Editor’s Note: This is part 2 in a three-part series focused on changing trends in the casino gaming industry. Part 1 focuses on merging esports and casinos. Part 3 focuses on new technologies and changing business models.
With a rapidly changing cultural and generational landscape, casinos are having to adapt quickly to keep pace; but questions abound over what millennials enjoy and what casinos should become. At GiGse 2016, speakers discussed not only what the casino of tomorrow might look like, but also where to look for inspiration and solutions.
One of the most prominent themes regarding millennials was their desire for socialization: Plugged into social media and messaging apps, younger generations constantly seek to connect with friends both electronically and in person. Speaking on socialization, Gene Johnson, CEO of Gaming Knowledge Partners (GKP), noted that casino properties were more profitable in the 90s when they added social aspects.
Roberto Coppola, Director of Market Research & Consumer Insights at YWS Design & Architecture, also looked to the industry’s past, suggesting there were lessons to be learned from it. “What’s old can be new again. It’s important to look at historical lessons. One thing I’m seeing a bit more of: Bingo is starting to come up, and not your grandma’s bingo, but different versions … that could be something that is social and engaging – and could maybe be approached for a new demographic in a traditional way.”
Roberto also recounted a picture of the Seminole Bingo Hall in 1989. “It was kind of interesting, this is their first gaming floor, and yet the players were facing each other. There was no slot barrier between players. You could almost hear the conversations that were happening. It was a really neat example of what looked like a highly social gaming environment – and that’s what everyone’s talking about ‘How do we create that?’ Well, maybe part of the answer is just to look back at 1989 and examples like that.”
Experiences VS. Cash
GiGse speakers were also quick to point out that millennials tend to prefer taking part in experiences rather than simply grabbing up cash. The need to deal in experiences rather than offer a traditional gambling experience was repeatedly brought up.
Roberto suggested offering experiences – such as trips, concerts, or other events – as gambling prizes instead of monetary awards. Meanwhile Patrick Nichols, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, suggested investing in restaurants, unique bars, or anything else that could create a feeling of luxury for millennials and set casinos apart from other places. Additionally, Patrick suggested using smaller casino floors to create a feeling of more excitement and more happening.
Rahul Sood, the CEO of esports wagering service Unikrn, advised casinos to begin providing a space for esports tournaments and entertainment, saying that the problem with the casino industry is that people are looking to create the best gambling games instead of thinking about what’s fun. Rahul suggested that people in the industry refocus their efforts on creating events and experiences that people want.
A game of skill
Tied in with offering a quintessential millennial experience is skill-based gaming (not to be confused with esports) and many have mulled the idea of adding non-casino games to their casino floor.
Lovell Walker, Executive Director of iGaming Development at MGM Resorts, and Michael Jabara, CEO of OneLive, detailed MGM’s plan to offer skill-based games to their patrons via mobile devices and connected services. They explained that users across all MGM properties will eventually be able to compete against each other for cash prizes on games like Asteroids and Pac-Man.
Others offered words of caution on skill-based gaming. Pierre Cadena, Vice President of Corporate Development at Caesars Interactive, noted that player vs. player skill-based gaming can have problems scaling and differing user experience levels also need to be taken into account. Gene was very blunt on the topic, saying “skill-based players will kill you.”
James Kosta of Signia Venture Partners was more optimistic and said that friend vs. friend skill-based games could be successful in the future, but that there isn’t necessarily a lot of money in them currently.
Myth of the Millennial
While talk of experiences, skill-based games, changing casino layouts, and millennials can be overwhelming – there is perhaps some comfort that can be taken in the fact none of this is necessarily new to the casino industry, it’s just a different twist to an old problem.
“I like to subscribe to what I call the myth of the millennial,” Gene said in one panel. “This is a problem the gambling industry has always had. It’s nothing new. When I was doing analysis back in the day we always had a missing demographic – that demographic was generally younger, they had less income, and they had a time constraint. They’re not able to come to the casino and spend hours at a slot machine because they are busy, they’re raising families, they have jobs.”
Now, Gene noted, it’s just a matter of redefining things. “This has always been a problem. What is happening now is that, with technology, it’s much more magnified. We really have to change how we define gambling. It’s not slots, it’s not tables anymore. It can be any number of things.”