean? Well, when the technology is perfected, it means you won't have to be sitting in the sports book to place a bet. You won't have to be sitting at a blackjack table to play blackjack. You won't have to be sitting at a slot machine to play slots.

As gambling moves closer and closer to video gaming, this was the inevitable next step.

The smash popularity of the new Playstation Portable and the longtime success of the Nintendo GameBoy pretty much guaranteed somebody would invent a handheld slot machine - and not like the cheap plastic ones you get in the airport gift shop.

You won't be able to take it home with you, of course, or even leave the building. And AB471 specifically says it is not approving anything having to do with the Internet.

Here's how Dennis Nielander, chairman of the Gaming Control Board, described it to the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier in the session:

"They do this in the United Kingdom. For example, you can have a handheld gizmo that you set a front money account and then you get your handheld gizmo. It's like a big phone and you can carry it around and play blackjack and make sports wagers."

The bill would limit its use to public areas of casinos with unrestricted licenses. I'm not sure if that includes the restroom, which would be handy because the call of nature is sometimes the only reason some people leave their machines. You wouldn't be able to take it up to your hotel room.

I expect you would be able to take your handheld gizmo into the coffee shop, though. So I'm wondering if this spells the end of the traditional form of portable gaming - the keno runner.

According to the Wall Street Journal, AB471 came to the Nevada Legislature at the request of Cantor G&W, an affiliate of Cantor Fitzgerald, a New York-based financial services company which offers sports betting in the United Kingdom and developed the technology for wireless wagering in casinos.

The obvious problem here is keeping it out of the hands of minors.

It's one thing to spot a kid sitting at a video poker machine; it's another to find him hiding behind the potted palm out by the pool.

Of course, the way I understand it works, the account has to be set up beforehand - you're obviously not dropping quarters into your GambleBoy. You check out the gizmo and you're on your way.

Unfortunately - and I'm not saying it's any of you, of course - but there are parents out there who hand their kids a bottle of beer or a joint. I have no doubt there are parents who would set up an account and hand a PayStation to their 17-year-old.

"Go have some fun, Junior, and leave Mommy and Daddy alone. Oh, yeah. Don't get caught."

It's the responsibility of the parents (and Junior too) not to abuse the technology. But who's going to get the blame? The industry, for creating such an attractive nuisance.

And, believe me, these things will be attractive.

Playing in a casino gets closer every day to playing your XBox in front of the TV in your living room.

The computer animations on games like Star Wars and Men in Black are getting pretty sophisticated, and they're starting to give the sense that the player can follow an actual strategy like a video game.

But there are two big differences: These aren't games of skill; they're games of chance. And it costs real money to lose.

Along with the whiz-bang graphics on the screen in front, the technology back in the guts of the game is getting more sophisticated too. All those computer chips do a lot more than create flashing Storm Troopers for you to zap. They can show the casino owner exactly how much you're betting and winning and the payouts on all the machines instantaneously.

They're not cheating. They're just calculating their edge to a lot more decimal points than ever before.

So, like every other innovation in the gaming industry, handheld gizmos will make the experience more fun and more convenient for the players. The odds, however, will still be against you.

n Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.


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