Rebel Roller, UNLV Slot Machine, Won’t Return for 2023 Season

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) football slot machine, Rebel Roller, is no more. UNLV Athletics cited the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in its May 25 statement to Bonus about why it was removing the turnover celebration slot. However, gambling industry analyst Richard Schuetz likely got that ball rolling on Aug. 28.

Last year, Schuetz took to Twitter to question the wisdom of having a pseudo-slot machine on the sidelines of a college football game. He reasoned that Many players and fans were under the legal gambling age of 21.

The International Game Technology (IGT) machine was a prop, like other “turnover tokens.” The fake slot machine didn’t dispense money, coins, or even Gatorade.

However, it just wasn’t a good look for UNLV, Schuetz said.

The NGCB may have agreed with Schuetz and others who have spoken up about marketing gambling to underage audiences and operator partnerships with universities since then. The latter have largely ended. Meanwhile, an NGCB representative didn’t immediately return a Bonus request for comment today.

However, a UNLV spokesman did respond.

Yesterday, Tony Allen, a senior director with the UNLV Office of Media Relations, relayed this statement to Bonus:

STATEMENT FROM UNLV ATHLETICS

While we appreciate the support of IGT for creating the visual for the football team, to be in greater alignment with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the Rebel Roller will not be returning to the sidelines of Allegiant Stadium.

That means the Rebel Roller won’t be on the sidelines for the six UNLV Rebels home games. Tickets are already on sale, even though players don’t take the field until Sept. 2 against the Bryant Bulldogs.

Rebel Roller Was Short-Lived

On Aug. 27, UNLV hosted Idaho State in Las Vegas. During the game, 22-year-old UNLV senior Austin Bawa Ajiake intercepted a Bengals ball and ran 46 yards. To celebrate, he pulled the Rebel Roller’s lever to teammate cheers. Ajiake retweeted seven versions of the slot celebration.

On Aug. 28, Schuetz retweeted an Aug. 27 Caesars Sportsbook post that housed a video of Ajiake and the season’s inaugural tug on the one-armed bandit.

Schuetz commented:

Having underage UNLV students celebrate by playing a slot machine on national television has to be an image that Las Vegas tourism loves. One wonders if the faculty and administration of UNLV want their image as an institute of higher learning shaped by underage gambling, too.

The “gambling” image also prompted questions about NCAA rules prohibiting wagering. The Rebel Roller leaving Allegiant Stadium and going on the road would violate “gaming rules,” ESPN reported in October 2021.

However, game broadcasts did display the Rebel Roller outside of Nevada.

Schuetz told Bonus on Sunday:

One of the things that always seemed shortsighted about the sideline slot was that this would not play well to the folks in other states. The obvious example is Utah, but there are a ton of other places that a parent watching that display on television would not be impressed. I cannot see them saying: “That is where I want my son to go play football” or “this is where I want my daughter to go to college.”

Like 2022, Rebel Roller Prompts Discussion

In 2022, Schuetz got a lot of blowback on social media for questioning UNLV’s wisdom regarding the Rebel Roller.

After journalist Andy Yamashita reported that the Rebel Roller wouldn’t be back in 2023, a May 17 tweet by UNLVRebelGrl expressed disappointment.

She tweeted:

Now it’s time to bring in an even larger more obnoxious huge flashing welcome to UNLV and fabulous Las Vegas sign with a huge switch that the players can flip every time they get a turnover.

Schuetz May Have Been Prescient About the Rebel Roller

Last week, Schuetz told Bonus:

A major reason that this bugged me was it just puts a target on the back of gaming, UNLV, and other institutions for the anti-gaming forces to aim at. And they will …

They already did.

In November 2022, The New York Times ran several articles that were critical of online gambling and any gambling associated with colleges.

Afterward, federal and state legislators scrutinized operators, and regulators took a closer look at marketing and advertising.

Many institutions of higher learning ended partnerships with gambling companies.

Schuetz notes for Bonus:

I clearly annoyed a lot of folks. The responses seemed to indicate a lot of anger and personal attacks. …

One theme of the responses that I did read suggested that it was not a real slot machine. I found this less than convincing, for if the University of Tennessee rewarded a turnover by having a player run to the sidelines and take a shot of Jack Daniels, it would not really matter if it turned out to be tea.

For the star of the video, the subject may be moot. Now an NFL inside linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, Ajiake wouldn’t have been “gambling” on the Rebel Roller this fall, anyway.

Operators Won’t Market to Students

By July 1, the American Gaming Association (AGA) expects its members to comply with removing “risk-free” in all marketing and advertising messages. Plus, the gaming industry’s trade organization clarified language in its 2019-era Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering.

The AGA’s March announcement reads, in part:

Enhancing protections for college-aged audiences by:

• Prohibiting college partnerships that promote, market, or advertise sports wagering activity (other than to alumni networks or content focused on responsible gaming initiatives or problem gambling awareness).

• Prohibiting sportsbook NIL [or name, image, likeness] deals for amateur and college athletes.

Adding age restrictions (21+) for any individual featured in sports betting advertising.

Changing all references in the code to the “legal age of wagering” to 21-plus.

The AGA also plans to update the code every year.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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