Thousands of desktop and smartphone casinos exist in today’s digital gambling market. Logically speaking, they can’t all be top-tier sites. Only the most prestigious, well-built and finely tuned operations can claim such status.
In the last few years, mobile casino popularity has grown to phenomenal heights. Desktop gaming sites are still well-visited, and won’t be disappearing from the iGaming realm anytime soon. But with the majority of the world’s population carrying one touch-screen mobile device or another, smartphone casinos are becoming the primary focus of the industry’s software developers.
The shift to mobile began just a few years ago, and surprisingly, most of the sites that once ruled the roost in desktop gaming have found themselves descending the proverbial ladder. It’s not that they aren’t converting their systems to support gaming on smartphones and tablets. It’s that they’re forced to take a backwards approach to it.
They’ve started with a stellar desktop platform, and that’s good. But ordering their programmers to transition that technology to something that’s ultimately compatible with all the major mobile phones and tablets – Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone, etc. – that’s obviously easier said than done.
The key was to convert all desktop web pages to HTML5. However, as these operators began boasting that their platforms were fully optimized for mobile, the inevitable bugs began to rear their ugly heads. An error here, a miss-sized page there, a menu that didn’t agree with the programmer’s tap-to-open language.
Best Smartphone Casinos Built On Mobile
While all of these mishaps were being untangled, new smartphone casinos were appearing. These websites were being designed with a mobile-first approach, ensuring that their platform loaded seamlessly on all devices before they ever went live.
In 2012, a new mobile casino called LeoVegas hit the market. New gambling sites don’t often get a lot of attention. It can take years to establish a distinguished reputation, especially in a business such as this one. But by using the exact strategy described above, LeoVegas didn’t just make waves, it crashed upon shore, employing a phenomenal marketing campaign that drew countless players and decimated the competition.
LeoVegas Proves Mobile-First Works
The company’s mobile strategy was enormously successful, earning LeoVegas a trophy case full of awards over the next few years. It started when EGR Nordic Awards named them ‘Best Innovation in Casino‘ in 2013, followed by ‘Best Mobile Product‘ in 2014.
The next year, LeoVegas took home EGR Nordic Awards for ‘Slots Operator of the Year‘ and ‘Affiliate Program of the Year‘, as well as the ‘Grand Prize Award‘ from the GP Bullhound Summit.
In 2016, LeoVegas scooped seven more awards, including EGR Nordic’s best ‘Mobile Operator‘, ‘Casino Operator‘ and ‘Nordic Operator‘ awards. International Gaming Awards named them ‘Online Casino Operator of the Year‘, Gaming Intelligence awarded them with ‘Casino Operator of the Year‘, and EGR bestowed them with dual titles of ‘Best Mobile Marketing Campaign‘ and ‘Best CRM Campaign‘ of 2016.
One of the companies lead managers explained why he thinks LeoVegas has become on of the best smartphone casinos in the world.
“I think what makes LeoVegas different is that we had mobile in mind before we launched as a website,” he said. “Most companies do it the other way around. They launch the website with desktop in mind and then have a problem to solve when they realise they have to offer a mobile version as well…
“Because we were always thinking ‘how will this look on mobile?‘ or ‘will this create a problem on mobile?‘ from the very start, we were prepared for all that already when the app came.”
Today’s industrial market is filled with competition. Pick any business, and you’ll likely find two juggernauts leading the way. In mobile technology, it’s iOS vs. Android. In eMerchanting, it’s Amazon vs. eBay. Even the toothpaste industry has Crest vs Colgate. In Daily Fantasy Sports, we have the two leading DFS betting giants, DraftKings vs. FanDuel.
For the last few years, these DFS sites have competed directly against one another to be the top fantasy-based, real money sports betting operators in the world. While their operations were aimed solely towards the US and Canada for a long time, they both branched out into the UK market last year, each seeking eventual global domination.
According to ESPN, DraftKings and FanDuel spent more than $750 million combined on television ads, encouraging DFS betting enthusiasts to choose one operation over the other. It was a grueling, no-holds-barred campaign from both directions. And I must say, it did work, attracting an estimated 56 million users to their DFS sites from North America alone.
But as is often the case with huge companies in a dead heat for first place, we’ve learned that the two largest fantasy-based real money sports betting companies are now about to merge.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!
That’s right – it’s Serius and XM satellite radio all over again. DraftKings and FanDuel have already negotiated the terms of a merger. All that’s left now is that pivotal moment when government regulators stamp their seal of approval on the deal.
That’s expected to happen in the coming months, lining the DFS sites up to finalize the merger shortly into the second half of 2017; probably just in time for kick-off of the next NFL season.
Being relatively equal in size, the merger will see both companies splitting their responsibilities right down the middle.
Jason Robins, current CEO of DraftKings, will maintain his role, becoming the new CEO of the merged brand. Nigel Eccles, current CEO of FanDuel, will hop into the seat of Board Chairman. And, to keep it fair, each operator will get three seats on the new company board.
“This merger will help advance our goal of building a transformational global sports entertainment platform,” said Robins in a press release commenting the intended merger.
Eccles was equally enthusiast about the deal on ESPN.com. “Being able to combine DraftKings and FanDuel presents a tremendous opportunity for us to further innovate and disrupt the sports industry.”
“Disrupt”? Wait Just A Darn Minute…
Did Eccles really use the word, “disrupt”, to describe the DFS sites’ merger? Yes, he did, and that’s exactly what government regulators could be thinking, too.
You see, in order for a merger to be approved, it must not create a monopoly that would devastate other businesses operating in the same industry. And that could pose a huge problem for these real money sports betting aficionados.
But assuming the merger is approved – and it probably will be, just as Serius/XM was – it begs to question how punters will be effected.
As Kevin McGuire of The Comeback pointed out: “Reducing competition… could be dangerous for the consumer… there’s less incentive to keep prices (in this case, the portion of the fantasy pot taken by the company) down when there’s the perception that the player has nowhere else to play.”
“Commission Will Absolutely Not Increase”
In response to growing concern among the DFS betting community, Robins told ESPN on Friday, “The commission will absolutely not increase as a result of this merger.
“We always try to balance what’s the right commission rate to make the games fun and exciting and make everyone feel like they have a chance to win and also to create a healthy profitable company. And those are the same objectives that will exist post-merger,” he said. “We’re not foolish enough to think that we can raise commission to a level that players will just accept.”
Yeah, well, Richard Nixon said, ‘I am not a crook!‘, and George Bush senior said, ‘Read my lips – No new taxes!‘
There are no guarantees as to what will or won’t happen if/when DraftKings and FanDuel become one. But if we use the example of Serius/XM just once more, it’s worth noting that company did not issue a price hike following it’s 2008 merger until 2011, and that was based solely on inflation.
Casinos have been around for hundreds of years. Thanks to the computer geniuses that brought us the world wide web, online gambling showed up about two decades ago. As technology progressed, we gained the ability to play the same games on a mobile casino for real money in the late 2000’s.
Mobile gambling has actually been around longer than that. I believe it was 2003 Microgaming launched the very first mobile casino app, but that was in the draconian days of flip-phones with arrow-keys to make selections. In terms of modern, touch-screen technology, mobile casinos didn’t begin to flourish until about five years later.
Now days, everyone uses their Android and Apple iOS smartphones and tablets for gaming. Some prefer social games, like Candy Crush or Words with Friends. I prefer something with a bit more of a bite to it, and there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration that comes with playing a mobile casino for real money.
Every game you can imagine is available these days. Hundreds of classic and 5-reel video slots grace the menus. Video poker and table games like blackjack, baccarat, roulette, craps, three card poker, ultimate Texas holdem; I could go on and on. Thanks to HTML5 optimization, mobile casinos have it all, and you don’t even have to download an app to access them (although it is an option).
Sounds great, right? And it is – but just like those social games I mentioned above, mobile casino games can be quite addicting. The thrill of the win can be like a drug-induced high. And if we’re not careful, we could find ourselves spending a lot more money on these games than we ever intended.
It’s awfully easy to keep clicking the Spin button on the slots, or doubling up a blackjack bet to regain the previous loss. But we can avoid such problems by simply being aware of what we’re doing, and how much we’re doing it, at all times.
Appreciating the Entertainment Value
The golden rule to gambling is to appreciate it as the entertainment option that it is. You don’t go to the movies expecting to win back your price of ticket and popcorn. Playing a mobile casino for real money affords that opportunity, but you should never play with expectations of a profit.
Those who think they can just play until they win are what critics and statistical data collectors refer to as ‘problem gamblers’. No one wants to end up in that category, and if we’re conscious of our actions, we never will.
Set Strict Deposit Limits
Think about how much money you make each week. Think about the bills you have to pay each month, and the amount you spend on other necessities like food, fuel and toiletries.
Now, think about what you have to spend on entertainment. Maybe you have an extra $200 each week. You’ll want to hold onto some of that for random things, like date night or a spontaneous outing with your friends.
If you split it in half, that gives you $100 to play around with. You know you can log onto your favorite mobile casino and deposit that $100, confident that you can afford to lose that much.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a negative way of thinking. It doesn’t mean you are going to lose, or that you’re even planning to lose. It just means that if you do lose, it’s okay. That’s a huge positive in my book.
It’s also a good idea to set time limits. If you only spin the reels or play blackjack for 15 minutes at a time, chances are your bankroll will last a lot longer. And if you do run out of funds before the week is out, that’s okay, too. There’s an easy solution for that.
Switch To Free Play Mode
You don’t always have to play a mobile casino for real money. All of those games – well, the vast majority of them, at least – are also available to play for free. The only games you won’t have access to are the live dealer casino games. Because the operator pays to maintain the studio and hires professionally trained dealers to run the tables, they like to make sure there’s always cash flowing in.
All of the other games, though, can be played anytime you like without spending a single coin of your own money. Yes, the overall experience may lose some of the exhilarating bite I spoke of before, but it’s still entertaining, and it’s a great opportunity to learn how to play new games you never tried before.
Practice Before You Play for Real Money
Would you go to the track and bet on a race if you didn’t know anything about the odds or horses that were running? Hopefully not. The same goes for casino gambling. Why would you risk real money on a game that you know nothing about?
Practice mode is the perfect way to learn the rules for any game you’re unfamiliar with. You may decide you don’t like that game, or you may find it’s your new favorite. Either way, knowing how to play is imperative before you try any game at a mobile casino for real money.
Be An Opportunistic Player
Free play mode is also a great way to incorporate and fine-tune your strategies. Maybe you know all the rules of blackjack, but do you know the best times to hit, stand, double or split your cards? Intuition is a wonderful thing, but it would be unwise to deny the law of probability.
If you really want your bankroll to last as long as possible, with the highest chance of actually winning some money, developing a solid strategy is the only way to go.
If your bankroll runs dry, don’t contemplate depositing more than you can afford to lose. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to improve your play until the next payday rolls around.
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Your good at math. You have a tidy bankroll stowed away. You’ve decided it’s time to turn your stash into more extra cash by playing real money blackjack online. That’s not a bad idea, seeing as blackjack is the most profitable game in any casino – but let’s back it up a moment.
Ask yourself a few questions first. Have you ever played blackjack? Do you truly understand the rules of the game? Are you aware that there are dozens of rule variations you could come across? Have you developed an optimal strategy for the type of blackjack game you intend to play?
If you answered ‘No‘ to any of these questions, you’ll want to keep reading.
Usefulness of Free-To-Play Blackjack Apps
I know you want to play real money blackjack online, where you can actually win cash. But the best way to learn the rules and develop a proper strategy is to practice. Playing free blackjack games just for fun is the best way to accomplish that.
Not just any blackjack app will do, though. You need one that allows you to set the various rules, and provides optimal strategic data for all hands. There are some great blackjack training apps out there that offer these features, compatible with all iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices.
Some of my favorite blackjack apps include:
Know The Rules You’re Going To Play
Selecting only the best rules for the lowest house edge isn’t going to get you anywhere. There’s no casino out there that’s going to provide all the best rules on a single table. Instead, you’ll need to see what rule variations are available at the online casino you intend to play at (see next section for more info).
Because these free-to-play blackjack apps allow users to set the rules, you can enter the exact rules in the settings menu before you start practicing. This way, when you do start playing real money blackjack online, you know you’ll be working with the best possible strategy, giving you the lowest house edge and, therefore, the highest possible win rate.
Real Money Blackjack Online
Never assume that all internet blackjack sites are created equal. For every reputable operator out there, there’s a rogue operator hoping you’ll deposit with them instead. Take your time. Do your research. Find an operator with a long-standing reputation for honesty, integrity and quick, reliable payouts. Royal Vegas is a good example, as it meets all of these standards.
Also make sure players from your country are accepted, and that the deposit/withdrawal methods meet your needs. Then, peruse the available blackjack games and see what rules they offer. If the rules are appealing, make sure the pay table is too.
A natural blackjack should always pay 3:2. If the payout is anything less than that, find a better game. Decreasing the payout for a natural blackjack is the easiest and most covert way for casinos to hike up the house edge by as much as 2.27%.
Finally, remember that it’s impossible to turn the tides completely into your favor. If it were that easy, casinos would be out of business. The best you’ll manage playing real money blackjack online is a house of about 0.4%. With the right knowledge and strategy, you’ll only need a bit of luck to overcome that minuscule edge.
Since the invention of the smartphone, social media has become paramount to everyday life, giving us access to people, entertainment, a multi-player gaming environment and constant interaction. From an industrial point of view, social marketing is now the number one avenue for promoting businesses. But for real money casino apps, that path is largely blocked.
A study by Statista Research & Analysis released earlier this year indicated that social networking outlets like Facebook and Twitter would continue to attract an exponentially growing number of users over the coming years.
In 2010, the report showed 970 million people around the world accessing social media. That number doubled to 1.91 billion in 2014, rising further to 2.34 billion in 2016, with potential to reach 2.95 billion by 2020. Facebook remains the top dog in the social networking field, reporting a staggering 1.71 billion monthly active users.
IMG Statista Social Media Users
Industrial marketing teams, both for long established businesses and entrepreneurs, are well aware of the fact that social media is so vastly popular with their target audience.
According to a Hubspot report published in 2014, 92% of all marketing teams surveyed indicated that social media is vital to their business, and has helped increase exposure for their respective brands. 80% said they’ve experience increased traffic due to their social marketing efforts.
Mobile Casino Apps Left Wanting
Throughout it all, there’s one industry that’s been left out on the cold. In most regions, real money casino apps are blocked or banned from advertising via social media. Networks like Facebook and WebChat make a point not to encourage gambling on mobile casino apps, while China’s immensely popular Wiebo prohibits any form of wager-related advertising.
The reasoning is simple enough. Despite gambling being legal – once a person reaches a certain age, of course – there’s an overwhelming perception that its bad for you. It falls under the same reasoning that saw a prohibition against cigarette advertisements in the 1970’s, which had a lot to do with potentially promoting age-restricted activities to minors.
Copula Marketing Firm Has The Solution
One marketing firm believes its got a solution to the problem. Emmanuel Vivas, founder of digital market firm Copula.ph, told Stephanie Raquel of CalvinAyre.com that operators can avoid any legal ramifications by taking a more subtle, indirect approach to promoting their mobile casino apps on social media.
Vivas used online bookmakers as a prime example, explaining that they can open a social media page promoting a team or event series, rather than the actual betting service. It would provide a forum for discussion among fans, where operators could post textual advertisements, rather than direct social marketing ads.
He suggested that operators not “look into marketing directly to social media but more on gathering the people who are interested in like teams of sports”, particularly those whose interests lie with gambling on those sports. “In that way, we get a lot of people who are interested, and, at the right moment when these teams are playing, you can send a message to these fans, and they go to this place, and they can support them by making a bet.
“These are very legal and not connected to betting or wagering,” said Vivas.
Since the advent of virtual currencies, and more specifically, “virtual commodities”, a very fine line has been drawn between what does and does not constitute real money gambling online. The issue has been highlighted by a UK court trial in which two men have been accused of facilitating illegal gambling, including the advertisement of gambling services to minors.
The two Essex men in question are Craig Douglas (31) and Dylan Rigby (33), a pair of video bloggers who record and upload football game content on YouTube, and at the same time, advertised for the website www.futgalaxy.com; a website where access from UK customers was blocked earlier this year.
Both men were charged with advertising unlawful gambling. Additionally, Douglas was charged with inviting minors to gamble, while Rigby was charged with providing facilities for gambling without a license.
According to the UK Gambling Commission, all counts are direct violations of the Gambling Act of 2005.
Using Virtual Items for Real Money Gambling?
The offences are related to the use of a virtual commodity known as Fifa Coins, which can be purchased or win in the Fifa computer game, and can be used on www.futgalaxy.com, and some other third-party sites, to place bets on virtual football matches and other eSports. The winnings can then be transferred back into the Fifa game.
After being charged in September, Douglas and Rigby pleaded not guilty on October 14. The hearing will begin on February 6, 2017, where the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court will whether or not Fifa coins constitute a virtual currency.
If that’s the case, computer game companies and websites that deal in these virtual currencies would be required by UK law to apply for a regulatory licence from the Gambling Commission, as their activities would fall under the guidelines of real money gambling.
Gambling Commission’s Mind Made Up
The Gambling Commission published a discussion paper in August in which a warning was emitted to operators of internet-based platforms that supply eSports betting where virtual commodities, obtained in game, are used to facilitate wagers. The Commission advised operators that they may require a gambling license to continue their services.
Trading of in-game items that can be bought, won, traded, sold or used were deemed “digital commodities” by the Commission, especially when those items can be “converted into money or money’s worth”. In cases where those items can be gambled with, the Commission defined them as “a form of virtual currency”.
Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, who specializes in gambling law and licensing, and is a prime legal consultant for Out-Law.com, gave his opinion on the matter.
“The crux of the issue is whether in-game items have a monetary value derived from the current market price and can be converted back into real-world money, and whether the court’s interpretation of the Gambling Act accords with that of the Gambling Commission on the matter of virtual currencies,” said Rees-Gay.
“The Commission in its recent discussion paper stated that ‘where ‘skins’ are traded or are tradable and can therefore act as a de facto virtual currency and facilities for gambling with those items are being offered‘ it considers that a gambling licence is required,” he explained, noting that facilitating gambling without a license “is an offence under section 33 of the Gambling Act 2005…”
Rees-Gay called this an “important case”, as it will clear up an existing “grey area” of the law for operators in terms of what does and does not constitute real money gambling where virtual items and currencies are concerned.
Real money gambling over the internet, via desktop or mobile, is a highly controversial subject mong global governments. In some regions it’s legal, others its prohibited, and for the rest, it tends to fall into a gray area of the law. The Netherlands falls into the second category, and has made its legal stance clear to the makers of Apple smartphones and tablets.
Back in May 2016, the nation’s gambling regulator, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), sent an official request to Apple, Inc. asking that real money gambling apps be removed from the service’s Dutch-facing App Store.
The request was more of a demand, really, as the regulator crisply reminded Apple that online wagering is still illegal in the Netherlands. Although the government is currently working on a draft bill to legalize internet casinos, the KAS was adamant that, until the Remote Gambling Act is passed, and licenses awarded to individual operators, the App Store’s provision of real money gambling applications could be interpreted as a direct violation of current law.
Apple Removes Real Money Gambling Apps
It took the tech giant – the renowned maker of Mac, MacBook, iPhone, iPad and other popular computer products – several months to fully comply with the request, but a recent publication on the Dutch regulator’s website confirmed that Apple has finally obliged.
KAS stated that “one” company (no doubt referring to Apple) successfully removed 55 real money gambling apps from its Dutch-accessible App Store, including those from major iGaming operators like Bwin and Unibet. Note that Google Play did not receive a similar request, as that company did not offer these betting apps to Dutch customers in the first place.
“One of the app stores heeded the request of the Gaming Authority and deleted initially 49 and later six so-called real-money gambling apps,” read the announcement on the KSA website.
The regulator maintains that Bwin, Unibet and other betting operators of their nature may not lawfully provide their services to anyone physically located in the Netherlands. Therefore providing their mobile apps to Dutch customers is also a violation of the law.
Higher Fines Convince Operators, App Stores To Comply
Assisting companies like Apple to comply with that law was a move by the Dutch government in 2015 to triple the penalty for illegal online gambling from €50,000 to €150,000. In the past three years, at least iGaming operators have been fined by the KSA, with some operators being slapped with as much as €200,000 in individual fines.
According to reports, only three of the penalties were actually collected. Other operators were apparently able to avoid the fines by ceasing acceptance of Dutch players and confirming their intent to apply for a Dutch license once remote gambling becomes legal.
Two iGaming operators in particular became aggressively targeted victims of the KSA’s wrath. Total E Soft Ltd. and XKL Ltd., both based in the UK, were hit with a combined total of €180,000 in fines after being charged with providing illegal online gambling services to Dutch players via 14 different online poker, casino and sports betting sites. The KSA compiled strong evidence against them, as the websites were written in Dutch and boasted the Netherlands flag within their graphical layouts.
Remote Gambling Act Coming in 2017?
The government has been working long to pass a Remote Gambling Act, and is expected to finish the job sometime next year. The draft legislation is currently working its way through Parliament’s upper house, and will finally give private companies a chance to proffer licensed, real money gambling apps and websites within the country, eliminating the existing monopoly.
The flashing lights and chiming reverberations of slot machines are one of the most iconic symbols of Las Vegas. For nearly a century, one armed bandits have attracted gamblers from around the world. And as much as we all love modern technology, from the Keurig coffee pots that deliver our morning boost, to the smartphones and tablets that accompany us through everyday life, the disappearance of classic, coin-op slot machines on The Strip isn’t sitting well with everyone.
Most of today’s millennials don’t even know what it’s like to insert a coin, pull a lever and feel the triumphant exhilaration of a win as the slot machine pours nickels from its hopper to the drop box. Rarely do we see players carrying buckets of coins from one machine to the next. Today, the industry strives on printed tickets that represent the money we’ve won, akin to receiving an IOU from the casino.
At one time, Las Vegas casino floors were lined with one armed bandits, but they are rapidly disappearing from existence as operators look to more sophisticated electronics to expedite wagers, payouts and the overall experience. Most of us can appreciate time-saving technology, but today’s video slots aren’t so appealing to everyone.
Little Momma Loves Her Coin-Op Slots
Twyla McFarland – or Little Momma, as she’s better known on The Strip – has been visiting Las Vegas for more than three decades. She was seated comfortably at an old-school slot machine at Circus Circus recently when David Montero of the Los Angeles Times approached, asking for a moment of her time.
She was more than happy to oblige, eagerly sharing her opinion that today’s flashy, bling-embossed video slots, with their ticket-in/out systems, hold no interest for her. She prefers to feel the metal between her fingers as she inserts silver dollars into the machine, pulling the lever with high hopes of seeing triple blue 7’s adorn the reels.
“I love it,” said McFarland, who’s been a regular at Vegas casino since 1979. “Nothing beats these coin machines. Just the sound of them hitting the tray.”
One Armed Bandits All But Extinct
But these one armed bandits are coming close to extinction on the Vegas Strip. Where they once lined the gaming floors of every casino, now only a few still maintain them, and their numbers are falling fast.
At Circus Circus, only 30 coin-op slots remain. A few can still be found at the Bellagio, and New York New York casinos. MGM Grand has just one game that still takes coins, and it’s not even a slot machine, but rather an old-fashioned horse racing game where players bet on the trifecta as little plastic ponies bounce their way around a model track.
Eric Fitzgerald, General Manager of Circus Circus, said his casino will keep its one armed bandits on the floor for as long as they continue to work. Since no one manufactures them anymore, he says, “it’s become more and more difficult to find parts for them, but we have a few slots we can take parts from still.”
While these antiquated machines make up less than 3% of the casino’s revenue, Fitzgerald knows there’s a core group of clientele that – like Little Momma – rely on Circus Circus to keep them around. And for McFarland, and all other players like her, Fitzgerald will make sure video slots don’t overtake the entire gaming arena for as long as possible.
As always, Microgaming is delivering new internet slots this month to all of its licensed operators. The latest addition is called Shanghai Beauty, introduced in October 2016, and the name alone tells us they’ve added yet another Oriental-themed game to the constantly growing line-up of real money slots.
I’m all for playing new titles, and always look forward to the start of each new month because I know Microgaming will deliver a few new games. But I was ultimately disappointed to see one of the most overused themes slapped atop the same old cookie-cutter slots set-up, yet again.
That’s not to say the game itself isn’t a good one, just blatantly repetitive. And of course, they didn’t get too imaginative with the symbols either, filling half the reels with generic playing card symbols of 9, 10, J, Q, K and A.
Now that I’ve gotten my rant out, let’s look a bit deeper at what else these real money slots have to offer in the way of features.
Shanghai Beauty Features
The new internet slots employ Microgaming’s typical 243 Ways to Win interfaces on a 5×3 reel set. The background music is fairly enjoyable – not too rambunctious, or slow enough to put you to sleep. It’s also multi-system compatible, so players can access the new game via desktop, mobile and tablet. It’s even available in ‘Portrait Mode‘ for smartphones (i.e. turn the phone to rotate the screen).
Shanghai Beauty follows the oriental theme well enough, filling the reels with images like the Geisha, Junk (oriental ship), Woman playing a Pipa (Chinese lute), Gold Bowls and Silver Bowls, along with Wilds (Shanghai Beauty Logo) and Scatters (Jade Box).
In the base game, things are fairly standard, except that Wilds pay 2x on all wins in which they are involved. Otherwise, because there are no actual paylines, all wins are paid as a derivative of the total bet placed, divided by all possible ways to win.
The game’s most notable feature is free spins, which are triggered by landing 3, 4 or 5 Jade Box scatters anywhere on the reels during a single play. This automatically triggers 15 free spins, regardless of the number of scatters that appeared (i.e. 4 or 5 won’t deliver more free spins). However, the player will receive Scatter pays, which do give nice payouts on their own (2 scatters = 18 credits, 3 = 45, 4 = 180, 5 = 4,500).
While the free spins are active, all winning combinations will pay at a 3x multiplier rate, based on the stake that triggered them. Free spins can also be retriggered at this time by landing 3 or more scatters during free spins.
Shanghai Beauty Slots Worth A Spin?
Not only did Microgaming’s latest internet slots fail to pique my interest in terms of thematic overlay, it doesn’t seem to bring anything interesting or innovative to the table either. There are no special bonus features outside of free spins, and no exceptional graphics or animations to draw players in.
If you’re a big fan of Oriental themes, you may want to give it a go, just to see if you like it better than the dozens of other similar games out there. Otherwise, give it a pass. You can find lots of more interesting real money slots at Royal Vegas, or any other Microgaming powered online casino.
Talk of skill-based slot machines has run rampant through Las Vegas casinos for the last year. Nevada passed a bill that legalizes skill slots in September 2015, and while manufacturers have been busy trying to create them, they quickly learned it’s not so easy to take games of skill and turn them into slot-style games with a guaranteed house edge, as per the state’s regulatory guidelines.
Last week, a pair of tech students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) turned up at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo (G2E) where they demonstrated a new game they developed that just might become the first skill slot to pass rigorous testing from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. It’s called ‘Line Em’ Up‘, and was inspired by extremely popular, puzzle-based social games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled.
Troy Pettie and Evan Thomas, both 20 year old students at UNLV, not only designed the new game, they founded their own company to house it. The company is called Guru Games, and these boys are confident they’ve got what it takes to bring the first skill-based video gambling machines to the gaming floors of Las Vegas casinos.
Line Em’ Up Skill Slots
“This is an original skill-based game called Line Em’ Up,” said Pettie while demonstrating the game at G2E.
Like other strategy puzzle games, the object is to line up matching symbols, but they won’t diappear when you do. The goal is to match as many lines as possible on a 4×4 grid before running out of moves. Lines can run horizontal, vertical and diagonal, and require four in a row (including Wild symbols) for a win.
“It’s inspired by Bejeweled and Candy Crush,” explained Thomas. “We took what we loved about those gaming mechanics, what made those games popular, and then we took what we know about gambling games and traditional slot machines and we melded the two to make something that’s seamless, unique and something that could actually work in a gambling space in a casino.”
How To Play
Players begin by choosing a bet size. The screen then fills up with symbols that drop into place (7’s, Bells, Cherries, Lemons, Gold Bars, Wilds, etc). Players will then receive a number of ‘Moves’, based on how many eligible moves there are on the screen.
If a game starts with zero moves, it’s usually an automatic loss, but as the duo explained, any game that starts with at least 1 move is destined to win.
“All zero movers are losers, but all boards that have moves are guaranteed to win,” said Pettie. He noted that even a zero-move game can be a winner, if the symbols happen to fall with a matching line of four symbols already completed.
Strategy Matters in Line Em’ Up
Just winning is one thing, but winning a larger sum of money is the real trick, and that’s where strategy comes into play. The more lines that have all matching symbols, the more money a player will win.
“The order of the moves matter,” explained Pettie in an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, “because it can impact how many lines you can ultimately make.” During one demo round, he was given a board where he could have made a line of 7’s in the first move, but instead, he made a different move that pulled a Wild over first, and was able to complete two lines, 7’s and Cherries, in two moves.
Best of all, said Pettie, “our math is it meets all the Nevada gaming regulations.” According to his partner, their algorithms guarantee a minimum 3.5% house edge for casinos, even by the most skilled of players. For those who don’t invoke perfect strategy, the house edge rises to about 6%.
The Line Em’ Up skill slots can be played right now for free on Android mobile devices as a social gaming app. But these boys have much bigger plans for the game, and are currently “in talks” with slot machine manufacturers to get their new game beyond free-to-play app, and into a live Las Vegas casino.