Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goofy gambling laws

Part of the fun of playing poker and other games in states other than Vegas and Washington is the unusual hoops the casino has to go through to allow gambling. In Washington, as you may know, the slot machines and video poker machines are really "video lottery terminals", which pull virtual scratch tickets from a virtual pile of pre-programmed prizes, then animate the reels to match the prize.

In Wisconsin, it's virtual bingo. A virtual card is drawn from a virtual pile, a set of X bingo balls is selected, and the pattern they make on the card determines the payout. The reels are then animated to match that payout.

I just experienced Arkansas slot machines at the Oaklawn racetrack. Buttons numbered 1-10 are lit up, and you select three of them. A horse race is selected from what must be a very deep pool of races (I saw some going back to 2002). If the finish of the race matches some or all of your picks, you win. The reels are animated to match that payout, as a 4-second clip of the finish race is shown in a little 2x3 windown on the screen. They call it "instant racing". The alternative is a bank of slot machines that spins the reels twice -- you pick which reels to hold after the first spin.

Also, to play poker, I had to sign up for the players club, load the players club card up with money, then use that card at an electronic poker table (no human dealer, no real chips, no real cards -- just 10 touch screens and a center screen). What a hassle. The only game they spread was $1/$2 no-limit hold 'em, which, I'll admit, I prefer a lot less than limit games. I left $100 lighter. Poor Arkansans.

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