The Bulletin

How ‘slot-like’ are the gambling parlors about to open around Virginia? Very.

By: - March 25, 2019 5:03 pm

Colonial Downs Chief Operating Officer Aaron Gomes demonstrates one of 600 “slot-like” games that will soon fill gambling parlors around the state. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

From The Bulletin: quick hits on the news of the day, odds and ends and commentary.

Virginians will soon have a new way to play slot machines that are not quite slot machines. (See also: Those “nudge games” that have popped up in convenience stores and gas stations around the state.)

Colonial Downs, which is reopening this year with permission to operate “historical horse racing” machines around the state, showed off one of their new video gambling terminals, which thus far have been described primarily as “slot like” in nature. They’ll be installed at the track in New Kent and off-track betting parlors in Richmond, the Roanoke area and Hampton Roads. The first is scheduled to open in about a month.

How slot like is it?

Very. Matching symbols, spinning stuff — the whole deal. Someone walking in the door and playing for a few hours would be hard pressed to know the difference, even if company officials reject the nomenclature most might use to describe it.

“No, I wouldn’t call it a slot machine,” said Aaron Gomes, the track’s chief operating officer. “I think the experience playing it can be similar. But definitely, completely different than a slot machine.”

And there is a legit difference, even if the average player won’t necessarily notice.

The math behind the scenes, Gomes notes, is completely different, based on old horse races and a pari-mutuel wagering system where players are all chipping in to a pot of money they’re playing for. In traditional slots, players are up against a random number generator and playing against the house.

Racing aficionados can pull up a little tab that lets them see stats for horses and jockeys and make bets based on that, but the company acknowledges very few players will take that route, instead opting to interact through games that look exactly like slot machines do.

So how would they suggest describing the games to the public at large?

“Historical horse racing – HHR for short,” Gomes says.

It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

“We wouldn’t object to slots-like,” Mark Hubbard, a spokesman, says.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.