06/02/2005 11:00PM

Betting from a chaise lounge


Gaming in Las Vegas is going mobile.

State lawmakers in Nevada approved a measure that will allow gamblers to play games such as blackjack, roulette, or slots without actually sitting in front of the tables or machines. Soon those checking in for a weekend in Las Vegas can take the casino around with them.

The recent passage of State Assembly Bill 471 allows the use of mobile gaming devices within the parameters of licensed gaming properties. Although the measure is now law, the state's gaming commission must set regulations before the hand-held devices can become part of the offerings at your favorite Las Vegas casino. And, that could take some time.

Although the remote devices are the next step in the application of technology to gaming, there are some in the industry that want to take a wait-and-see approach. Right now, no one really knows what shape the animal will finally take, or if the availability of mobile gambling while moving through the common areas of casinos will have much impact.

It is likely that the rules governing the gaming devices will be strict and limited in scope, and that the gaming commission might take as long as a year to draft regulations for the devices.

Playing from hotel rooms or any private areas will certainly not be part of the package. Although the common areas within the casino - hotel restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, pool areas, and bars - would likely be included, lawmakers do not want to see children gaining access to the devices. The technology for the devices could include a security system that would read a thumb print. The concern of over-gambling on the convenient devices will also be addressed, although those promoting the technology say account limits can be imposed with little effort. And, there is always the issue of hacking into the wireless system.

While regulators begin the process of setting the rules for the new technology, those who have much to gain are already proclaiming the merits of the new devices. State Sen. Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas), who cast the only dissenting vote on the measure, isn't sure. When not representing her district in the Nevada legislature, she is a waitress in a major Strip casino coffee shop. She thinks the new devices will slow down service and could complicate the duties of non-gaming casino workers. Would she be obligated to turn in someone if she saw a customer handing a remote gaming device to a child while in the restaurant?

And how much will this new device impact the Las Vegas gaming experience, anyway? The idea of mobile gaming has endless possibilities, but there's no telling whether it will reach its potential.

You would think the remote devices would be used by race and sports players roaming the properties, availing those players of multitudes of races and ball games throughout the day. I think they've got something.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.