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Nebraska's Trade Is Satisfied With Bankshot Ruling

Posted On: 7/30/2010

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Bankshot, American Amusements, Greater America Distributing, Mike Dobel, Jon Bruning, amusement machines, gaming machines, video poker, skill games, coin-op machines, coin-op news, Nebraska skill game

OMAHA, NE -- A new version of the adult redemption videogame Bankshot from American Amusements (Bellevue, WA) is earning as well as the original after its first eight days on location, said Mike Dobel, president of Greater America Distributing here.

Bankshot is designed solely for the Nebraska market. On July 19, a district court ruling found that the some of the modes in the original Bankshot violated Nebraska's gambling rules.

Following the verdict, some 450 Bankshots were modified, and certain modes eliminated, within 72 hours to comply with the court's findings. Dobel described the modifications as complex and technical in nature.

At presstime, all 450 games remained in operation in bars across the state, Dobel said.

Greater American began distributing Bankshot in January 2008. About a year ago, hundreds of units were in the field, triggering high-profile media attention in Nebraska, where news reports highlighted the game's fast action and opportunity to win up to $17,000 on a $4 play-price.

One player described the action this way: "Nine billiard balls are arranged in a three-by-three grid. The screen flashes different patterns of the nine balls, up to 60 times a second. Slam a button, the screen freezes and you select where to place a 'wild ball'. Your score is determined by how many tic-tac-toe-style matches you've lined up."

American Amusements and Greater American said Bankshot was predominantly a game of skill and therefore not an illegal gambling device under state law. Some officials insisted it was a game of chance.

News reports said tavern owners loved the high-earning game, while churches and nonprofits complained that it cut into their bingo play and other fundraising draws.

A state police investigation into Bankshot reportedly went nowhere when experts disagreed if the game were skill or chance.

Subsequently, the state attorney general's office and Nebraska State Patrol continued to investigate the games. State lawmakers are calling for another expert study.

In September 2009, the State Patrol confiscated two Bankshot games from a location in McCook. The venue was cited for possession of illegal gambling devices.

American Amusements and Greater American quickly filed suit in Lancaster County District Court, asking the court to prevent lawmen from confiscating any other Bankshot machines and to declare the games legal. Attorney General Jon Bruning countersued, seeking to have the games declared illegal gambling devices.

Judge Steven Burns found that Bankshot's spin mode is a legal game of skill, but its slow mode and speed and fast break bonus games amounted to gambling.

Bruning criticized the ruling, arguing that all Bankshot modes and games constitute gambling. However, Dobel said his company had been in discussions with the attorney general's office about the post-ruling modifications. The distributor is hopeful that officials will reconcile themselves to the new version of the game.

According to Dobel, all sides got something they wanted. "I think everybody won," he said. "We are very happy with how the judge ruled. The court gave us the guidance we've been requesting for years. This is one of the few pieces of equipment making reasonable money for the operator's investment."

The Nebraska market can absorb more Bankshot games, and potential demand is there to expand the installed base, Dobel said. "But many operators are getting comfortable with the new version of the game while waiting to see if either side appeals the ruling."

Defendant and plaintiffs both have until Aug. 19 to do so, Dobel said.