Micro environments, skill gaming, mobile payment technology and even beer pong are some of the it to better captivate the next generation of casino patron

What if I were to tell you there was a form of wagering so popular that it attracted millions of customers, forced states to liberalize laws to allow its expansion, had operators investing millions of dollars in new facility development around the world, fostered numerous technological gaming innovations and was so accepted by all levels of society that its future seemed assured. That’s a pretty accurate description of the modern casino marketplace, is it not?

Well, in this case, it is not since I am describing the pari-mutuel racing business circa 1920-1960.

The point I’m trying to make here is that no form of commercial wagering, no matter how profitable or entrenched, can afford to remain static to competition and changing demographics. This may explain why the subject of the Millennial generation and its gaming preferences has been such a hot button topic at so many G2E sessions over the past couple of years. Think about it—numerous surveys of Millennials show they find slot machine-dominated gaming environments to be antiquated, boring and anti-social; all words Baby Boomers likely used to describe the racetracks and pari-mutuel facilities frequented by their parents and grandparents. What’s to keep casinos from suffering the same slow decline as the pari-mutuel industry as the older patron base dies off and younger clientele refuse to walk through the doors anywhere near the same rate?

Fortunately, the casino industry has come to recognize the urgency of this issue and is starting to debate and discuss the steps needed to make brick-and-mortar properties more palatable to younger generations. Below you will find excerpts from speakers at various 2015 G2E sessions that addressed the topic of Millennials and their growing impact on casino operation and development:

What is a Millennial and what sets them apart from other casino customers:

Tom Wucherer, CEO and Principal, YWS Design & Architecture: The Silent Generation is falling off the topside. The Baby Boomers everyone talks about are aging out, and that is causing the disruption we are seeing on the casino floor. They are being replaced by Generation X… but what has gotten everyone’s attention now are the Millennials. When you look at the size of these generations, you can understand why everybody is focusing on the Millennials…the have 79 million people coming into the market and that is important.

Millennials are hard-working, outspoken loud, multi-taskers, cause driven, and civic minded. The key difference between Gen X and the Millennials is that Gen Xers are typically individualists whereas Millennials tend to be group or social or relationship driven. They are also technological natives…where GenXers got exposed to technology at a very young age, Millennials were born with it. That is a big difference. Millennials want constant communication, they want you to talk to them, they want feedback.

Paul Heretakis, vice president Westar Architects: In the past, as a Baby Boomer customer, maybe 80 to 90 percent of their money was going toward gaming and maybe 10 or 20 percent to F&B or entertainment or something else. Nowadays, as we head into the future, gaming might be 30 percent, food might be 30 percent and entertainment might be 40 percent …it is much more mixed…it is no longer a gaming focused generation.

Jeremy Kleiman, member, Saiber LLC: Millennials are willing to pay for an experience. They are willing to pay to get to the next level in a video game. They are not buying a chance at a win or a jackpot, they do not care about that…what that means to me on my gaming floor is that gambling is meaningless… it is just a form of entertainment that they are willing to pay for.

The economic impact of Millennials:

Greg Carlin, CEO, Rush Street Gaming: Today, if you look at the Millennial segment and slot machine play, it is actually a fairly small segment for us. On the slot side, roughly 13 percent or so of our actual customers are Millennials and they only represent 2.5 percent of slot win. But that number is growing pretty substantially over the past three years, it is up to 15 percent, so if we look forward in time we can see that segment is going to be much bigger for us.

On the table side, they make up roughly 17.5 percent of the table customers with 10 percent of the table win. It is interesting that the Millennial segment are the only segment we have where table game play actually generates more revenue than slot machines.

Mark Frissora, CEO, Caesars Entertainment: Millennials are currently 34 percent of the U.S. workforce and Baby Boomers are 32 percent, so Millennials have already eclipsed the Baby Boomers. The time is now to integrate them into the casino experience.

Wucherer: From a spending perspective the sweet spot is still the Baby Boomer. Gen X actually has a lot of money to spend and a lot of free time as their kids are aging out…and the Millennials are just coming into money. When you translate this to the aggregate, Baby Boomers are worth $5.5 trillion, Gen X is worth $4.9 trillion and Millennials are $4.8 trillion.

Millennials and technology:

Gavin Isaacs, president and CEO, Scientific Games: The cell phones most Millennials carry around with them are a great way to connect them to the resort and all its underlying technology. To be able to communicate and market to them through those technologies…the phone is ideal and geo-fencing is fantastic for all that. We have been doing a lot of work in that space—bringing the land-based and online worlds together; trying to make sure the systems interact smoothly with the other kinds of systems.

Carlin: Going forward, we need to make sure there is great and ubiquitous WiFi and cell coverage in our casinos. The Millennials have their cell phones and they want to be on all the time. Generally, the casinos will not allow you to have your cell phone out when you are playing a table game because they are worried about game protection. There is a risk there, but I think it is pretty small, and we do a good job training our table folks… that we should allow customers to have their cell phones at the table. It’s a small thing, but a big thing for attracting Millennials.

Frissora: As an outsider coming into the industry, I am shocked at the lack of innovation aimed at Millennials, in gaming product as well as our own casino environment. What I see in the industry is a lot of pointing fingers. This is the time, we are at an inflection point, we need to cooperate. We need to get together and partner on innovating and creating platforms for growth in the future.

Millennials and casino games:

Isaacs: As Millennials grow up with mobile technology, in groups where they communicate electronically and things like that, you have to have those games that will appeal to them. There should not be a great difference between what they can do on their cell phone or on their computer at home and what they can do at a casino. Community gaming, skill gaming…those things give us the ability to innovate, to try and make the games more appealing, more entertaining and fun for players whatever age they may be.

Frissora: We need to think outside the box if we want Millennials to start playing slot machines. Maybe the key is to integrate different operating systems that emphasize social and mobile gaming software as well as physical items such as leaderboards. We’ve noticed an increase in slot revenue when we test such concepts. This is an exciting concept—it offers a chance to open up a whole new segment of the population to slot gaming. Regulators have opened the door for us with new rules on skill gaming that will allow us to interact with slot players in a more interactive and social way.

Donald Dissinger, principal, Ewing Cole Architect: Multi-player gaming devices that are working with the card games, live card tables telecast a single station that has multiple games to bet on simultaneously attractants for Millennials. If the regulators, operators, and manufacturers can start to embrace a variety of games that can work in these forums, as the slot machine revenues go down and games come off the floor, there is this opportunity to create environments that is more open, social and are creating games they want to come and play….games that marry a little skill with a little bit of chance.

Environments that attract Millennials:

Carlin: We are starting to see some interesting gaming environments that are appealing to Millennials. Some of our colleagues were just up in Quebec at Casino du Lac-Leamy and they have a thing called The Zone. It is basically a big electronic table game area with a DJ, dealer, loud music and lots of action and activity. It seems to resonate with Millennials. In Las Vegas, go visit the new O’Sheas Casino at The Linq, which is a great spot for Millennial gaming. In fact, we borrowed that concept for one of our new properties because we liked it so much. The Lavo casino just opened up at The Venetian and it is trying to attract a Millennial-type player.

Frissora: We opened O’Sheas at The Linq with 10 beer pong tables which is really a game for Millennials…and it has become the most popular bar in the company. It’s crazy good—it’s packed and it’s hard to get a beer pong table any time of day or night.

Wucherer: Top Golf seems popular with Millennials…it takes the concept of golf and layers on entertainment, dining, drinking, partying, and it is all done in these small micro-environments. There are also items on the G2E floor that are steps in the right directions—the Impulse Arena from Interblock, the games at Gamblit and Suzo-Happ.

Designing casinos to appeal to Millennials:

Frissora: At Caesars, we are working really hard right now on the casino of the future. We are actually going to have a live casino on The Strip that will have rotating walls so we can change the venue in real time. That project is in progress right now….we are building it inside one of our casinos right now, it will be a casino within a casino. We will be experimenting there and looking at Millennials and how they react to different venues we create—not just the games, but also the interiors, slot pacing and other factors.

Wucherer: In their gaming experience, the Millennials are looking for a lot of input, action and different things…unlike baby Boomers and Gen Xers who process one thing at a time and move on, Millennials want it all at once. That will make a fundamental difference in how we design casinos. One trend to pay attention to is the creation of micro-environments within the gaming property. What we did at Hakkasan Nightclub Las Vegas was break a large floor into smaller environments that are much more focused on one thing and much more social… so there are layers and levels of intimacy.

Dissinger: As designers, we understand that the experience the customer is looking for needs to be exciting. It needs a certain degree of intimacy, but it also needs the opportunity to be shared by others. That is a big driving force. Early casinos were social experiences with everything going on. We are moving back to where it is not just a slot parlor, it is an entertainment district. Those districts need to be organized so the create neighborhoods that foster social interaction with the games and the services being offered.