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Best of John G. Brokopp

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New Game Takes Slot Play into the Realm of Skill

31 October 2007

The design of slot machines is predicated on the principle that the outcome of decisions involving the base games must be random occurrences generated by a computer program. Even second screen bonus round awards are not the result of player skill, rather random chance combined with luck.

A number of years ago Mikohn experimented with an element of skill as part of its Ripley's Believe It Or Not slots and the first generation of Battleship, themed after the popular board game, but the feature never really caught on.

Now Bally Technologies has come out with Bally Pong, a game that introduces hand-to-eye coordination in the bonus round. It's a video slot version of the landmark game released in 1972 that revolutionized arcade and home entertainment.

Pong was the brain child of the research team at Magnavox, which licensed the game to Atari for video game release. Bally Technologies subsequently obtained the rights from Atari in order to develop the Pong concept into a video slot machine format.

Bally Pong is a five-reel video slot that plays like any other except when you line up three of the paddle icons in the base game and enter the bonus, a one in 70 occurrence.

The bonus round is a 45-second game of Pong in which the player moves the paddle with a machine-mounted control. Just as with the original, the pace of the early volleys starts slowly but gradually picks up speed.

When the Nevada State Gaming Control Board reviewed Bally Pong earlier this summer, they recommended to the Nevada Gaming Commission that it be approved, citing that the hand-to-eye coordination skill factor occurs in the bonus round, which is not covered by the regulations that require randomness in the base game.

There were two stipulations: First, a minimum award must be paid for reaching the bonus round, and second, the game's signage must clearly state that the skill factor is a bonus and not a component of qualifying play.

According to Bally, there is a seven percent difference in payout between playing the bonus flawlessly and being shut out.

Mohegan Sun, the sprawling Native American casino-resort complex in Connecticut, was the first casino in the nation to introduce the game. It has also been approved in Detroit and is on the table in New Jersey. Final approval in Nevada is expected after the game undergoes laboratory and field testing.

Bally Technologies is already looking at expansion of the skill-based slot concept with Breakout, a game that's in the same ball park as Pong only a ball is manipulated to hit bricks.

The response to Pong will impact the future of electronic gaming devices. If the skill component catches on this time, look for a wave of similar products from the other manufacturers

CASINO NEWS: Significant upgrades continue at the Majestic Star Casinos in Gary. In addition to the recently remodeled Baccarat Room, a new High Limit Room was recently unveiled featuring 12 blackjack tables with limits from $25 - $5,000 and a new craps table with limits from $15 - $50,000. The venue also offers complimentary food service, exclusive cashier cage, and a room that can be reserved for private games.

Empress Casino Joliet recently welcomed a new general manager. Frank Quigley, a veteran of 25 years in the gaming industry, most recently as the GM of Argosy Sioux City in Iowa, takes over for Jeff Pfeiffer, who, after five years with Empress, accepted the position of general manager of the Colorado Belle and Edgewater Casino and Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp