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UNLV to offer gaming innovation course


Mark Yoseloff spent a career designing, developing and manufacturing electronic games.

Whether it was handheld football in the early 1980s at Coleco Industries or slot machines at Bally Technologies in the 1990s or SHFL Entertainment Inc. in the early 2000s, Yoseloff has seen technology evolve over the past 30 years.

Today, a trustee with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation, Yoseloff remains passionate about technology, but he is concerned Las Vegas could be losing its well-deserved reputation as the center of innovation in the gaming industry.

Through his own foundation, Yoseloff is funding a unique program to give students a chance to learn how to bring a game from the classroom, to the casino floor or online.

“If you think about it, look at all the innovation that’s taken place over the last 40 years,” he said. “Forty years ago, there were no video slot machines, specialty table games or ticket in, ticket out slot machines. All of that was developed in the 40 years.

“What’s the next 40 years going to look like?” Yoseloff asked.

The Dr. Mark Yoseloff Gaming Innovation Program, offered through the UNLV Harrah Hotel College, will launch in August with a course on gaming commercialization. Undergraduate and graduate students will learn how to design technically advanced casino games for resorts and the Internet.

The semester program will walk students through the patent process and developing business strategies. It will include mentoring from Yoseloff and other industry executives.

Yoseloff said it was about giving students “the tools they need to perfect their craft.”

The program is made possible through a $250,000 gift from the Yoseloff Family Charitable Foundation.

“I’ve always been a supporter of UNLV,” Yoseloff said. “I’ve been at Penn and Princeton, neither of which needs my money or help. UNLV is a school in transition with greatness in certain areas.”

He said technology is driving the gaming industry like never before, and the program is designed to give students the tools they need to perform and succeed in a competitive business.

A competition, in which students will develop and present an invention or idea to be judged by UNLV faculty and local industry executives, will end each semester. The Yoseloff gift will fund cash prizes for the winners, and students with the most successful projects will get marketing and legal guidance to help sell it, with UNLV getting a royalty.

He said as the program evolves, it will expand from a semester into a yearlong course with dedicated sections on innovation in entertainment, security and productivity.

“Gaming companies want more input from employees who understand the intersection of gaming with math, psychology, business and sociology, as it’s these employees who will shape the future of the industry with an infusion of solid new ideas,” he said.

Faculty in the Hotel College and its International Gaming Institute, with Yoseloff, will teach the course through the college’s gaming management concentration. The program will be open to 20 undergraduate and graduate students each semester.

“We have taught students how to run a casino floor and how to manage a business, but what we haven’t taught them is how to create the intellectual property that drives the experience,” said Bo Bernhard, executive director of the UNLV International Gaming Institute. “The days of designing a game for a box or table on a casino floor … are over.”

Bernhard said that in gaming “content has always been king,” but never has it been more important today, with the proliferation of online, social gaming and other platforms for gambling.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

 

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