One of the biggest upcoming trends in the world of gambling is portable gaming. As a former business advisor, and a regular casino-goer, I have been asked recently about potential pitfalls that casinos might face with portable gaming. This article explains the concerns that I have, and why I am leery about portable gaming becoming larger in the gambling industry.
What Is Portable Gaming?
For those of you that are not familiar with portable gaming, it is a fairly new concept. You are given a portable gaming device, similar in size to a tablet PC or an iPad to gamble with. From the menu, you can access games such as the sports book, keno, blackjack, video poker, and slots. Depending on the casino, you might have to buy credits at the desk, charge them to your room account, or charge them to a credit card. The portable gaming pads communicate with a computer that keeps track of your winnings and losses.
While earning a programming degree, I remember a professor of mine telling us that the more complex a program is, the more potential issues it has when it first comes out. While the companies that have been introducing these portable gaming pads have sworn that all of the bugs are out of the systems, I have already heard stories of issues. Due to some of these stories, software issues have become a concern of mine about portable gaming devices in a casino.
I have a friend that was using a portable gaming pad at one of the Las Vegas casinos in early-June to access the sports book of her home casino. She was nervous about using it, but was told that the casino had been using them without fail for about three months. While accessing the sports book, her system locked up. Her screen showed that she did not have any credits left, even though she had not entered a wager yet.
While the casino still had her credits stored in the main computer that these portable gaming pads contact, her credits refused to show up on her screen, even after rebooting the pad. The casino tried to explain to her that there was a issue in the system, and refunded her credits to her in cash. While she was able to get her money back, how many people have not? The casino had already assured her that there would be no issues with the portable gaming device, but there was. It would lead one to wonder if this was a common occurrence, and the casino was trying to cover it up.
The casinos that are using portable gaming pads currently, and many of the casinos that plan to use them in the future, are stating that casino patrons will be able to use them near, and around the pools. While some of you might think that I would be concerned with someone dropping one of these pads in the pool, that is not a concern at all. My hardware concerns about portable gaming devices are centered around light and heat.
The amount of sunlight that portable gaming pads could be exposed to around a Las Vegas pool could be astounding. Not only would the direct sunlight from above cause an issue with the hardware, but also the light from below that is reflecting off of the pool’s surface. The more sunlight that a touch screen becomes exposed to, the higher the chance of failure, and the shorter the lifespan will be of the screen on a portable gaming device.
Going hand-in-hand with the hardware concerns that I have over the hardware of a portable gaming pad, would be the heat in Las Vegas. I have been in Las Vegas in temperatures that have exceeded 110 degrees. Temperatures like this can easily overheat any kind of computer. Portable gaming devices in casinos are no exception.
One client that I used to work with when I was a business advisor owned a company that investigated frequency interference from multiple portable devices. His company was, and still is, finding that the more types of frequencies are in an area, the higher the chance that you will have for frequency interference. This frequency interference can cause for systems, like cell phones, laptops, and even portable gaming pads, to loose their connection.
Being a regular traveler to Las Vegas, I know that most casinos have banned the use of portable gaming systems that are used for video games such as the PSP and Nintendo DS (read about that here) and the use of laptops (read about that here) on the casino floor. Still, it needs to be pointed out that there are still tons of potential from frequency interference with portable gaming devices in casinos when you take into account that there are always a ton of people on cell phones, and radios in a casino.
My primary concern in regards to portable gaming pads in casinos comes in the form of hacking. No matter what companies say about how secure their portable gaming devices are, someone will eventually crack any kind of computer system. With the amount of money involved, hackers could potentially break a small bank in a casino in a short about of time by hacking in to, or in through, a portable gaming pad.
It needs to be pointed out that there are tons of hackers out there that will attempt to hack in to a system just to prove that they can do it. Within minutes of hacking in, hundreds, if not thousands, of other local hackers can find out how to get in through message boards. Even if a casino were able to bypass the hacking eventually, how many hackers may have gotten in at that point?
I would also like to point out that there will most likely be hackers that will do what they can to mimic the outside look of a portable gaming device so that they can work in secrecy. What is to say that the person sitting next to you on what looks like a portable gaming pad is actually using a portable gaming pad? The outside of one of these systems can easily be copied so that a hacker can get right into an area where people are suing their portable gaming devices to hack into yours, or into the system of the casino.
While I understand that convenience of a portable gaming pad for a casino or to a casino patron, I will continue to be leery about them for a long time. While casinos, and other types of companies have been swearing that their portable gaming devices are safe, there are too many issues that I have seen in the past where systems that were proven to be safe ended up failing, or causing other problems. I am concerned that portable gaming devices will become the Windows Vista of the gambling industry.
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