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Anne Lindner
 

Skill-Based Bingo?

8 October 2001

How do you turn a game of chance into a game of skill? Bingo.com has an answer to that question, and it's due to hit the Web any day now.

Tarrnie Williams, Bingo.com's president and CEO, said he's been telling people the site's new skill-based bingo game will be unveiled in two weeks since July. But now that beta testing on the game is winding down, the game should debut in the "very near future," he said.

"In the software business, it doesn't always happen as quickly as one would like," Williams said. "We have no rush to turn the game on, there's no requirement to turn the game on and I'm not turning it on until it's perfect."


"The skill part is in fact the number recognition, the number retention, the dexterity of dobbing, if you like, and recognizing that you have a bingo."

The basic idea of making bingo, a game that revolves around the chance that a given number and letter will be drawn from a pot and correspond to a player's card, into a game based on ability involves giving each player equal footing.

"The basis of skill-based bingo is that you need to create a level playing field," Williams said. "Everybody gets the same card. But we don't just do one card, we give you six cards, and in later versions of the game we will have 12 or 18 cards."

Williams, who stepped in as president of the company in August, said that in a given room on the site, every player will have the same bingo cards. The person who is able to keep track of his or her cards well enough to be the first to notice a bingo wins the game.

"So the skill part is in fact the number recognition, the number retention, the dexterity of dobbing, if you like, and recognizing that you have a bingo," he said.

The game is designed to be fair to all players regardless of the speed of their Internet connections.

"The machine is playing the game at exactly the same speed for everybody. Just think of the balls being called every eight seconds," Williams said. "From the moment the first ball is called, and numbers pop up just at the same time as the ball is called, to the moment that you push a bingo, that's how long it takes you to get a bingo."

Williams explained that recently he and another Bingo.com employee went head to head on the game. When he got a bingo he clicked the "bingo" button and was informed he had lost the match because the other player had beat him by a minute and 40 seconds. Williams had missed 14 number and letter combinations that were called and were on his cards, including one that would have landed him a bingo. The other person only missed six.

"As you know, sometimes when you play bingo you get behind, so that's what happened," he said. "The game we've designed tells you what you've missed or what you hit accidentally."

The cost of the game for players is two fold. First--the way Bingo.com will make money from the enterprise--is a network maintenance fee of 25 cents per game, each of which takes between three and four minutes, allowing someone to play for about an hour for $5. If the player wants to play in the practice room, the maintenance fee is the only price he or she pays for the game.

In the practice room, however, there is no prize money to be had. For players who would like stake something on their bingo skills, there will be different rooms they can enter. Each room will have a tournament entry fee ranging from 50 cents to $20, Williams said. If there are five players in the $20 room, the prize for their game will be $100 if the players choose the winner-takes-all option. The players can also choose for the top finishers to share the pot proportionally.

"As you become better, you're more likely to enter the higher-priced tournament and hopefully win," he said.

Williams said players will be able to pay by credit card, debit card or check. A $500 limit per month will be instituted to protect against addiction, he said.

Williams said the game is does not require Bingo.com to get an Internet gambling license. The Vancouver-based company consulted with lawyers to ensure the game's legality, he said.

"I've personally never wanted to go up against the U.S. government, and I don't personally believe that the solution is offshore licenses," he said.

Because the game requires no Internet gambling license, Williams said Bingo.com will be able to sublicense it to any Web site, including Internet casinos. The game is driven by a back-end transaction system developed by Cyop Systems International, which allows the game's revenue to be split proportionally among Bingo.com, the server and the sublicenser.

"We plan on sublicensing skill bingo to anyone who wants to play it," he said.

Skill-Based Bingo? is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner