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Gamblers give new video slots a spin.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Prairie Pays didn't, and Royal Spins whirled and twirled without producing any regal jackpots.

But Joyce Anderson shrugged off her time spent Monday during the debut of the state's new video slot machines as a not-too-expensive diversion from her occasional sessions of video poker.

"I'm done," Anderson announced, stepping away from her stool at the line of video gaming machines inside the Brew & Cue Tavern, at 2222 Highway 99N. in Eugene. "But at least it was fun."

The Oregon Lottery is hoping the gaming public will join Anderson in plunking down a few dollars to try out its new array of games, as state gambling officials seek to boost profits by $125 million over the next two years.

The so-called "line games" will be added to Oregon Lottery video terminals in at least 1,500 taverns, restaurants and gambling parlors by early July, joining an existing menu of video poker games from which gamblers can choose.

Machines at the Brew & Cue - along with those at the El Kiosco restaurant in Santa Clara and Giant Burger in Springfield - all had been upgraded to include the new games by Monday.

The games - with titles such as Prairie Pays, Royal Spins, Bullfroggin, Cash Climb, Great Whites, Red Hots and Polly & Roger - drew mixed reactions from first-day patrons, just as the controversial move into slot machine gambling has produced a variety of responses from retailers.

"As far as the people coming in, it's been a quiet day," said manager Donni Lagrone at El Kiosco. "But those that have come in have at least checked the games out. And there's lots of conversation among people sitting next to each other (at the machines)."

Lagrone said one video gambling terminal "froze up" while being played by a customer, necessitating an emergency call from one of the Oregon Lottery's technicians for the area, but the slot machine conversion otherwise went seamlessly.

At the Brew & Cue, technicians worked into the afternoon replacing a logic board in one terminal, but customers played at the tavern's five other machines.

"I didn't know they were going in here today," said Anderson, at the Brew & Cue. "I was just coming in for a beer and said, `I'll stick around and check it out.' "

But Bessie Mills, another patron at the tavern, was less than impressed by the fast action that makes video slot machines among the top income producers for gambling establishments.

"I don't like these new games," Mills said. "I had 125 (game credits on the machine), and bam, it was gone.

"I knew they were coming, but I wasn't looking forward to them. I don't even like them in Reno."

That's not what Oregon Lottery officials or the state's video gambling outlets want to hear.

Lottery officials approved line games earlier this year as a means of increasing income that helps pay for public education and other state programs.

The lottery later asked retailers to voluntarily amend their existing video gaming contracts, reducing commission rates in exchange for expanding the game selection to include numerous slot machine variations.

Those retailers who signed on by last Friday to receive video slot machine upgrades on their gambling machines will continue to receive commissions of about 29 cents on every dollar played on video poker games, through July 31, after prizes are paid. Commissions on the new slot machine games are set at about 25 cents on the dollar - which will become the new rate for all video gambling games on Aug. 1.

Lottery spokesman Chuck Bauman said 74 percent of the state's video gambling retailers had signed up for video slots and the new commission plan by last Friday, and the hope is to get to at least 90 percent over the next couple months.

"We're feeling pretty good about that," he said. "We've been asked to raise another ($125 million), and obviously line games will be doing the heavy lifting toward that total."

At the Brew & Cue in Eugene, owner Bob McCabe was hopeful if not enthusiastic about the changes. He doesn't like the new commission plan, but realizes that video slot machine games are the new thing.

"It's what it's all going to be, so you have to do it," McCabe said.

CAPTION(S):

Gamblers try out the new video slot games at the Brew & Cue Tavern in Eugene on Monday, the first day for the state's new "line games." State gambling officials hope the upgraded machines will boost profits by $125 million over the next two years.
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Title Annotation:Gambling; New "line games" generate revenue but not a lot of enthusiasm on their first day
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 17, 2005
Words:753
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