May 13, 2014 -- Casino games of tomorrow are being invented today--by college students, no less, many of them too young to gamble. They’re enrolled in the “Gaming Innovation Program” at the University of Nevada, which, in its first year, has already produced more than 12 new games.
They include “888 Baccarat,” a non-commission version of baccarat that incorporates elements of Chinese culture, “Color War,” an easy-to-play specialty table game based on the color (red or black) of the cards dealt, and “Flip Card Blackjack,” in which a card is dealt face down under the side-bet when the player receives a blackjack.
Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, under whose auspices the course is taught, tells ABC News it’s not possible to describe the games in greater detail, because all are still going through the patent process. Once they have received full patent protection, more details will be forthcoming.
The program is the brainchild of Mark Yoseloff, Ph.D., a member of the UNLV’s board of trustees and a former chairman and chief executive officer of SHFL Entertainment, developer of games for the gaming industry. Yoseloff himself holds more 100 gaming patents.
The purpose of the program, according to UNLV, is to help students take gaming ideas straight from the classroom to the casino. The course is taught by Yoseloff and by guest lecturers drawn from the Las Vegas casino industry--experts on such aspects of gaming as commercialization of ideas, the patent process, and successful business strategies, according to Shoemaker.
Each semester culminates a competition, where students present their ideas to a panel of judges made up of faculty and gaming industry execs. The best ideas win cash prizes. Under the wing of Yoseloff, students also get a chance to present their ideas to executives in a position to buy them.
Gail Hancock, one of the first students to take the program, completed it in December. She tells ABC News that her idea, which she developed with the help of fellow student David Downes, is a new feature for slot machines that gives players what she calls “a modicum of control over the outcome.” It’s currently is being looked at, she says, by a major game-developer. Because her idea is protected only by a provisional patent, she declines to describe it further.
Hancock says it’s all but impossible today for inventors of new games to walk in off the street and get an audience with a gaming company executive. She herself enjoyed five such interviews, because Yoseloff used his connections to open doors for her and her fellow students.
“Now I have the business cards for all these people,” she says, referring to industry executives. “I can call them on the phone myself, thanks to the presentations I made. It’s been worth it for that, if nothing else.”
This coming fall, UNLV will expand the program from a semester to a full year. The University also will open a Center for Gaming Innovation, supported in part by a $500,000 grant from the Nevada Office of Economic Development’s Knowledge Fund. The purpose of the grant, says UNLV, is to maintain Las Vegas’ role as the global “intellectual capital” of gaming.