Chartwell, Motorola Bring Casino Games to Cell Phones

3 October 2001
I-gaming software developer Chartwell Technology Inc. is teaming with Motorola to get consumers hooked on playing casino games through their cell phones.

Chartwell has developed three games—baccarat, slots and casino war, all in play-for-fun form—for use on Motorola’s Java-enabled mobile phones. Earlier this year Motorola introduced three models that support its Java 2 Platform Micro Edition: the i85, i50sx and i55sr. The phones access the Internet through Motorola’s iDEN network.

Steve Latham of Chartwell’s sales and marketing department explains that when users are online with their phones they can choose one of the casino games and download it onto the phone. Each game is small—only about 50k.

The only challenge from Chartwell’s view in the game designing process was making the games small enough so that between three and five could fit on a phone at once. Latham said the technology is basically the same as that of the PC-based games, and that soon all 22 of Chartwell’s games will be available for play on mobile phones.

“The R & D (research and development), the e-commerce, the player tracking—that’s all the stuff that we have right now,” he said. “The game logic—the way slots spin and all that—is the stuff we have right now. The trick is to make it less than 50k in size.”

Latham said the iDEN network has about 10 million subscribers in North America and is being introduced in South America.

Once the game is downloaded, the user can play it in demo-mode, meaning that it is not connected to the network. Or, the user can log in to the cellular network, which provides a gateway to the Internet, and play against a random number generator online. The player only uses airtime when the game is played over the network.

Motorola also provides Sega games for cell phone users. Latham said cell phone companies like the games because they up the amount of time people spend on the network.

“Obviously the carriers want more airtime, so they need applications on the phone—reasons to be on the phone,” he said.

At 50 to 55k bytes per second, Latham said each game downloads in about 20 seconds. Each game, after being downloaded, is stored on the phone’s hard drive, and the cost of the game is added to the user’s phone bill. Most phones have between 250 and 500k of space available on their hard drives, so when users grow tired of playing one game they can erase it and download something else. The phone keeps a record of each game, so if people want to reinstall a game they’ve gotten rid of they won’t have to pay for the game again.

Latham said the games will ultimately allow real-money betting, although he sees it happening in the United Kingdom before the United States. His company and Motorola are working on a program for Harrah’s casino in Las Vegas that would provide high-rollers with a Harrah’s cell phone for use when they are staying at the hotel, he said. Players would be able to make calls on the phone for free, as well as play games using the devices, which would have a special Harrah’s faceplate.

“Now, if the regulators say that playing on the phone is considered ‘intranet’ gaming and they allow it to happen, then we can immediately turn that into play-for-money,” Latham said.