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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta
 

Experts: Hard to Control Wireless Games

27 May 2005

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada is on the verge of having a law that enables casinos to offer mobile gaming, but technology experts attending a gaming conference caution that it will be tough for the state to control who plays and from where.

Mike Wood of the Natural Intelligence Group said in a panel discussion Thursday that wireless technology should increase play in casinos, but regulators may be challenged to set regulations for play because wireless data transmissions will be difficult to control.

The panel was part of the two-day Gaming Technology Summit at Green Valley Ranch, presented by WhiteSand Consulting and Ascend Media Gaming Group.

While about 200 delegates discussed casino technology issues, many Nevada professionals were contemplating the ramifications of actions in Carson City, where Nevada lawmakers were approving legislation allowing regulators to draft rules on mobile gaming.

Wood said its difficult to control the boundaries of any wireless network.

"You may be able to establish a network to cover the pool area, but it may extend beyond the pool to the parking lot," he said.

Systems are being developed to triangulate network locations and set boundaries, but they probably don't offer the precision necessary to satisfy regulators, he said.

He added that many encryption systems he has seen are not secure. Another problem regulators will have when drafting rules for the use of wireless devices is to determine player qualification systems that can't be corrupted.

Asked whether a wireless system has been developed that could prevent underage gamblers from playing, Wood concurred that there hasn't. But he also noted that casinos already have safeguards preventing underage playing.

"What's to stop people from letting their kids drink (alcoholic beverages)? There has to be a certain amount of parental control," he said.

Wood and panelist Rob Lewis of Ameranth Wireless, San Diego, said some wireless applications already are in use in casinos, but they don't tie in to game play.

Wood said the Mirage used wireless technology to issue credit to players and the Venetian has used it to check in hotel guests.

Others use wireless technology to notify poker players that seats are available in their rooms. Such a system is in place at the new Wynn Las Vegas resort. Wood said poker rooms that have used the technology have reported that it has increased business.

In a session on security, speaker Mark Rasch, senior vice president of Solutionary, a security services provider based in The Woodlands, Texas, warned delegates that their casinos are only as secure as the weakest link in their systems.

He discussed biometric identification systems, radio frequency identification systems that include imbedded transmitters in gaming chips, new wireless technologies and player loyalty cards that help casinos collect information on their players.

Rasch said that a whole new level of security issues is on the horizon with the arrival of wireless gaming systems and server-based technology.

"There's a lot of money that can be lost but the worst that can happen is the loss of confidence in your customers," he said.

Rasch said technology professionals must think of every potential way of defeating security safeguards and devising a means of detecting and protecting against them.

"You need to think of every possible way for a bad guy to get in, because he only needs to find one," Rasch said.

He said he doesn't think customers would react negatively to technological advancements uncovering more information about players "because that information already is being collected, but collected inefficiently."

In a session on player tracking technologies, panelists said the amount of information gleaned by new systems gives casinos more knowledge about their players than ever before. Systems also give casinos more power to market directly to those players.

Troy Simpson, executive director of casino marketing for the Barona Valley Ranch in San Diego, said the newest player tracking systems allow casinos to offer special incentives to players as they play slot machines through messaging systems.

Simpson said Barona Valley is experimenting with Alliance Gaming's Mindplay system, which tracks table game players in the same way that slot players are tracked.