For those of you convinced skill-based gaming will never take off in the slot world, one look at the beta site at www.worldgaming.com might offer room for pause.“Win Money Playing Video Games” screams the headline at the top of the page.

That’s right; players can compete head-to-head against each other in tournaments for real money at the beta site that launched by Toronto-based WorldGaming Inc. earlier this year. The launch was the talk of the Game Developers Conference held last February in San Francisco.

And it’s not even the only such site.

Two other sites also allow such betting - they are Beyond Gaming LLC’s Gamersaloon.com and gSpot LLC’s Gspotgaming.com.

The sites bring together devotees of Xbox and PlayStation games, and broker playing sessions in which gamers compete for money.

As the WorldGaming.com site tells its potential prospects online, “Whether you’re playing for $20 or $200, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the thrill of victory along with watching your bank account grow.”

This generation has already cut its teeth on such games, and playing against each other is already old hat. It’s hard to imagine these same gamers being satisfied pressing a button and watching reels spin or by video slot bonuses that involve selecting boxes.

We’ve seen slot makers begin moving toward more interactive products and even skill gaming.

Bally Technologies’ Pong and Breakout games are examples, and Cyberview Technologies also is dipping its toe in the water with its Time Gaming play technology, which will allow arcade and pinball-like play. With that innovation, as well as Cyberview’s server-based experience and significant presence in the UK, it’s no wonder IGT is moving to acquire the company.

Other companies, such as WMS Gaming, are mirroring some of the features of video games. Its “Star Trek-”themed game, based on the iconic television show, offers a concept that creates a more personalized and intimate gaming experience. It’s a lot like the way a gamer achieves new levels on a video game.

When a player finishes a session, that person enters a PIN code that allows a ticket to be printed with a code. The player can then insert that ticket into the bill validator for a later playing session, allowing he or she to pick up where he or she left off.

The “Star Trek” game offers three fully developed episodes, and just like with a video game, bonus opportunities let players earn medals that can lead to unlocking future episodes. Players are

taking to the game, reports Bob Stewart, senior vice president of gaming operations at the Las Vegas Hilton, where the Star Trek the Experience provides a natural connection and supply of “Trekkies.”

“Honestly, the seats have not been empty since we put them on,” he said, just days after the installation.

The games also offer the real-time 3D graphics and Bose 3-Space audio sound also found in WMS’ Top Gun and “The Wizard of Oz” slot products.

But it’s only the beginning.

With the Gaming Standards Association’s common protocols and the march toward server-based gaming continuing, the industry soon will have even more tools at its disposal to offer more creative ways to keep players engaged at the games. With common standards, we may see more outside developers bringing new visions of what gaming can be to the slot industry.

Server-based gaming will allow casino operators to deliver

tournaments more easily and offer gaming in various forms and locations. This transition won’t take place overnight - after all, the core demographic of today still has a lot more disposable income in their pockets than 20- and 30-somethings, but it will happen.

And I have a feeling most forward-thinking operators and game manufacturers are keeping these trends squarely in their sights.