Gaming

Slots of moonwalking: notes from the Global Gaming Expo

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The MJ-themed slots at G2E.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Las Vegas hosts thousands of conventions each year, but the most important one (for us, at least) is the Global Gaming Expo. It’s not as big as CES, and it’s not as sexy as AVN, but it showcases the local industry: gaming.

This year, all the media attention went to Bally’s new Michael Jackson slot machines. I got the chance to play the MJ slot Tuesday afternoon, and, sure, I get the appeal. Playing it is halfway between gambling and clubbing—the bass bumps, the seats shake, and MJ moonwalks across the screen and screams. Well, if you put enough money in, he does.

Plenty of attention also went to Bally’s new Skee-Ball machines. When you hit the Skee-Ball Bonus, you’re given nine balls to glide across the screen, a la iPhone’s Can Knockdown. Here’s the thing: Your Skee-Ball score doesn’t correlate to your payout. It’s just a fun diversion. The higher you score, the more tickets you get, and the more tickets you get, the more “prizes” you can pick from, but—and this is the important part—the “prizes” that cost the most tickets don’t necessarily pay out more cash.

After winning an imaginary thousand dollars—all the machines are programmed to pay out big-time for the convention—I went to the food vendor area. “Closed to journalists,” I was told, but the alcohol area was open. Why? What’s the worst that can happen—I lose back my imaginary thousands?

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