From Wall Street to Main Street to Las Vegas Boulevard, the Great Recession has had, and continues to have a global impact. Casino revenues have been down industry-wide, although the last numbers available at the time of this writing showed an encouraging jump in Nevada. In fact, tourists interviewed for a television news piece in Las Vegas were reporting that they had recently increased their overall per-trip budget.
These are great signs of the beginning of a recovery. However, a piece in the American Gaming Association’s daily news brief recently should cause us all to pause and think: Home entertainment options are competing directly with casino offerings. It’s an idea we’ve all had, but seeing it in black and white from the AGA gives the concept more stark resonance.
The fact is slot managers and regulators across the globe need to start gaining a clearer picture of the next generation of customers. They are younger, they see the world differently, they use technology more, and they are more diverse overall. This younger next generation of players has never known a world without the Internet or cell phones, and they have had access to immediate gratification their entire lives. Will they be satisfied with a gaming floor filled with less sophisticated games or a system that delivers customer service in an “old-fashioned” way? Will the devices and systems in your casino be able to compete with home entertainment?
Technology is increasingly globally imported, exported and used without borders, and has a global ripple effect.
At GLI, because we have labs all over the world, we have a unique opportunity to see new technologies in many different markets in their early forms, frequently before they are fully developed, and that allows us to look at things from a global perspective, and we can tell you, technology is coming at us like a wave, and we have two choices as slot managers and as regulators: We can be ready or we can be washed away. We can be prepared to embrace the new technologies that the next generation of customers will love (and expect), or we can slowly and steadily lose ground to the competition, whether that competition is the casino across the street, or the home entertainment system we read about in the AGA’s daily report.
Think about the technological innovations of the past. There was a time when the crank phone was a remarkable invention. Suddenly, you could pick up the phone, crank it, get an operator, ask for a connection to someone, and if they had also invested in the new technology and they were at home, they could receive your call. Today, we can reach anyone, anywhere, anytime calling cell phone to cell phone, and we can even surf the Web, send email or play games on our cells phones while we talk.
Think about the first generation of computers. They were really not much more than large calculators, and they filled entire rooms. Now laptops enable us to work anywhere, anytime, and it’s estimated that by 2050, the laptop will be faster than the human brain.
As regulators and as slot managers, we must understand that we are at an exciting crossroads where the road sign points one way to yesterday, in the other direction to tomorrow, and shows us that we are standing at now. What this means is we have a fantastic opportunity to prepare right now for the future that is just ahead. Or, we can choose to stay in now, not prepare, not advance, and realize that yesterday is creeping up behind us.
Technology in our daily lives has changed the way we see the rest of the world and has given us the convenience of immediacy. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, keep us more connected in more ways and with greater immediacy than anything we had access to even five years ago. They are such a part of our daily lives that we don’t even think about the technology that created the Facebook app for our iPhone so we can keep up with everyone on our friends list in real time. And the generation behind us, those who will take the place of our current player database, are churning through this technology at a rapid pace, wanting and expecting the next big thing that will then become commonplace. These future players embrace, use and move on from new technologies quickly, and we must think about our slot floors and our regulatory environment to ensure that we are able to adapt, while still maintaining each jurisdiction’s individual standards.
Of course, it’s not just the good guys who are looking at, developing and deploying new technologies. They are also quickly advancing in the criminal arena, too, and slot managers and regulators alike must be constantly vigilant in securing your house and keeping ahead of new threats. At the lab, we have a range of security evaluations to help ensure you have the upper hand.
So now is the time, from the regulator’s office to the slot manager’s desk, to think about our future and about our abilities to adapt as quickly as our next generation of customers can.