Hot ‘Bank Shot’ Game May Be Illegal

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A flashy new video game that boasts jackpots of up to $17,000 has stymied state authorities about whether or not it's legal.

About 400 Bank Shot machines have popped up in various places across the state. Players attempt to connect three flashing billiard balls in a row while wagering up to $4.

"You have to be fairly quick at it or it will start going again," said Cindy Allen, the manager of Earl's Tavern. "They assured me it's legal in Nebraska."

The game's developer said it's skill, not luck, that determines a winner.

"This is a game of skill that requires significant learning, significant player involvement and significant player activity," said John Fox of American Amusements.

He said the Nebraska State Patrol confiscated two of the games at Fonner Park earlier this year, tested them and then returned them.

"It's the same thing as Golden Tee golf," said Fox. "The same thing as games at Dave & Buster's."

"If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a slot machine in a different form," said gambling opponent Pat Lontjer.

He said that the games are all linked together by a central network.

"You're playing against a computer. That computer knows what the odds are, knows who's winning, how much they're winning and when to flip," Lontjer said.

The Attorney General's Office and Nebraska State Patrol are investigating the games. Lawmakers have called for an interim study.

"We're going to look at the legality of it," said Sen. Russ Karpisek, who chairs the Nebraska Legislature's General Affairs Committee.

He said that if it's legal, the state should tax it so it doesn't unfairly compete with keno and pickle cards.

"I would rather see the state regulate it than have it open and get nothing off of it," Karpisek said.

Lawmakers are expected to hold a public hearing on the game sometime this fall.

Allen said she doesn't see any harm in the game. She said the most she's paid out is $116. One player walked away with only three pennies.

"It's not like being at Ameristar or Harrah's," she said.

The game's developer wouldn't say how many jackpots there have been since the games started, but did say there was a "substantial" winner just last week.

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