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October 21, 2018

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New slot machine features Willie Nelson, marijuana references

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Mick Akers

A new slot machine featuring Willie Nelson and references to marijuana is on display at the Global Gaming Expo on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Las Vegas.

A new Willie Nelson-themed slot machine really puts the pot in jackpot, with electronic reels featuring images of marijuana leaves and other nods to the cannabis subculture.

Las Vegas-based slot maker Everi Holdings debuted the machine featuring the pot-loving country music legend this week at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. It should hit casino floors early next year.

With recreational marijuana now legal in nine states, including Nevada, game developers figured it was high time for such a machine, which also includes images of Nelson smoking what appears to be a joint and a maximum bet of $4.20 — a number symbolic of getting high.

“We made this choice because it’s Willie Nelson and it feels true to his brand,” said Allison Pope, senior vice president of game development at Everi. “It will be something that we think our players will find a little bit funny.”

Nelson is an upfront advocate of marijuana and its legalization and has his own brand of marijuana products — Willie’s Reserve — available at select dispensaries, including in Las Vegas.

While marijuana is legal in some form in more than 30 states, it is still banned under federal law. But Pope doesn’t think the new slot machine will run into much resistance from state gaming regulators.

“We’ve got our compliance team looking at regulations,” she said. “Right now, we don’t have a lot of pushback as it goes through the gaming labs. The feedback is it shouldn’t be much of a problem.”

The Nevada Gaming Control Board doesn’t specifically prohibit marijuana references in games, though they can’t feature anything primarily targeting minors, that is obscene or is offensive based on race, religion, origin or sexual preference.

For casinos that may have reservations about the machine, the company is also making a version without the marijuana references, Pope said.

“After we place it in the market, we’ll really see what the response is,” she said. “We’re not trying to make a statement with it. We just wanted to stay true to Willie and have some fun with it.”