A Class 3 slot machine is a fancy way of saying a Vegas-style slot machine, which generally in foundation follows the rules established for slot machines by Nevada’s gaming regulators and are most often seen in commercial casino markets, as well as some tribal gaming facilities.
The hallmark of a Class 3 slot machine is the outcome is traditionally determined by a random number generator, that is within the machine itself, as opposed to outcomes outside the machine, such as through other game types like Bingo or Historic Horse Racing.
The term Class 3 itself comes from regulations over tribal gaming called the Internet Gaming Regulatory Act, which originated in 1988. In it, it established what recognized tribes could offer for gaming without negotiating with a state, vs. what required a separate agreement.
For instance, the game of Bingo and devices that aid the playing of Bingo, were put under the Class 2 regulations. This is why in some tribal gaming facilities you see Bingo machines that look like slots. You’re actually wagering on Bingo, with the reels just showing an outcome that matches what was won on the game of Bingo.
Slot machines as a game of chance was not allowed in the Class 2 regulations, but instead Class 3, meaning that states had to legalize gambling, and then authorize the tribes to offer Class 3 games. This has happened in some states, like California and Oklahoma, so tribes are able to offer (and many times do offer) both Class 2 and Class 3 games.
Ultimately, the term Class 3 comes out of those regulations, and are just a way of specifying standard Vegas-style slot machines, since other types of machines aren’t really slot machines at all, but games that just approximate slot machines’ look and feel for player comfort.
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