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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Inventor gives roulette a new spin

5 April 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Summerlin resident Edward Launzel hopes to become the gaming industry's next John Breeding.

First, he needs to pique the interest of a casino or a gaming vendor in Jackpot Bonus Roulette, a game invented by the 77-year-old retired New York trade-show executive.

Launzel came up with the idea for a new version of roulette while living in Las Vegas for eight years. He and his wife visit both Strip and locals casinos and he noticed off and on play at roulette.

Launzel has a good eye. According to the Gaming Control Board, revenue from roulette in 2009 fell 8.3 percent on the Strip and was off 19 percent in the balance of Clark County, which covers much of the locals market.

He believes his version of the game, which received a U.S. patent last summer, can increase play of roulette, which Launzel's research shows has been unchanged since 1852.

"It gives players better chances to win on every spin and it will also increase what players will wager," Launzel said. "The casinos will like that."

Getting casinos to buy into a new game is no easy task. Just ask Breeding.

Two decades ago, Breeding, a Minnesota truck driver, invented an automated single-deck card shuffler for casinos to use in dealing blackjack. The only problem was most casinos had multiple deck blackjack games.

So Breeding created Let It Ride, a single-deck card game to be used with his single-deck shufflers. It took several years, but Let It Ride soon became, and remains, one of the nontraditional games casinos nationwide place on their floors.

The shufflers and Let It Ride gave birth to Shuffle Master Gaming, a gaming equipment company with a market capitalization of $430 million.

Launzel doesn't have those lofty aspirations, but he believes his game can be a hit.

Jackpot Bonus Roulette has a wheel within the main wheel. The two wheels spin independently and contain the current drop pockets of 1 through 36, 0 and 00. They also maintain the colors of red, black and green. But thrown into the mix are three new colors -- bronze, silver and gold -- and 000.

By adding the new drop pockets, Launzel said players have two chances to win on every spin.

The concept also adds a bonus payout feature. If a player hits a Diamond drop pocket, the payout is 85-to-1. If the ball lands multiple times in a row on the Diamond, the payout reaches Megabucks proportions.

"I'm trying to bring the slot machine experience to the roulette table," Launzel said.

Launzel's next step is finding a vendor to produce the prototype. If he can't find a taker, he may try to self-finance the project with the help of friends and business associates.

It will take time, however, before the game lands on Las Vegas casino floors, if ever. The playing field is littered with game concepts that have never made it or were tried only briefly.

Launzel is considering the cruise-ship market as a venue for the game.

Breeding, who is retired from Shuffle Master, took 10 years to get his first shuffler in a casino. The device didn't take off until Let It Ride gained a following.