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Japanese Company Under Scrutiny for “Near-Miss” Slots

October 21, 1988

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Nevada gaming officials are considering whether to continue to allow slot machines that tempt gamblers by appearing to just miss a jackpot.

But an attorney for the machines’ Japanese distributor said Thursday the ″near-miss″ devices only make things more exciting.

The 15,000 Universal Distributing video slots used in most Nevada casinos randomly choose symbols on the lines being played, but are programmed to show winning combinations on non-paying lines. If a player puts two coins in a five-line machine, those lines will come up with random spins, but the remaining three lines can be programmed to show a jackpot.

Although the near-miss machines have been banned in Atlantic City, they have been used here for three years and are leading the industry in the latest technology to make slot machines more entertaining, Frank Schreck, an attorney for the company, said Thursday.

″The company has made playing slot machines exciting again,″ Schreck said. ″There’s nothing deceptive about it. This is what gambling is about. Everybody knows that in the end, the odds are they’ll lose. But the possibility of winning makes it more exciting.″

The Nevada Gaming Commission is planning to review whether to allow Universal to retain the near-miss feature on its 15,000 machines among Nevada’s 100,000 slots. No date has been set for a hearing on the issue.

The review is part of a stipulation Nevada gaming officials and Universal entered into last month following a complaint against the company filed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board in April.

The complaint said the Tokyo-based company was deceptive in allegedly hiding the near-miss feature from gaming regulators when the machines were approved in 1985.

Schreck said the feature was described in the documents filed with Nevada but officials ″obviously didn’t study all the information we gave to them.″

New Jersey officials, however, did review the near-miss computer program in that state’s slot machine lab and outlawed it.

″It was to entice the player to play more lines,″ explained Anthony Parrillo, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Last year, Universal’s video slot machines were allowed into Atlantic City, but without the near-miss program, he said.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Mike Rumbolz said the board had not taken an official position on the slots and a final determination on the near- miss feature’s use would be up to the commission to decide.

New Jersey’s Parrillo has said his staff tipped Nevada’s gaming officials to Universal’s near-miss program, but both Universal and Nevada gaming regulators have denied that.

″We discovered it through continuing testing in our laboratory,″ Rumbolz told the Atlantic City Press.

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