That was the first question posed by Dennis Conrad of Raving Consulting to a panel of Lifetime Achievement Award winners at the Casino Marketing Conference last month. Here were their answers:


• John Acres, CEO, Acres 4.0:

“Lots of supply and comparatively less demand, and the question is why? Have we not been able to identify all the people who want to gamble, or have we not been able to match the product with what more people want? What I’ve heard the last two days here is a lot of really good ideas, but I also heard at least one presenter express doubt that those ideas would be tried. We’re stuck in a place where what we’re doing is not working and still hanging on dearly to what used to work so well. As a supplier, my job is to figure out how to communicate what the new opportunities are and how to lower the perceived risk involved with moving forward. From the outside looking in to casinos; I think the big issue is that they have evolved in a market of plenty, where, for the most part, decision making was divided between departments like slots, marketing, IT and regulation. Those voices don’t always see the path forward in the same way, so they are slow to move forward. That’s a problem that can be solved, but it will be very costly to us if we don’t solve it.” 

• Virginia McDowell, president and CEO, Isle of Capri Casinos:

“I completely agree with John. I would add to that I think part of the problem is that, coming out of the recession, I think the feeling was that a rising tide would help all of our businesses, but the tide never rose. We’re dealing with a fundamental shift in consumers right now, and I think that it has changed for good. I’m probably a pretty good example of this; I’m 56 years old, I’m a woman, which, for many of us, means I’m the backbone of gaming. If you look at how I spend my leisure dollars, earlier this year I bought a new Fitbit and, in order to have it sync to my scale, I had to buy a new Aria WiFi scale, so that my Fitbit and my scale could sync to my iPad, my iPod and my iPhone. I have spent thousands of dollars on technology this year. That is a significant shift in how women my age have spent their discretionary income, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”

• Mike Meczka, principal, MM/R/C:

“The single biggest challenge is to get people back to enjoying the gaming activity that we have taken away from them. I think people still want to game; the fastest growing demographic is people 55, 65, 75 and over. They have disposable time, disposable income. The problem is we aren’t giving them the games that they want. I can go to an Atlantic City casino today and I can play the same games that I’ve been playing forever and ever and ever, and there’s nothing exciting or new about them, despite what manufacturers say about multi-line, multi-coin games.” 

• Victor Rocha, owner and editor,

“I think the issue isn’t just the gaming product, but it’s across the board in this country; the younger generation just don’t gamble. A good example for me is The Cosmopolitan. They built this beautiful casino on the Strip with great clubs and restaurants and they’re eating and drinking but they’re not gambling. I really feel that you need to connect with this next generation and get them into a casino. Internet gaming in New Jersey was supposed to be the answer, but, I just came from GIGSE in San Francisco, and one of the things we heard was their average gambler is a 50-year-old woman. It’s going to take a lot more effort than putting up a website”

As someone who turns 55 later this year, I would add that, I certainly agree with Virginia, this is a different generation coming up. We had our kids later, they’re going to college when we’re older (my Dad paid $1,800 a semester for my private college back when dinosaurs roamed the earth…), we’re working without the net of defined benefit pensions, we often have personal debt and our homes are not likely to be paid for. Does that make us less likely to see monetary risk as a form of entertainment than past generations? “Yes,” is not an unreasonable answer. Some revenue really is gone, and it’s not coming back. This is why I also love John Acres’ point about organizational unity, or the lack thereof. The race always goes to the swiftest; some things never change.