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Chris Sieroty

Betting kiosks have successful history, but the end is near

11 June 2013

LAS VEGAS -- The ability of a sports fan at almost any tavern in Nevada to get up from their burger, fries and beer and wander across the bar to wager on a football game or the fifth race at Hollywood Park is quickly coming to an end.

When the kiosks were first introduced, you first had to open your account at a casino.

That was the original vision of John English, whose company Multimedia Enterprises in 2001 began developing Sports Bet Xpress, the industry’s first sports wagering kiosk. The company, which needed partners who could help with technology, marketing and distribution, joined forces with VirtGame Corp. and United Coin.

“The original device is very similar to the ones today,” English said. “It was just a kiosk without printing devices or bill exchange. It was a stand up device with a touch screen ... and a power outlet. That was it.”

Nevada gaming regulators approved Sports Bet Xpress in 2003 under the phone betting laws.

“It was not a gambling device,” English said “The game outcome did not happen on the device and only transmitted information to where the outcome of the gambling took place, which was the casino.”

The casino was Bally’s. Initial feedback for the kiosks was phenomenal, but English said the problem was people had to get up, leave the bar and go to Bally’s to open an account, before returning to the bar to use the kiosk.

“It made it a little cumbersome to use,” English said. “It was eventually the downfall of that happen to that project in 2004. It was far more successful when we did it a few years later at Leroy’s.”

Leroy’s Race and Sports Place, whose parent company of American Wagering Inc. was bought by William Hill PLC, operated 58 sports books statewide to Bally’s one. English said with so many locations, it was easier to open a kiosk gambling account.

“It was the deal we did the deal with PT’s that changed everything,” English said. “With (Golden Gaming President) Blake (Sartini) came a whole new era because we were able to utilize the bars to open the account. That’s where the problem came in ? opening accounts at bars not casinos.”

The Nevada State Gaming Control Board Gaming Commission approved a two-year licensing agreement in September 2011 between Golden Gaming Inc., which runs the PT’s Pub chain, and American Wagering, now William Hill. The licensing agreement ends July 1.

As of July 1, sports betting kiosks will be banned from bars, taverns and other establishments holding a restricted gaming license. Gov. Brain Sandoval on June 3 signed Senate Bill 416, meaning the removal of 84 kiosks by the end of the month.

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents many of the major casinos in Las Vegas lobbied for the bill’s passage, arguing sports betting kiosks blurred the line between nonrestricted gaming, such as casinos with 250-room hotels, and restricted locations such as bars and taverns that are limited to 15 slot machines.

“Being able to cash out at the bar and not the casino made a big difference,” English said. “When it was little old Leroy’s prior to William Hill, it really wasn’t a big deal. At some point, they are going to have to have some kind of account you can open without going to a casino.”

He said the progression of technology will continue to move the kiosk business forward.

“I was a little surprised to see the kiosks was at issue with the NRA because its one of those enhancements that I thought was good for Nevada because it was helping keep business here,” English said.

Earlier this year, English brought his knowledge of kiosks to Gaming Arts LLC, a Las Vegas-based firm that has developed and begun distributing its EZ Kino Kiosk.

The kiosk, which offers keno and bingo games, has a bill acceptor, ticket printer, touch-screen display for play selection and a bar code reader to scan the ticket. English said the kiosk is still in trial tests, which are expected to be completed in 30 to 60 days, at the Siena in Reno.

“Because it’s in a casino, it’s cash in and cash out at the cage,” English said. “At least for now.”

English said the kiosk will allow you to print out tickets and watch the results on your tablet, smart phone, laptop or personal computer at home or work. He said the tickets must be cashed at a casino.

But with the changes in Nevada gaming law, the opportunities are more defined. English said right now kiosks in Nevada are allowed in casinos, but in jurisdictions outside the state they’re found in bingo halls, racetracks and in bars and taverns in some states.

“If the law allowed us to have keno in bars and taverns, that would be the ultimate,” English said.