Most analysts believe that despite year-on-year growth, the land-based gambling sector will eventually plateau around 2030. After which, it should experience a rapid decline. Thus, many operators are already looking for ways to pivot and maintain amidst this seemingly inevitable occurrence. One recent move in this direction is the addition of skill-based gambling machines on casino floors.

In 2014, Nevada became the first state in the country to introduce legislation for such games, and a few months after, New Jersey followed suit. The Garden State implemented the same regulations as Nevada but beat the Battle Born State to the punch by being the first territory to introduce these games. They made their debut in Atlantic City in late 2016.


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In July of 2020, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement authorized GameCo to bring this genre into the digital sphere. Many believe that newer generations will prefer these products to popular slots and live table games. However, a misconception about this genre is that if you get good at a specific title, you will claim a prize each time you play it. That is not so. Expertise will only lower the house edge by 5% to 6% at most. Thus, the casino will always win in the long term. Below we list what many think are the top skill-based casino games.


Cover Fire

Gamblit Gaming is a leading developer of interactive games with a portfolio of over 25 products. They aim to bring contemporary gaming to casinos. Thus, satisfying the appetites of players under 50-years-old. The California-based company did just that when they released Cover Fire in early 2019, a port of the famous mobile third-person shooter. Gamblit worked with Genera Games, who developed the original game for iOS and Android phones in 2017. The gambling version is identical to its mobile equivalent, which has amassed over 50 million downloads in its three-year existence.

It features graphics comparable to most console releases, and you win points by taking out enemies utilizing a touch screen. You play a veteran soldier who goes up against an evil corporation that is endangering lives for its monetary benefit. The minimum bet here is $1, and each kill wins you a prize. Cover Fire is playable on a tri-station platform, has big-boss battles and hundreds of maps.


Into the Dead

Ah, another Gamblit port of a famous mobile game. Zombie fever was at an all-time high following the success of the early seasons of the AMC show – The Walking Dead. During the early 2010s, it seemed like half the horror movies and action games featured zombies. New Zealand developer PikPok, capitalized on this trend via this first-person-shooter titled – Into the Dead. Released in December of 2012, Into the Dead was a massive hit with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone gamers. Its sequel was also available for Nintendo Switch.

The gameplay consists of you running through a field infested with zombies, with your only recourse for survival being to dodge and shoot the undead. Again, same as with Cover Fire, you use a touch screen, and this product also mimics its source material to a T, an exact clone. The atmosphere is grim in this survival-shooter, which boasts an impressive selection of weapons and many maps. The lowest bet you can make here is $1, while the highest one is $5. All in all, this is an enjoyable zombie romp that can land you some decently-sized wins if you can last enough without getting eaten.


Nothing’ But Net 1 & 2

We mentioned GameCo at the start, so it is only right that we talk about one of their products, seeing as they will be the first to branch off into internet-based gambling. Nothing’ But Net is a two-part series of basketball three-point shooter games, where you fire off three-pointers on a street-court. Those that have played old EA sports NBA Live games will notice gameplay similarities. However, instead of hitting keys on a keyboard or gamepad, here you shoot threes via a pressure-sensitive orb-like button.

The first entry in the series hit gaming floors in mid-2017, and the second one the year after. Unlike the previously discussed titles, this one plays a lot like a conventional slot machine. It is a fast-paced game where you take multiple shots per basket, and each one corresponds to a wager with denominations comparable to a spin on a slot. If you manage to make ten successful shots out of fifteen, you get to enter the bonus mode, where you can try your luck at landing a progressive jackpot for free. Nothin’ But Net incorporates gameplay concepts that any casual slot player will immediately recognize.


Zombie Heat

Synergy Blue is another California-based developer but with headquarters in Palm Desert. It launched its operation in 2013, and it utilizes propriety Hybrid Arcade Wager-based Gaming platforms, which mix arcade-gameplay applicable with Class II and III regulation. Class III gambling is anything that falls in line with traditional gaming. Meaning slots and table games such as craps and blackjack. Whereas Class II machines are Video Lottery Terminals that mimic reel-spinners but are more akin to bingo in the way they produce results.

Zombie Heat is also available on a bar top cabinet, and it lets you fight off space zombies using a trailer cannon and some homemade traps. You play it via a touch screen, and Zombie Heat makes no bones about drawing inspiration from the classic Neo-Geo Metal Slug series. Before each round, you set up traps, and once the round begins, you fire your cannon at zombies that attempt to reach you. The skill-based part is aiming the mortar at the incoming enemies. You regulate the distance of each shot via a slinger sliding motion. As you progress through a level, more zombies attack, and it gets harder to kill them all. It may be counter-intuitive, but the more zombies attack, the better it is for you, as you can claim larger prizes.


Which Casinos Host These Games

You should find skill-based machines in Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Southern California casinos. You may also be able to stumble upon them at various cruise liners. In other US states, lobbyists are trying to push through their approval, but regulators remain in firm opposition. It has been a bumpy road for the genre.

These games made a ton of noise when they debuted in popular gaming hot spots in 2016 and 2017. Once regulation got passed, many top brands announced interest in featuring them on their gaming floors, and as soon as it was made possible, they did.

In New Jersey, the genre made its debut at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, operated by Caesars Entertainment. Caesar president Kevin Ortzman was present at the unveiling of the world’s first skill-based video gambling games when over twenty machines got installed on Caesars Entertainment properties in the Garden State. Six months later, all of them got removed from Harrah’s Resort, Caesars, and Bally’s Atlantic City due to under-performing and not meeting profit expectations. The same thing happened in Nevada.

However, this did not spell the end for the genre. GameCo admitted that their products pull in weak numbers, but they will still press on. Their goal is to capture the Millennials and Generation Z demographics who have gotten disillusioned with classical gambling.

A recent Synergy Blue poll suggested that 70% of over 100 surveyed gambling venues plan on incorporating these kinds of gaming options and see them as the future. Most operators believe that the only way to thrive in the current climate is to appeal to new generations. In 2020, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved new companies, such as Wymac Development, to provide skill slots to Las Vegas casinos, and top developers are still releasing new products. So, there is still hope for the genre.


To Wrap Up

Many players complain that these games are inappropriately named, as skill plays a negligible factor regarding payouts. They are right. Casinos are businesses, and to stay in business, they cannot let someone reach a level of expertise at a specific game that they will receive a decent payout each time they sit to play. Thus, these products are nothing more than slots masquerading as skill-based games. Via skill, you can only lower the house edge slightly, but the casino will always have the advantage.

You can find online slots that feature higher payback percentages and are just as, if not more entertaining than products from Gamblit, GameCo, and Synergy Blue. They also provide better payouts. However, if you want a touch a gaming diversity and find yourself in a spot that offers them, give them a try.
 

………

Shelly Schiff is a slot maven and an iGaming expert. She has been writing about gambling for over ten years and is most known for her frequent contributions to OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com, one of the internet’s most reputable online casino review sites. In her free time, she enjoys watching TV shows and spending time with family.

 

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  • great content is useful
    Posted Feb 04, 2021

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