Game on.

Atlantic City could become a national proving ground for an emerging breed of gambling that would transform the casino landscape in the United States.

New Jersey’s chief casino regulator said Tuesday he is eager to see skill-based gambling in Atlantic City casinos.

Despite being immensely popular, games that gauge skills such as dexterity and knowledge-- everything from Halo to Words With Friends-- have been all but ignored by casinos in America, which have traditionally focused on slot machines and other games of chance.

But industry observers say that’s all changing. And as casinos look toward skill games to entice young people, Atlantic City could find itself at the center of a new gaming universe.

Nevada is slogging through the legislative process to create regulations for skill-based casino games. But regulators in New Jersey already have the authority to approve those games and are “eager to receive skill-based game submissions for review,” the state Division of Gaming Enforcement said in a statement Tuesday.

“Bring your innovative skill-based games to New Jersey and we will work with you to get them approved quickly,” Director David Rebuck said.

Marcus Yoder, a sales executive with the California-based gambling-technology firm Gamblit Gaming, says Gamblit has accepted that invitation and is working with state officials to bring its skill-based gambling system to New Jersey.

When New Jersey legalized Internet gambling, Garden State regulators were given great flexibility to quickly vet and approve new gambling technology, he said.

So, he said, it’s entirely possible that an Atlantic City casino could be the site of the nation’s first video-game parlor that takes wagers on blockbuster titles such as Madden, Angry Birds and Medal of Honor. They can all be “gamblified,” Yoder said.

“We have what we call a gamblification development kit. So a game developer could literally take Candy Crush if they wanted to and turn it into a gambling game.”

Joe Lupo, senior vice president at Borgata, said young people have “grown up on skill-based games through XBOX and Wii.” “To be able to speak to that demographic is almost a must looking forward five to ten years from now.”

Mike Trask, a spokesman for slot manufacturing giant Bally Technologies, said that for years people having been asking slotmakers why they don’t make skill-based games for casinos. “The answer has always been: ‘because legally we can’t.’“

Rebuck’s announcement Tuesday “is pretty exciting news for the industry,” Trask said. “This opens up a lot of new avenues for us.”

Contact Reuben Kramer:

609-272-7239

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