Gaming Agency To Redefine Slot Machines

Eleven-year-old Nick Smith hit the jackpot at a skee ball game. His reward - a fistful of tickets for the prize shop next to the arcade. Smith said he'd spend the tickets "on whatever I can get best."

Parents seem to like places such as the Chuck E. Cheese arcade because it gives their children something fun and safe to do. Patti Dedeaux had her grandson in the kids arcade.

"It's great for the kids," she said. "They love it. They really do."

Most of the Chuck E. Cheese arcade games spit out tickets that kids can turn into prizes. And that's the problem. State gaming regulations say if you can win something from a machine, and you're not in a licensed casino, you're playing an illegal gambling device.

"I think that's a shame," Picayune resident Rebecca Smith said while she munched on a pizza slice. "The kids are having fun, and they're playing to get a great score. But they're also playing to get the tickets so they could get little prizes. So I think it's harmless."

The state gaming commission has proposed adding new language to its slot machine definition, so games of youthful skill aren't mixed up with the games of chance that adults play.

Adults at Chuck E. Cheese like Angie Ball were glad to hear that.

"They get a few tickets for playing a game," the D'Iberville woman said. "And they can turn them in for stickers, nothing major. And I think the kids are having a good time."

The gaming commission's director said his agency doesn't want to shut down places that offer healthy entertainment for Mississippi children. That's why the commission is working on rewording part of the gaming rules.

The regulation to define the difference between kids' games and illegal gambling devices will be discussed June 19, 2002 at the gaming commission's next meeting.