Over the past several years, a major topic of discussion at
virtually every gaming conference in the United States has centered
on one statement: "The question is not whether we will have
internet gaming, but when."
The "when" seems to be now.
The breakthrough occurred only a few days ago in Southern
Arizona with the introduction of i-gaming at the Pascua Yaqui's
Casino del Sol website. The available i-gaming includes poker,
slots, blackjack and roulette, and it is offered to individuals
visiting the Pascua Yaqui's brick-and-mortar casino in Tucson.
While it is illegal under both state and federal law to conduct
i-gaming for cash, the Pascua Yaqui casino is operating lawfully by
giving "virtual cash" to its i-gaming players who then
can pursue "free" internet gaming. There are no cash
prizes. Everyone involved acknowledges that the play-for-"no
pay" is little more than a practice run for the day when
i-gaming is lawful in Arizona. Like the speakers at national gaming
conferences, they accept that the only remaining unknown as to
i-gaming being offered for cash prizes is the elusive
The core ingredient to the Pascua Yaqui i-gaming is the
Double-Down Casino system developed and currently being offered to
casinos at no cost by International Gaming Technology. The casinos
can put Double Down on their web sites for non-cash play. There are
no wagers, but there is money involved, both in theory and fact.
Players who sign up get $1 million in "virtual chips" at
no cost and can spend it in the virtual casino. However, they can
spend that freebie in no time at all, because the Pascua Yaqui have
imposed a $100 bet for a single line on a slot machine, and the
lowest buy-in at a poker table is $250. Moreover, they offer what
is being called a "black tie" table, and the bets start
at an eye-popping $200,000.
While all of this is fun, these numbers make clear that even
experienced players could burn through their allocated million
dollars in record time. The casino expectation is that these
players will think, "it's free and fun, and we want to
play some more." Once their virtual chips are gone, there is a
way they can get more that requires a modest cash investment.
Players can buy $150,000 worth of new chips for $3. Or they can buy
more chips under other options, including the purchase of $100
million virtual chips for the princely sum of $99. And the
purchases will be easy since they can be made through credit cards
The Pascua Yaqui are banking on the notion that those actually
playing the internet games will like them, despite the fact that
there are no real prizes at the end of the day. However, there
definitely will be prizes at some time in the future, and Casino
del Sol is hoping to develop a cadre of loyal customers who will
spend real money on the tribal i-gaming in anticipation of winning
So, tribal i-gaming is sort of here today. But tomorrow is
coming, and that will be the day when i-gaming is for real money
instead of virtual chips.
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