Gaming commission to put rules on cartoon themes for slots
Cartoon slot machines and other themes that could attract kids to casinos can expect a resounding, “Th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks.”
A subcommittee headed by Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval Wednesday backed proposed regulations barring gaming devices using any theme intended primarily for people under age 21.
There were no objections from the manufacturers and casino operators who helped draft the rules.
Sandoval said there’s no way Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig will ever be featured on a slot carousel in Nevada, even if Warner Brothers were willing to permit it.
The Nevada Gaming Commission meets Jan. 27 in Las Vegas to consider the subcommittee’s recommendations.
Gaming Control Board member Dennis Neilander said the issue was raised after proposed games, including one featuring TV’s Addams Family, were touted at this past year’s Gaming Expo. He said there were also concerns that future ideas could include comic book and cartoon heroes.
In addition, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona has expressed concern about gaming devices that may appear aimed more at children than adults.
But the proposed regulations grandfather in the numerous games already operating in Nevada casinos that might be seriously questioned under the new rules – including Treasure Island Casino on the Las Vegas Strip and the knights-in-armor theme of its neighbor, The Excalibur.
Other examples are Star Trek themes in at least one casino, the Monopoly board game and MGM Grand’s numerous movie promotions including the Wizard of Oz. It also has a special provision allowing “nostalgia” themes such as “Betty Boop” cartoons.
If approved as expected, the new rules will greatly expand the state’s role in approving graphics and designs featured on casino slots and other gaming devices. Gaming officials say at present they rarely review the graphics and themes on slot machines and other devices as long as they are not in poor taste or risque.
The manufacturers focused on keeping details of their new game ideas secret from competitors. Although Nevada Gaming law allows the state to keep “proprietary information,” Deputy Attorney General Kimberly Maxson said discussion of a new game might have to be held in the open when it gets to the Control Board or Commission.
Brooke Dunn of Shuffle Master Gaming said anything that gives away plans to a competitor could kill the profit on a game idea.
He said it could create a “bidding war” with the owner of the theme, whether it was a movie such as “Star Wars” or a game like Monopoly, or allow the competition to develop something similar and effectively steal the idea.
Neilander, who worked with industry officials to develop the plan, agreed it was “critical to industry that the theme not be made public until it’s ready to go on the floor.”
Sandoval asked Maxson for a full legal opinion on the confidentiality issue since the control board is allowed to meet privately to protect other proprietary information. She indicated there may be “some wiggle room” in the gaming laws.
Sandoval said afterward, however, he is also concerned that the public get a chance to comment on games. He said that might have to occur at the final stage when the company asks permission to test the new theme or game on the floor of the casino.
The rules require regulators to consider the subject matter of any theme proposed for a gaming device whether it is a TV program, cartoon, book or magazine, board game, movie or computer game.
Neilander said if marketing officials didn’t know whether a game appeals primarily to children or adults, they would look at the age distribution of those actually buying the product, watching the show or playing the game.
And the rules give gaming control and the commission the power to limit where any such theme games can be located, potentially barring them from locations such as grocery stores. Neilander and Sandoval said that would also allow regulators, for example, to prohibit placing a game with a theme similar to video arcade games near the entrance to a casino video arcade.
Finally, Neilander said the new rules clarify the state’s ability to limit risque subject matter in casino game themes.
The proposed rules are scheduled for a vote by the Commission in Las Vegas Jan. 27.