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Best of John Robison
Ask The Slot Expert31 December 1999
Themed slots were everywhere at the 1999 World Gaming Congress. Slot manufacturers showed slots based on The Addams Family, The Munsters, South Park, The Pink Panther, Betty Boop, Yahtzee, and The Three Stooges--to name just a few. Now Presidential candidate John McCain has announced his intention to conduct an investigation into the slot machine industry for cartoon-themed slot machines. Senator McCain said, "I am deeply concerned that the use of these images negatively impact children. I question the propriety of companies using child-based themes in an obviously adult industry."
The casinos and the slot manufacturers fears a confrontation similar to the one with the tobacco industry over cartoon-like ads promoting smoking to minors. Stations Casinos has removed Betty Boop and The Three Stooges slot machines from their floors and IGT has delayed their South Park-based machine.
But the tobacco industry comparison does not hold up to scrutiny. First, the tobacco ads were easily viewed by minors. Cartoon-based slots are in an area that only adults are allowed in, so children will not have the same level of exposure. Second, most of the shows that inspired the themes are not popular with today's children. South Park may be, but it runs at 10 PM and is really targeted at young adults. The other shows play to the nostalgia in the over 30 crowd and I don't think many teenagers today even know who Betty Boop is. A PokeMon or Beany Baby slot would clearly be appealing to children, but the Pink Panther slot? Finally, the casino industry has done a much better job of controlling underage gambling than the tobacco industy has done controlling underage smoking. There are far fewer teens who gamble regularly in casinos than who smoke regularly.
I like most of the themed slots and I think they're a lot of fun to play. No investigation of the slot industry is necessary because the slot industry is different from the tobacco industry. The slot industry is not deliberately attempting to get minors to sample their product. Government should not dictate to the slot industry what themes are and are not appropriate for a slot machine.
What's your opinion? Have the slot manufacturers gone too far? Are cartoon-based slots creating a generation of adolescents anxious to gamble? Should the government prohibit slots based on cartoons? Are the machines really appealing to children?
Send your comments to me at email@example.com. I'll post them in a future article.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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