For years, traditional bingo has been the underpinning to all electronic Class II gaming machines; indeed, it is the very legal essence that allows these slot-like devices to be classified Class II and circumvent many of the compact and regulatory issues involved with Class III slots found in commercial casinos. Now imagine if this same principal was applied to table games—using a bingo base to create a traditional table game facsimile that can be legally used in Class II gaming environments.
That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind O-craps!, a Montgomery, Ala.-based company that is developing new table games concepts for the Class II gaming marketplace. The company is in the process of rolling out its first product, O-craps!, a game that has the look and feel of a traditional craps table but where the action is conducted through cards, ball blowers and other elements associated with bingo games.
O-Craps! is the brainchild of Troy King, a lawyer and former Attorney General of Alabama. King recently took some time to speak withCasino JournalEditor Paul Doocey. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
How did you become involved with gaming and found O-craps!?
King: After I lost my re-election bid for Alabama Attorney General, I opened my own law practice and began talking to folks around the state, people calling in the post-mortem of the election. Some of the people I found myself talking to were the Poarch Creek Indians here. One of the things I heard them say was they wished somebody would come up with a way that you could play Class II bingo as a table game. In Alabama, we have lots of people who pass by Atmore and the Indian facilities on their way to Biloxi because they can’t play table games there. That seed of an idea germinated into, well… why can’t somebody think of a way? Somebody thought of how you can take a bingo game and turn it into an electronic machine. Why can’t someone think of a way to take it and turn it into a table game?
That began a six-month process that ended with O-craps!. I believe the hallmark of O-craps! is that it is not a bingo game played on a table… although it is that. It is a game that captures the spirit and the essence of what makes people be attracted to a table game; and it casts it totally within the boundaries of Class II gaming.
Please explain how O-craps! qualifies as Class II gaming while also playing like a traditional table game.
King: I have told people that O-craps! is “retroloutionary.” It is retro because we have a bingo ball blower, bingo balls and bingo cards. We have a grid where you purchase your bingo card, we have a caller who calls out the bingo and we play B&O bingo, which is an old form of bingo. So it is totally Class II bingo as defined by NIGA and NIGC. But it is revolutionary in that it injects RFID readers to read the balls, tablet technology and digital animation. It’s bingo recast as an exciting table game, in this case craps.
So it may be a form of traditional bingo but played and presented in such a way that the customer will experience the play and feel the excitement they get from a standard table game?
King: That’s right. If someone who is a seasoned craps player walks up to this table, it will feel familiar to them. They are going to be playing bingo, but they are not going to be bewildered and think, “what is this?” It will feel familiar to them… the elements are there. But if a regulator comes up to it, what he is going to see are all the elements of Class II gaming.
You do have the bingo elements with O-craps!, but from what I saw at Southern Gaming Summit, the concept still looks very much like a traditional craps game…
King: Yes, but just like electronic bingo is able to project the illusion of being a Class III slot machine. Someone has been successful in taking bingo and recasting it in a slot machine-like way that is fully compliant with Class II but has the excitement and the elements of Class III. We have done the exact same thing.
What is your marketing strategy for O-craps!? Being that you are an Alabama-based company, will you be primarily marketing the game there?
King: Well, oddly enough, I still have tender, sensitive battle wounds in Alabama. Sad to say, Alabama is not a target market for us… other than the Poarch Creek Indians.
There are a number of markets we have identified and are targeting. Some of those markets feature Class II facilities just like the Poarch Creek Indians, where they have been looking for a way to bring in the excitement, demographics and spending ability of people who like table games to their casinos. There are also compacted jurisdictions where the tribes may feel the Class III table game compacts are becoming too expensive and burdensome, and they would like an alternative. Charitable markets are certainly a target audience as well; people who run bingo halls and are looking for something exciting they can bring to their floor that is an alternative to either paper card or electronic bingo. There can even be Class III jurisdictions where, with the proper adjustments, this table game can be a great Class III product that would provide an alternative to traditional craps games.
Have you been able to place O-craps! in a casino? Has it had a beta test yet?
King: There are a number of tribes that have expressed interest and we are in conversations with them. I believe very soon we will be able to announce a beta test and have real numbers to back up what everyone intuitively thinks now, that this is a great idea and will provide an exciting addition to casino floors.
Are you worried about legal challenges to your claim that O-craps! is a Class II bingo game?
King: I’m a lawyer and understand anyone can file a lawsuit. I am a former regulator, so I understand there are always people who want to attack things that are new or different. But I spent four years as attorney general dealing with a governor who would simply not accept that you could play bingo electronically. So it would not surprise me if there was someone who thinks you cannot play bingo on a table game. Just as I believe the people who believe you can’t play bingo electronically are wrong, I think the people who say you can’t play it on a table are wrong. I am comfortable with our legal opinion. Frankly, the traditional elements of bingo are more prevalent and prominent on O-craps! than they are in lots of the Class II electronic machines.
What are your plans going forward for other Class II table games concepts?
King: Our top priority right now is the rollout of O-craps!. But there are other games to come. The lodestar of our company, the guiding principal, is that we’re not interested in a game that doesn’t feel true to its inspiration. When you play one of our products, you are going to have the same experience you have playing a traditional table game, but within the boundaries of Class II gaming.