Few would argue that for the gaming industry to prosper in the mid- to long-term future, a younger generation of player needs to become interested in both the land- and web-based casino experience. Obviously, such transformations are almost always more easily said than done, and that was before a recently released study on the Millennial Generation by Pew Research Center hinted at just how difficult this task will be.

The report, titled Millennials in Adulthood, focuses on people currently ranging in age from 18 to 33—the very age group gaming operators would love to have frequenting their facilities. As you would expect, the research uncovers both positive and negative traits within this group, at least when seen through the prism of future casino growth.

Bad news first: the study shows Millennials to be cool toward many mainstream social conventions and distrustful of people in general (only 19 percent of those surveyed said most people could be trusted), preferring instead to form relationships through digital channels such as the Internet, mobile technology and social media. Indeed, an astounding 81 percent of Millennials are already on Facebook, where their average median friend count is 250, according to Pew Research. This trend may not bode well for traditional land-based casino gaming, considering one of its primary attractions is the immersion into a live social environment.

Another potentially troubling trend for the gaming industry—Millennials are not as materially well off as previous generations, and this lack of economic security influences all their decisions in a big way. Not only is this generation suffering from lower levels of wealth and personal income than previous generations at the same stage of their life cycles, they also tend to be in greater debt thanks to the astronomical increase in the cost of college tuition. Combine these circumstances with the fact that Millennials were hit harder than anyone else by the recent recession and ongoing limp recovery, and it’s no wondering they’re deferring major life decisions such as marriage until they have their economic feet under them. Given these circumstances, it’s hard to imaging Millennials clamoring for a real-money wagering experience any time soon. And if not enticed by the casino gaming experience when young, what guarantee is there that they will gravitate toward it when they are older and wealthier?

Fortunately, the Pew report did reveal some Millennial trends that should give gaming operators cause for hope. To start, it does not appear Millennials are predisposed to be casino haters; this generation is likely to have the same favorable view of big business as its elders, according to the report. Also, despite the current economic situation, Millennials are very upbeat about the future, with 53 percent saying they will eventually earn enough money to lead the kind of life they want.

Also, if you read between the lines, the casino experience can be marketed to this group, something many people in the industry were starting to doubt. The key to entry would appear to be the very digital channels and social media on which Millennials rely for most of their social interaction. Savvy casino marketers have already come to this conclusion, and are doing all they can to bring their properties up to speed in all aspects of digital media marketing (see article starting on page 20).

It used to be said that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. When it comes to attracting the younger generation to casino environments, the key to getting them to come, play and stay may be through their love of small, glowing handheld devices.