A year ago I pulled into the parking lot of one of Jeffersonville’s two outlet malls. I had been told many of the store fronts stood empty but wasn’t ready for what I saw. The place looked like a ghost town. About the only sign of life was what looked like a casino and the signage reinforced that image. The name of the place was Lucky You and it was some kind of game room.
I didn’t give it any more thought until I was recently told that such a place existed in Greenfield, Ohio and another near Rocky Fork Lake. I drove by the one in Greenfield and from the sign (see photo below) learned it was a “skilled” gaming room.
Back in the 60s when I first moved to California, the only place in America where casino type gambling was legally permitted was Nevada. But, in California there were communities that permitted “games of skill.” Sacramento was such a community and the games of skill included poker and several other card games. Someone in power decided that success at poker relies more on knowledge of the game’s mathematics and not luck of the draw. Tossing a pair of dice requires little, if any skill. You have little way to decide what the toss will produce. However, in poker if your hand requires a deuce to make an inside straight and there are already two deuces showing on the table, this knowledge informs you that the odds of you drawing the one remaining deuce isn’t great. That’s skill.
Some time later Atlantic City, NJ caved to the need for new revenue sources and the specter of legalized gaming was let out of its cage. Today it is the rare state that doesn’t permit casino gaming and even rarer no form of legalized gaming. Ohio resisted for decades. In my memory Ohio always had legalized horse tracks. In the 70s the state got into the numbers game and later the lottery game. Today we Buckeyes can play Keno in bars, buy scratch-off tickets at most cash registers, and very soon go to one of several major cities and play the games that made Vegas famous. Of course we could already do that by merely stepping over the Indiana or West Virginia borders.
I was aware of all this but not aware of what laws were permitting a legal gaming room within the boundaries of Greenfield. Well, I don’t know all the details but in the new laws permitting casino gambling there exist a clause or two that allows “skilled” games in the tradition of the Golden State.
In Ohio, however, skilled games are not card games. They are game consoles that resemble in great detail the slot machines found on any Indiana river boat. I paid a visit to the game room at Rocky Fork Lake and from what I learned these machines give the player some control over where the spinning wheels stop. The skill is anticipating what figure or number will pop up next and then being able to respond quick enough to push a brake or stop button.
What do you get if, by skill, you can make four cherries line up in a row? Well, I’m not sure. Online the word is they cannot pay in cash. For each game you can receive a merchandise voucher worth up to $10. The woman running the game room said on certain games she can pay up to $15 in cash and for amounts greater a voucher exchangeable for merchandise at the convenience store next door. I’ll certainly defer to what she says because also online what I found described skill games as basketball tosses and skee-ball, games that require true physical and/or athletic skill.
I found the following quote on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. It states that the Ohio Gaming Commission has jurisdiction over skilled based games and…
Skill-Based Amusement Machines – True skill-based amusement machines are legal under Ohio law. Examples of legal skill-based amusement machines include pop-a-shot basketball games, skee-ball, or other games that require some sort of skill for the player to be successful at the game.
One important characteristic of skill-based amusement machines is that prizes cannot include cash or cash equivalents such as gift cards. Additionally, merchandise prizes must not exceed $10 wholesale value per play
Obviously the Attorney General’s information is not up to date or incomplete. Whichever, if these things appeal to you driving to Indiana is no longer a requirement, nor is having a good left-hand lay up shot. You can plop down in a comfortable looking executive style chair and feed the bandit within the familiar surroundings of your home town and with people who certainly would tell the rest of us you just lost your rent payment. What happens in Greenfield gets all over town at the speed of light!