As with most G2E events I have attended over the past 20 years or so, there are a couple of hot button issues that are brought up in most every session, booth visit or networking event. Last year, it was the megamerger frenzy among the various slot machine providers and the need to better market the casino experience toward the Millennial generation. This year, the two upcoming trends I heard about the most were fantasy sports and skill-based slot gaming.
At first blush, one may think the general industry scuttlebutt to both these issues would be roughly the same since, at least on the surface, both issues are similar—each deals with the liberalization of an existing form of gaming that could potentially bring a different set of wagering clientele into a casino environment. In reality, overall response to one of the trends was overwhelmingly positive; for the other, well, not so much.
Might as well tackle the bad news first, which is daily fantasy sports. A year ago, this form of entertainment wasn’t even on most people’s radar; now, it is a multi-million dollar industry (if its promotions are to be believed), with a growing number of companies offering the service to an ever expanding pool of players. The industry could still have been operating on the QT if not for two of its biggest providers—DraftKings and FanDuel—waging a very spirited and public battle for market supremacy; largely through commercials that have run ad nauseam during every major sporting event over the past few months.
While such advertising may have been good for the pocketbook in the short term for the sites and their partners (some of which happen to be major sports franchises), the long-term effect of these actions may be somewhat less so, even disastrous in fact. Indeed, calling attention to the fact that players could win millions in a day by simply building a winning team have many questioning if fantasy spots is a game of skill as they claim, or a game of chance and a form of wagering, which would make the industry subject to a whole host of regulation and oversight. For this reason, many speakers at G2E suggested online and land-based casino operators take a “wait and see” approach to daily fantasy sports before diving in.
This advice proved most prescient, considering less than a week after G2E DraftKings was embroiled in an “insider trading” scandal and lawmakers from across the nation were stepping over themselves to either investigate or shutdown the trade, claiming the need for greater oversight.
Meanwhile, I have heard mostly positive feedback about the liberalization of gaming regulations in New Jersey and Nevada that may lead to more skill-based game mechanics in slot machines. There were a few games on the slot floor that showed the direction this skill movement may take—some emulated classic arcade games, while others, like those showcased in the Gamblit booth, had more of a mobile game vibe and were presented in a format designed to appeal directly to Millennials. Indeed, if anything, there were complaints that the rules would have to be loosened even more if “real” skill-based gaming at the slot was to truly come about.
So, we have a majority of the gaming industry requesting tighter regulations for one form of gaming while expounding looser rules for another. It’s beginning to sound an awful lot like Congress…let’s hope the results are better.