Classes of gaming in the US are defined by the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988) and sets a definition of guidelines for tribal casinos to follow. The biggest thing to understand about classes of gaming is that slot machines ONLY qualify under Class III. While Class II machines may look, feel, and act like slot machines they are not legally considered a slot machine. Class II devices are based on the game of bingo. Here are some important points:
- CLASS 1 Gaming: Class 1 gaming would be tribal and ceremonial games such as hand games, stick games, or other tribal games. These typically do not involve casinos.
- CLASS 2 Gaming: Class 2 gaming are devices that look and play like slot machines, however, their internal workings rely on the game of bingo rather than a random number generator. These games can be easily identified by a bingo card displayed somewhere on the screen. Players should be aware that you are actually playing the game of bingo with others on that network and you are not playing a slot machine. Not all tribal casinos are class 2, in fact, most are class 3!
- CLASS 3 Gaming: Class 3 gaming, or “Vegas Style”, is the only class to include slot machines. Slot machines by legal definition must rely on an internal random number generator without outside influence. This is most casinos in the US. In order for a slot machine to be legally considered a slot machine it must be player vs. machine and the machine must be able to generate its own outcome. While progressives may be shared, a slot machine is still generating its own independent results. Meaning that rumors that slot machines can be remotely controlled to win or lose, or pay out certain combinations at certain times, are false as this would void them as a legally defined slot machine. Class 3 also includes table games.
Some casinos may hold both a Class 2 and Class 3 license. In order for a casino to have a class 3 license, they must have an agreement with the state and set up additional safe guards as outlined in the IGRA. In some jurisdictions like Washington state, the state may place rules on what type of machines a tribe can offer. In the case of Washington State, its VLT’s (Virtual Lottery Terminals), so while they may have a class 3 license they actually don’t have traditional slots per the states requirements. Just because a casino holds both licenses, does not always mean that the slot machines are a mix. Both licenses are required if the tribe also holds a bingo hall or occasionally plays the game of bingo.
Licensing can get very confusing as with anything government related. The biggest take away is just know that outside of Class 3 you’re not playing slot machines. You can always ask your casino what class of gaming they offer as this information is allowed to be shared.