ACCORDING TO JOHN: You can't get there from here
As I write, the 2011 G2E show is moving into history. My company didn’t exhibit. Instead we had a few dozen motivated casino managers in our office to test our vision of what a casino should be. These visitors expressed a consistent reaction: “Are you guys even in the same business as the vendors at G2E?”
Good question, that one. We’re working on ideas no one else seems interested in pursuing. Many visitors consider what they saw visionary. Not a few call us delusional: a perspective even more would express, had we exhibited to the general G2E audience.
Whether staying away from general exposure was the right choice is debatable. The G2E format is great for meeting hundreds of people for a couple of minutes each but doesn’t work so well when at least an hour is required to explain the concept.
I’ve been here before. Player tracking, progressive jackpots and bonusing were ideas initially considered unnecessary, misguided or unworkable. Today all are mainstays of casino operations-the very operations I believe are now largely obsolete.
Past events do not ensure future success and stakes are far higher this time around. I’ve never invested so much time, attention and personal funding into any previous effort. If I’m wrong, I lose a great deal. If I’m right, and you don’t adapt, you lose even more.
Let’s review why I believe radical change, the kind nowhere in evidence at G2E, is essential:
•Customers-Only one adult in four gambled once in a casino in the past year and four-fifths of those didn’t return a second time. Ninety-five percent of our population doesn’t like what you sell.
•Age-Your players are “aging out.” The typical local casino player was 53 in 2002 and 64 in 2010.
•Competition-Governments everywhere are broke, broken or both. Citizen appetite for increased taxes is nil and moral opposition to gambling minimal. That means even more casino approvals and greater competition for that diminishing number of aging players.
•Pricing-Today’s casino gambling is expensive. Personal income is flat or declining. Median U.S. family income in 2009 was $50,221. That wage cannot support extended casino wagering sessions and lower hourly wagering costs are essential to reach this market. You need new price points for your products.
•Costs-Everyone is reaching into your pockets. Governments raise casino taxes. Employees demand higher wages. Players want more comps and bigger payouts. Suppliers continue to raise prices. You’re getting squeezed.
•Experiences-Consumers expect experiences that extend from introduction to consummation. You offer simple transactions, where every game played is a separate from what came before you patch those transactions with a thin loyalty layer but that doesn’t create a truly gratifying experience consumers want to repeat.
•Personalization-There’s never been such a thing as “the player.” Experiences must be personalized to match the demographic and psychographic profiles of each consumer. That’s what’s happening on the Internet. And the Internet, even without gambling, is your true competitive threat.
•Games-The spinning reel slot game, whether mechanical or video, three or five reel, is a dying concept. Today’s consumer wants competition, skill, teams and interactivity. They find such joys on the Internet but not in your casino.
•Socialization-People love to talk to each other about life’s trivia. Talking about an activity makes it more fun and meaningful. You’ve got to bring relevant social media into your daily game play. The Internet understands this. You don’t.
•Emotion-For you, gambling is an accounting transaction. For consumers it is just one part of an emotional experience. That experience must extend from the player’s home, through the casino door, and ultimately to specific casino games on your floor.
It’s a challenging list that requires new thinking, new equipment and new methods. The best place to start is by forgetting what you think you know. Hold percentages, floor layouts and traditional performance metrics must be abandoned. Visit the Internet with an open mind. See how the best providers there, gambling site or not, entice consumers.
What you are doing now won’t work in the future. If your destination is a profitable future and your casino is in the state of tradition, you simply can’t get there from here. SM