The Next Evolution in Gaming Law
Dan Reaser’s legislation ushers in the era of skill-based gaming
Published in 2016 Mountain States Super Lawyers magazine
on June 13, 2016
Updated on June 30, 2016
Slot machine wagering and revenue totals have been steadily dwindling since their peaks in the mid-’00s, and the demographics of their typical players are aging. The Nevada gaming industry has noticed, and is now imagining a future in which casino floors have options like trivia, touch-screen tablet games, third-person combat games and more.
This future is now a reality, and the aforementioned games may already appear on casino floors in Nevada, thanks in part to skill-based gaming legislation, regulations and technical standards authored by Dan Reaser, director at Fennemore Craig in Reno.
“It’s logical to me,” says Reaser. “I’m 62 and have two daughters in their late 20s, early 30s. They play video games and they find the typical three-cherries thing not worth putting $10 into. But if they could play Bejeweled, that would interest them. I have a son-in-law who loves Words With Friends, who might like to put his money where his mouth is.”
Reaser has been a gaming attorney for more than 30 years. He served as general counsel to the Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board in the ’80s and chief deputy of the gaming division for the attorney general’s office; but it was the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers who tapped him to create this legislation.
“For probably 10 to 15 years, some of the game designers—the engineers trying to figure out the next best slot machine—have been trying to figure out how to jazz up the experience of a slot machine by marrying it with the video game phenomena,” he says. “A couple of years ago, AGEM came to me and said, ‘Do you think you could do skill [gaming]?’ and I said, ‘Sure, you just have a lot of law to change and we’re going to have to change some perceptions.’”
In 2013, the legislature appointed a commission to study the effects of technology on gaming devices. It recommended the introduction of a bill that could depart from the 1989 interpretation that skill games apply to table-based games like blackjack and craps, not machines. After much input and several hearings, Reaser drafted a bill for the legislature that was introduced in late 2014 and became law the following summer. He then helped define the rules and regulations, which the gaming commission adopted in September, as well as the technical standards that went through in February.
The new style of gaming brings with it new challenges in law. But that’s just part of the game.
“It’s a little like when I started out as a gaming lawyer, business organizations had only been able to have a gaming license for five years—it was a brand new concept. Before that, a human being had to hold the license. And then, decades from there, public companies and shareholders could own a gaming company or stock in the company. Then 10 years ago, it allowed private equity, so we don’t even know who’s investing. As each of those financing changes occurred, a whole new group of lawyers didn’t crop up, we just had to learn the change in the law.”
As for the perception that casinos will soon look like video arcades, Reaser is quick to respond. “These games are not replacing what’s already out there because there’s a very substantial and loyal demographic for that. They are to expand the offerings that a casino can make and, at one level, to present a product that a younger demographic would find interesting.
“I don’t see it as doom and gloom, I see it as the next type of casino entertainment to rejuvenate the gaming floors,” Reaser says. “It’s the next evolution, and the next logical step.”
Slot Machines v. Video Games: By the Numbers
National Slot Machine Wagering in 2006: $138 billion
% of American Homes With a Video Game Console in 2006: 33%
National Slot Machine Wagering in 2014: $105.4 billion
% of American Homes With a Video Game Console in 2014: 51
National Slot Machine Revenue in 2007: $8.4 billion
U.S. Computer & Video Game Sales in 2006: $7.3 billion
National Slot Machine Revenue in 2014: $6.74 billion
U.S. Computer & Video Game Sales in 2014: $15.4 billion
Nevada Slot Machine Revenue in 2007: $8.45 million
Average Video Game Player Age in 2006: 33
Nevada Slot Machine Revenue in 2015: $7 million
Average Video Game Player Age in 2014: 35
Sources: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Nevada Gaming Control Board and Entertainment Software Association