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Best of Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
 

Venetian About to Give Gamblers a Hand

25 May 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- By year's end, Venetian customers could be the first in Nevada to gamble somewhere inside the casino using a wireless hand-held device.

An agreement between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Cantor G&W, the first company licensed by Nevada gaming regulators to distribute mobile gaming devices, is expected to be announced today.

The deal calls for Cantor G&W to be the exclusive distributor of mobile gaming equipment to both The Venetian and Palazzo, Las Vegas Sands' new $1.8 billion Strip resort expected to open next year.

Neither company would disclose financial terms of the agreement. Cantor G&W, an affiliate of New York-based financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, is free to strike similar deals with other casino operators.

"Obviously, this is a goal we've been working toward for quite a while," Cantor G&W President Lee Amaitis said Wednesday.

Once the technical standards for usage of the devices are completed -- possibly in the next 30 days, said Gaming Control Board member Mark Clayton, who is overseeing the process -- mobile devices and related equipment, such as servers and systems, can be submitted to regulators for approval.

Cantor G&W managing director Joe Asher said the company would have a product ready for investigation as soon as possible. The goal is to begin testing by December.

Amaitis said the size of The Venetian offers Cantor G&W a large platform to demonstrate both the capabilities and safeguards of mobile gaming.

"Some people might have thought it would have been easier for us to go into a smaller casino and test out our product," Amaitis said. "But we think introducing this product at The Venetian is making a bold statement about how we believe our mobile gaming devices will perform."

Venetian President Rob Goldstein said he is curious to see what type of customers mobile gaming attracts. He said the company had a continuing dialogue with Cantor G&W over the past two years and Las Vegas Sands views mobile gaming as another amenity to offer customers.

"I really don't know how to predict what the response will be to mobile gaming or who would use the product," Goldstein said. "That's the main reason we want to get it out there to be tested. I've enjoyed playing with the devices and we think our customers will look at them as a convenience. Honestly, we're happy to be out in front on this."

Amaitis said The Venetian's customer demographics covers all age levels and incomes because of Las Vegas Sands' reliance on convention attendees through its large convention facilities, and the increasing customer volume The Venetian is experiencing through the property's new restaurants, entertainment venues and nightclubs.

"We think The Venetian gives us a tremendous demographic makeup to launch mobile gaming," Amaitis said.

Cantor G&W spent two years pushing hand-held gaming legislation through the Nevada Legislature. In 2005, the company lobbied lawmakers to approve Assembly Bill 471 and Gov. Kenny Guinn signed the measure into law.

The company also offered its comments while the Gaming Control Board wrote the regulations governing mobile gaming. The regulations were approved in March. Last week, Cantor G&W was licensed by the Nevada Gaming Commission to distribute mobile gaming devices.

Since the measure became law, some of the gaming industry's largest equipment makers, including International Game Technology and Shuffle Master, have expressed interest in bringing hand-held gaming devices to the market.

Cantor Fitzgerald has invested more than $400 million in technology development and was the first company to offer customers interactive electronic bond trading. The company has supplied similar hand-held devices for mobile gaming use in the United Kingdom.

Mobile gaming allows Nevada casinos to offer their customers use of a wireless, hand-held gaming device, similar in size to a BlackBerry. Casino patrons will be able to use the devices to place wagers from areas outside the traditional casino. For example, gamblers could wager on hands of blackjack or spins of a roulette wheel from poolside or the buffet line.

Gambling from hotel rooms or a property's parking garage is not legal.

Clayton said the control board and commission may look at where mobile gaming is allowed on a property-by-property basis. Areas where there is a high concentration of minors may be prohibited.

"Some casinos may not want mobile gaming allowed from their high-end restaurant," Clayton said. "It will be up to the properties to determine if some locations are appropriate for mobile gaming."