Updated on 09/18/2011 12:09AM

Wireless gaming to hit Vegas soon


From being able to talk at any time on our cell phones, to organizing our lives on personal data assistants, to having a complete jukebox on our iPods, we live in a technologically advanced age where we have everything at our fingertips.

So it's no surprise that gambling will also be coming to the palms of our hands.

It has been a slow process, but in March, the Nevada Gaming Commission voted to allow wireless gaming in casinos. Two weeks ago Cantor Gaming was licensed to distribute mobile gaming devices, and last week, the Venetian entered an agreement with Cantor to be the first Vegas property to offer wireless gaming, either late this year or in early 2007.

The Venetian has a clientele that includes business conventioneers as well as a young, hip crowd. It attracts a lot of people on the go, the demographic at which wireless gaming is being aimed.

Cantor's parent company, Cantor Fitzgerald, is the leader in the electronic bond trading field, with $1.5 billion in wireless transactions to date, according to Cantor Gaming's managing director, Joe Asher. Cantor already has gaming experience with its Cantor Mobile bookmaking software in the United Kingdom, and it operates an online casino from Alderney, an island off of England. But Cantor has had its eyes on Nevada.

"If you're going to do something with gambling, you go to Nevada," Asher said.

In early 2004, Cantor approached the Gaming Control Board about introducing wireless gaming to Nevada. Cantor worked with the board and the commission every step of the way to get regulations passed allowing wireless gaming. Asher credits noted gaming lawyer Bob Faiss with helping draft the regulations. In June 2005, the bill passed the state Assembly and was put into law by Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Asher said that in the next 30 days, the devices and other software and hardware will be submitted to the board for approval, and a 30-day field trial at the Venetian is expected around the end of the year.

The devices are the size of a Blackberry and will allow customers to play games such as slots, video poker, blackjack, and roulette. If you've seen any casino games on your computer or on video games, you know exactly what they look like.

One of the keys, Asher said, is to make the system secure to meet Nevada regulations and also the expectations of gamblers. Speaking to concerns that some people are leery of the possibility of online or computer games being rigged, Asher said, "That's a fair question. People who gamble at a casino in Nevada trust that the games are fair, and we're very mindful of that. The house does have a built-in edge on every game, but people have to feel they can win."

Customers will need a cash deposit to fund an account, and possibly a credit card to offer a security deposit in case of theft. But Asher said theft shouldn't be a problem, because the devices will automatically shut off and be useless if they are taken outside a designated area. Nevada's gaming laws state that gaming has to take place in public, so you won't be able to use the devices in hotel rooms or the parking garage. Casinos can decide where in the casino the devices will be used. The signal is sent over a local wi-fi network, so access is only granted where there are wireless access points.

Unlike casino games, which must be played onsite, race and sports betting is already allowed in Nevada via intrastate phone and computer wagering. Asher said Cantor is working on a device that would offer wireless race and sports wagering.

Asher said that the possibilities are endless for the wireless gaming devices, and that they could end up being something that guests get issued when they check in.

"The board wants us to stick to those games for now," he said, "but in the future, we plan to add non-gaming uses, such as being able to order a drink wherever you are, and since the signal is being tracked the waitress can bring your drink right to you. Or for ordering show tickets or making dinner reservations."

Again, everything in the palms of our hands.