Judge calls video game illegal gambling device

LINCOLN Changes are being made to a controversial video game called Bankshot after a Nebraska judge ruled that the current version of the game amounts to illegal gambling.

An attorney for Bankshot's distributor said the changes are expected to be made by 5p.m. Wednesday, when the ruling takes effect.

"We're just pleased that we have some clear direction now, which is all we've ever wanted," said Thomas Locher of Omaha, who represented Greater America Distributing.

Greater America Distributing and American Amusements, the game's manufacturer, sued the Nebraska Department of Revenue last year after the State Patrol confiscated two Bankshot machines from a McCook? business.

The businesses sought a declaration that the games are legal.

Attorney General Jon Bruning countersued, asking the court to find that the games are illegal gambling devices and to halt their use in Nebraska.

In his ruling Monday, Lancaster County District Judge Steven Burns concluded that Bankshot "as currently configured and programmed" is an illegal gambling device.

The Nebraska Constitution and state law prohibit games of chance and lottery, with limited exceptions.

Burns found that Bankshot was primarily a game of chance when played in slow mode and when Speed Break and Fast Break games are played.

But Burns found that it was a game of skill when played in spin mode.

Bruning said he disagreed with the conclusion that Bankshot is not a game of chance in a certain mode. But he said he was pleased that the court found the game to be an illegal gambling device as currently formatted.

Bruning said his office will consider appealing portions of the ruling.

Locher said the companies have tried to comply with Nebraska law and have cooperated with law enforcement agencies on testing the Bankshot machines.

Locher said the changes will limit the modes of play and will eliminated the random prize feature of the bonus games.

Bankshot is an electronic game that Burns described as a complex variation of tic-tac-toe. A single game can be played for 25 cent.

According to the ruling, players collect points by lining up pool balls of the same color. A player can risk a certain number of points on each game.

At the end of play, points can be redeemed for a penny each. Players who win a jackpot game can receive up to $15,000.

Bankshot machines are found in about 430 bars, cafes and restaurants in 143 Nebraska towns and cities, Locher said.

Testimony presented at trial indicated that more than 65 million games we played on Bankshot in Nebraska from July 14, 2008, through Feb. 8 this year.

Players deposited 16.2 million and redeemed $11.4 million during that period.

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