Survivor’ contestant wins approval for casino game

Rupert Boneham

VEGAS INC coverage

Rupert Boneham has been a contestant on the reality television show “Survivor” three times and has never won.

He spent a total of 100 days in the wilderness in his games.

But today, he got a consolation prize — the Nevada Gaming Commission’s unanimous approval of his new casino game, “Rupert’s Island Draw.”

Boneham dazzled commissioners with the magnetic personality that made him a fan favorite on the long-running television show in which contestants vote to remove their rivals while living off the land in remote locations.

Dressed in his trademark tie-dye T-shirt, Boneham and his consultant, Richard Legenza, demonstrated the game for commissioners.

“I really don’t want to ask you much about the game, I want to talk with you about ‘Survivor,’ ” Commissioner Tony Alamo said.

“I see on your resume that you were born in January of 1964,” Commissioner Randolph Townsend said. “I just wanted to tell you that that was around the time I first wore a shirt like the one you’re wearing.”

Boneham finished eighth on “Survivor: Pearl Islands” in 2003, fourth on “Survivor All-Stars” in 2004 and sixth on “Heroes vs. Villains” (he was a “hero”) in 2010. During the 2004 season, he won $1 million by nationwide fan vote in an “all-American tribal council” as the series’ favorite player.

He said he began developing ideas for his game while on the island during taping.

In his home city of Indianapolis, Boneham also founded Rupert’s Kids, a charity that helps at-risk young adults to acquire vocational skills.

After his presentation, Boneham said he was heading to a bank to open a Rupert’s Kids account here.

The game is being played exclusively on one Golden Nugget table. Boneham said now that he is licensed, he will try to negotiate leases with other casinos.

He has said that if his game is a success, he will take 20 percent of gross profits to form a satellite office of Rupert’s Kids in Las Vegas.

“Rupert’s Island Draw” has been characterized as a reverse blackjack game with elements of poker and baccarat in side bets.

The game is played with 16 24-card decks of aces through sixes. The object is to hold cards with a value less than the dealer.

After players place a wager, two cards are dealt face up on the table to all players and the dealer. If the dealer’s first two cards total six, seven or eight, the dealer stands and an extra card is dealt to each player to be added to their totals. If the dealer’s first two cards total nine, 10 or 11, the dealer gets an extra card. If the dealer’s first two cards total two, three, four, five or 12, each player decides whether the dealer or the player will be dealt an extra card by placing a marker on circles on the table labeled “card to player” or “card to dealer.”

Totals over 12 are ruled zeros and automatically win. If players and a dealer have a tie score, the wager is a push, unless the tie score is seven. With sevens, the player loses half the wager. Winning hands are paid 1-to-1.

Boneham next will develop side bets that can be made on the four cards initially dealt to players and the dealer with suited small straights (ace through four), unsuited small straights, four of a kind and three of a kind paid in the side wagers.

At the Golden Nugget, the game was played with minimum wagers of $5 or $10 and a maximum of $300 a hand.

In other business, the commission approved a restricted license for Jackpot Joanie’s on East Russell Road in a split vote.

The license enables Ronald Winchell to operate 15 slot machines at the site through December while regulators sort through new rules on so-called “slot parlors” popularized by Dotty’s. Winchell filed for licensing before the Dotty’s controversy erupted when large casino companies objected to a business model that enabled parlors to operate like casinos without having required attached hotel rooms.

Chairman Peter Bernhard and Commissioner Joe Brown opposed the limited license, saying they prefer to set a policy applying to all applicants instead of ruling on a case-by-case basis.

The commission will conduct a public hearing on proposed regulations for slot parlors at its July meeting in Las Vegas.

Gaming

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