Nevada Regulators Approve Another Wireless Gambling Venture

CARSON CITY, Nevada_Slot machine giant International Game Technology was approved Thursday by Nevada regulators to compete in an emerging market for hand-held, mobile gambling devices.

Members of the state Gaming Commission, following up on a recommendation from the state Gaming Control Board, voted unanimously to approve the Reno-based slot manufacturer for licensing as an operator of mobile gambling systems.

IGT's move follows licensing in May of Cantor Gaming as the state's first licensed manufacturer and distributor of the wireless gadgets. Cantor led the 2005 legislative effort to allow wireless gambling in Nevada.

The commission approved IGT's new licensing after Amy Monette, director of the company's research laboratory, said market studies show many gamblers are interested in the new devices.

"We feel that becoming an early player is worth the financial risk," Monette added as commissioners fiddled with prototypes of the IGT devices that will feature blackjack, poker, video slots, roulette and keno.

Regulations passed in March, based on the 2005 legislation, made Nevada the first state to allow wireless gambling in any public area of a casino, including restaurants, lounges and poolsides. Hotel rooms or other locations that can't be supervised are off-limits.

Advocates say the move will better use resort space that is increasingly being devoted to non-gambling activity, such as shopping, dining and night-clubbing. Under state and federal law, the new systems can't be linked to the lucrative world of Internet betting.

Monette said biometric fingerprint readers have been discussed as a way to ensure minors aren't gambling, but some gamblers surveyed in IGT's market study saw the print readers as too invasive.

Monette said other measures, such as player security codes, are being considered. But while IGT is doing everything it can to ensure an adult doesn't hand off one of the devices to a minor, "we can't control the parents," she added.

The wireless devices can be linked to a main casino server that verifies the gambler is the person who checked out one of the devices at a casino. Players could establish betting limits in advance by depositing money on account.

Technology-savvy gamblers in their 20s to mid-40s are seen as the likely market. IGT's prototypes range from a small device to a 10-by-12-inch laptop that doesn't look like a child's toy, Monette said.

Shares of IGT closed unchanged at $37.47 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 08/25/06>>