Debate over old slot machines and young gamblers rages on.
For the last few years, many casino owners have worried that today’s youngest gamblers—the Millennial generation—will not follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. For nearly a century, members of every generation born, from the ‘Greatest Generation‘ (1910-24) to Gen-X (1965-79), have found their way onto the casino floors to gamble. But will Millennials?
Some say yes – some say no. Those who believe the current 21-35 age range will become a cash crop for gambling destinations argue that it’s a waiting game. Opposers argue that modern technology—video games, smartphones, social media—are leading them away from historically appealing slot machines.
Millennials and Antique Slots Don’t Mix
Seth Schorr is Chairman of the Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas. He supports the theory that innovation is the key to attracting millennial gamblers. These players were raised from a young age on skill-based video games, and will therefore only be attracted to similar, skill-based gambling games; not antiquated slot machines.
“Their parents did not grow up playing video games and attached to technology since birth like a prosthetic limb,” said Schorr. He suggests that members of Generation X wouldn’t spend nearly so much time or money (23.5% of their Las Vegas budget) on the slots if they’d had access to video games as young children.
“My child has been playing IOS games since he was an infant,” he objectified. “When he turns 21, I don’t believe he will be inclined to wager money on a game he has no control over the outcome, but a game where his life-long skills give him an edge will be far more intriguing.”
On the opposing end of that argument are the heads of larger Las Vegas casinos. The types Schorr describes as being “far more successful, smarter and wiser” than himself. But they “do not share this belief”, he admits.
Nonetheless, the Downtown Grand chairman says he thinks “it is a bit naive to think people’s behaviors aren’t changing permanently.”
Old Slot Machines Will Appeal To Older Players
Those “wiser” casino operators theorize that today’s so-called antique slots will eventually appeal to the Millennial generation. But that won’t happen until they become older.
As David Schwartz, UNLV’s Director of the Center For Gaming Research pointed out, “Casino gambling has not historically appealed much to those under 40 or even 50 for a variety of reasons.” Based on statistical evidence, he concluded, “It is not totally surprising that this cohort is not gambling heavily.”
Schwartz also theorizes, however, that Millennials are far less keen on any gambling activities. When visiting Las Vegas, for example, they only spend an average of 8.5% of their budget on casino gambling. The majority goes into drinking related activities – bars, lounges, nightclubs, etc.
The most important factor here is an unknown variable. Will today’s generation of young gamblers assimilate to the current casino environment as they age – as their parents and grandparents did? Or will they remain reliant on modern, hand-held technology to provide the bulk of their leisure activities, while spending their budgeted entertainment dollars elsewhere?
Experimenting With Skill-Based Gambling
Last year, some casinos began installed new skill-based gambling amusements. It’s the correlating thought process of many industry experts that these games will appeal to Millennials by mimicking the skillful nature of the video games they grew up on. So far, it’s unclear whether these games are the future of casino floors, or yet another inglorious attempt at creative innovation.
“It’s hard to say if there is a demand for skill-based games, and we won’t know until people have the opportunity to play it,” says Schwartz, whose casino was the first in Las Vegas to embrace eSports betting. “As late as 1998 you could argue there was no demand for online poker, but within five years it would be very popular.”