Our gaming industry is at a crossroads of tradition and innovation. Today’s slot floors are designed with traditional players in mind, and those players are aging. The upcoming generations have literally grown up with technology at their fingertips. The majority of Generations X and Y carry small computers in their pockets that match or exceed the best technologies we employ on our floor. Is it any surprise they show little interest in the games we currently offer?

Do you remember a time before cable TV? I do. We had five channels, reception was limited and someone had to climb on the roof to readjust the signal. Can you even imagine having to do that today? Would you want to? Probably not since the technology is outdated and the offerings limited. We only put up with it then because we had no other options. But that’s not the case today. The next generation sees your product offerings a lot like the pre-cable era. The only difference is they actually have other options.

As an industry, we demand solutions that work seamlessly with the technologies we should have replaced years ago but didn’t. Rather than making tough decisions about where we want our business to be in five years, we look to gaming vendors for new ideas to make our floors relevant and become disappointed when the products they give us are bolt-ons to outdated technology. The truth is the machines and systems on our floors were conceptualized and designed with backward engineering because we demanded it.

It is extremely difficult for the major manufacturers to break out of this self-defeating design concept due to the cost of retooling operations. When you must answer to stock holders for profitability, unions for workplace stability and the legal issues surrounding contract obligations, it is no surprise that the big five manufacturers turn out yesterday’s technology with additional bells and whistles to placate operators and the market’s ever maturing player base.

Whatever the reasons we accept backward engineering as a conduit to problem solving, the result of designing a product to fit the solution when a deeper problem persists and remains unanswered, leads to a great waste of both time and money and places the future of our industry in a perilous position. I realize you know all of this. We all see the problem clearly but the answer isn’t nearly as easy to identify.

We struggle with the cost of retooling our floors and offending the clientele we currently have. We make allowances for a loyal staff that does not possess the necessary skills to operate the new technologies available. You worry that these new technologies are not compatible with the regulations your facility must adhere to and struggle with investing in innovations that may lead to a revenue neutral environment. All of these concerns are real and must be considered, but the reality of a diminishing player base will not go away and no amount of backward engineering can solve it.

The future of our industry depends on how we attract and keep the attention of customers of the future. The cost of retooling and retraining becomes a much smaller proposition when we consider the price of doing nothing is a complete loss of relevance to the prospective player base.

There are new technologies available for your floor right now that can help bridge the gap between the traditional and the innovative. Smaller manufacturers have fueled an explosion of new products on the market that look, feel and act entirely different from the product you currently have on your floor. The user interfaces for these products have been well thought-out to allow for ease of use. If you begin transitioning to products that appeal to the new player, you can keep your traditional players and still retool for the future.

As an operator, you are skilled in the art of compromise. You provide concessions daily with disgruntled patrons, vendors, regulators and employees. The future of your floor and player base is not an area you can afford to concede solely to the limitations of products manufactured today that were engineered to meet the needs of yesterday. Why not establish the same compromise between innovation and tradition? It’s a crossroad we must all take if we’re to enjoy continued success. It’s a road I’ve already started down and will continue to explore in my next few articles. It’s also one I hope to see you on in the very near future.