Is it skill or gambling? And is it legal?

Is it skill or gambling? And is it legal?

August 29, 2017 3:11 AM


Casino resorts are really good at getting people through the doors of their properties, but once in they usually do not do a good job of pushing customers to certain gambling games, which are typically put out like buffet dishes, letting the customers pick what they want.

Once the customers have played the same type of games over the course of a few visits, their play history starts guiding the marketing team in offers designed around those preferences. Occasionally the casinos will try pushing customers to a new game and it will get some forced trial, but the customers tend to drift back fairly quickly to the games they are most comfortable, familiar or feel lucky with.

Based on the traditional way most casinos market games, it had been a curiosity as to how the various new skill-based slot games would be marketed to and received by players. Releasing my inner marketing geek I put together a small group of millennial-aged players and created a mini-focus group to explore how to attract them to a skill-based game and how to hold them there.

While it is a fool that believes a very small sample size will always be indicative of a larger population, looking at things through the eyes of the targeted players will always provide an insight or two, and usually one or more very unanticipated surprises.

First observation was that while each person in the group went to casinos, they went for clubs first, drinking second, eating third, sports betting fourth, and if they gambled beyond sports they would go to 21, roulette and occasionally poker. All preferences seemed to be more socially centric driven than gambling centric.

When asked about the slot part of the casino, there was not much positive interest expressed as they predominately perceived that part of the casino to be for old people and smokers. It was then proposed to the group: What if there was a separate area to play the skill games? Oddly the retorting question was, “Could we play as a team vs. other teams or is it each person vs. the skill style slot machine?”

Potential interest seemed driven more by social aspects than individual player gambling compunctions. One of the younger members of the little gathering went so far as to say, “I go casinos to be with people and meet people, if I want to gamble by myself I can stay at home and play online.”

That comment was a bit surprising, particularly the “stay at home and play online” portion. Asking further about the online comment and expecting to hear about offshore illegal gaming sites or legal online poker, instead I was introduced to a company named Skillz.

Skillz generally holds itself out as an eSport operator that offers various types of games for fun or real money play and claims its real money offerings are legal to play in Nevada as well as many other states.

In checking out the site, there are a wide range of games being offered, but what was astounding was persons as young as 18 are able to bet on a game and play heads up or in a larger group. It may not have been surprising if the games were merely provided, the players decided who they were going to play against and there was no rake or fee to the game provider. Instead, the players are randomly paired, often in unknown game conditions until the start of the game, and do not generally know how their opponent(s) are doing until the event is complete. And by the way, the rake to the game provider looks to be 20% of the bets.

Generally in Nevada if you are getting a rake or a piece of the wagers for arranging or pairing a bet you need a license. So how their offering is legal or outside the auspices of the Nevada Gaming Commission is beyond this writer’s comprehension. What I do know though is if you can play a “skill” game from the comfort of your home or on your mobile phone wherever you are and whenever you want, it certainly will dampen the interest and enthusiasm of the mobile phone-dependent, millennial-aged players to bother to seek out skill-based slots in a casino, particularly if you started playing those games at 18.