UNLV students study the real way to make money off casinos

The odds are better that you'll make a fortune inventing a casino game than actually playing it, and students taking the Gaming Innovation course at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, are betting on the future of gambling.

"There's very few people sitting on my side of this table that will do as well as where you're sitting on the dealers side of the table," said Mark Yoseloff, executive director of Center for Gaming Innovation and former CEO of a major gaming company.

Students in the program have access to a gaming laboratory and learn the patenting process for games, reports CBS News' Ben Tracy.

"A lot of people have ideas for casino games and have no idea what to do with those ideas," Yoseloff said.

Casino games are intellectual property. Besides the basics such as blackjack and poker, casinos have to pay royalties every month to the person or company who invented the games. It's a $100 million-a-year industry and it's basically pure profit.

This week Yoseloff's student, Hien Nguyen, sold her idea for a video version of the Asian tile game "pai gow" to the Konami gaming company. She signed the deal Wednesday on her 21st birthday. She's now old enough to gamble.

Nguyen said she can't say how much Konami paid for her idea but that it was "a huge deal."

Her two classmates also have patents pending on their ideas, but the specifics of the game are a secret.

"The competition is really high. A lot of major companies, they have similar games," student He Lin said.

That's why patents are so important. When Yoseloff started this program at UNLV a year ago, he wasn't betting a whole lot on his students.

With 17 students, Yoseloff said he originally thought he would get between zero to one patents.

His students ended up filing eight or nine with three more on the way.

They are adding to record global gambling growth fueled by the Asian island of Macau near Hong Kong. It had $45.2 billion in gaming revenue last year. Nevada had $11 billion. If the ideas for casino games are created in Nevada, however, the state's gaming industry can continue to rake in royalty revenue worldwide.

When asked whether the innovations have made the casinos and people like him rich, Yoseloff would neither confirm nor deny.

"It certainly has enhanced the entertainment product that casinos offer. I'll leave it at that," Yoseloff said, smiling.

After all, you don't win at gambling by showing your hand.