A few weeks ago I received a thought-provoking e-mail. It read in part, ìMy best player recently passed away. For over a decade she was a great customer and I don’t know how we can replace her. Our core customer is changing. In 2002, our average player was 53 years of age. For 2009 the average age was 64.

We are concerned that the lack of interest that younger players show toward existing game product reflects a trend away from traditional slot products. We have no faith that traditional game manufacturers will recognize this trend.

This player will be missed, not just as a player but as a wonderful person. Death though is the natural conclusion of life, and we must plan for that inevitability. The loss of this player caused noticeable impact on the casino’s budget, which triggered research into the casino’s primary customer base.

When this research disclosed that average player age had increased 11 years over the past nine, it became clear the concern is far larger than the loss of a single player, it is the loss of an entire generation of new players.

Other casinos report similar trends: declining player numbers and increasing age.

This problem is quite apart from those caused by the ongoing economic recession. Much as the consumer largely abandoned table games for slots 25 years ago, they are now abandoning slots for products we don’t understand or offer.

Once upon a time, horse racing was big business. Lotteries, casino gambling and evolved consumer habits brought changes to which the pari-mutuel industry failed to adapt.

Are we also doomed?

Your casino is chock-full of slot, poker and keno machines delivered as huge boxes mounted at uncomfortable heights that most of us don't even like to play. Why then is your casino floor so full of them?

Are you enslaved by the notion of win per day; a deeply flawed metric that indicates neither profitability nor general consumer appeal? New games are measured over a brief time without consideration of who plays or whether that play truly increases net casino revenue.

Since your business is driven by only a small group of players, new game testing is nothing more than a popularity contest within that small group. You simply redistribute the same revenue from the same players across different games while paying handsomely for new equipment.

Every day new people walk into your casino, and other casinos around the world, in search of affordable entertainment. For every 10 new people that enter, at least eight never return. If you don’t diversify to capture a broader segment of consumers, you are doomed to a shrinking customer base and disappearing profits.

Imagine yourself  as a first time casino visitor. Hundreds of gaming machines appear before you, each offering bright lights and a bill acceptor.

You have a budget of $100 and expect it to last for at least three hours. How can you find an experience that meets your expectations? There's no pricing information, or suggestions of how to begin, you  are simply expected to find a game and take your chances.

You invest $20 in a randomly selected machine and watch it disappear in three minutes. You calculate hourly cost at $400 and, finding no evidence to the contrary, decide this is recreation you cannot afford.

You become another of the eight who never return.

Over the past quarter-century our industry grew so enthralled with expansion and pursuit of rapid profit that we lost track of how to appeal to consumers. We’ve forgotten that we are simply retailers competing with all other retailers for consumer attention. We presumed an endless supply of eager gamblers, happy to play ancient games and pay whatever toll we assess.

Our expertise is narrowly focused on those few consumers who accept our products. We compete with each other to capture this diminishing and aging group of proven gamblers by offering escalating rewards of points, comps and free play, which thereby further and permanently diminishes profits.

Your players are aging. Your games are boring. Your casino attracts few new players and has no connection to the younger demographic. You are buying ever-more expensive games and paying higher and higher levels of comps to keep the players you have.

The very future of your business is threatened.

Isn't it time for change? SlotManager



John Acres is founder and chairman of Acres 4.0, a company dedicated to improving the appeal and profit of casino gambling. He holds more than 40 U.S. patents and previously founded other successful gambling supplier companies including EDT, Mikohn and Acres Gaming. John can be reached via email at john@acres4.com.