When is a VLT a slot machine?

Mar 8, 2005 8:57 AM

Gaming devices used by so-called "racinos" across America are primarily video lottery terminals or VLTs but are they much different from the slot machines prevalent at most casinos?

That’s the question being debated in New Jersey where the acting governor, Richard Codey, is proposing placing the VLTs in the state-owned Meadowlands racetrack to generate an estimated $150 million annually in state revenues.

As they have in the past, the Atlantic City casinos are opposing the plan, saying, in effect, the machines violate state law. If the machines are the equivalent of slots machines, then they would violate a constitutional ban. But, if as the state claims, the machines are an extension of the N.J. State Lottery, they would be exempt.

Codey, whose brother is general manager of Freehold Raceway in northern New Jersey, not only sees the VLTs as a means of reducing an expected shortfall in the annual budget but also as a means of helping horsemen compete with nearby states by offering higher race purses.

But the plan doesn’t sit well with the Atlantic City casinos that successfully fought a similar battle a couple of years ago. They argue the machines would cut into their profits since up to 40% of their customers come from the same area the Meadowlands would be drawing from.

As for the machines, there seems to be little difference in the eyes of the players. The VLTs offer games where competing players are hooked into a central computer system that determine the winners. On the other hand when playing slot machines, the individual machines determine the odds and the payouts.