More than one speaker at the recent NIGA tradeshow and conference commented that if casinos are serious about creating environments that appeal to the Millennial generation, a good starting point would be, shudder, the Dave & Buster’s restaurant/sports bar/arcade concept.
As you can probably gather from the sentence above, I am not a Dave & Buster’s booster; in fact, I find the chain and its ilk to be just a wee bit loud, garish and frenetic… and this comes from a guy who has been on hundreds of casino floors over the past 20 years. A night in a "D&B Casino" watching cornhole on ESPN 8 (The Ocho—if it’s almost a sport, we got it here) at full volume while youngsters wander from game-to-game trying to score more than just points while scarfing copious amounts of draft beer and questionable meat sliders is something I find less appealing as I grow older.
All that said, so long as it doesn’t take over the entire property, a section of the gaming floor dedicated to activities that might entice real-money wagering from younger resort clientele is a wise, and likely essential, idea going forward. At some point, the casino industry needs to push this group beyond the resort amenities and onto the gaming floor.
But based on sessions I attended at NIGA and other recent conferences, I wonder if this is really a pressing concern for most casino operators and suppliers. Sure, all realize more future slot business has to come from Millennials; but there is a growing train of thought that the current lack of Millennials on the gaming floor is somewhat overblown and far from a crisis. Some long-time and very persuasive casino observers opine that the industry’s best bet for growth over the next decade is to concentrate on Baby Boomer patronage, since that group has plenty of time and money to spend at gaming resorts. Also, over this time period, Millennials will age and naturally gravitate toward the slot gaming experience in much the way Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation did.
It is hard to argue with part of this theory, at least over the short-term. Indeed, Millennials have nowhere near the disposable income currently possessed by Baby Boomers, and what money they do have will soon be dedicated to buying houses, moving to the suburbs and all the other items needed to raise families. It may be a while before they have the "free cash" needed to comfortably wager at a casino.
What I have a hard time accepting is that Millennials will “age” into slot machine gambling, that once you pass the age of 50, gambling machines become more attractive than ever before. That to me is wish casting, and I for one just can’t imagine that a group of people that has shown zero interest in slots will suddenly be packing the casino floor because they have more money to spend and their hair has turned a little grayer.
In many ways, the casino industry has been unbelievably fortunate in that its primary money maker, the slot, seemed to be ageless in its appeal. This may no longer be the case, at least with Millennials, and believing a generation of customers will eventually adapt to the long-time status quo may provide short-term relief, but is foolhardy long-term strategy.
The wiser and much more difficult path is to begin adapting the gaming floor to this new generation of customer. It’s time to experiment with segmentation and creating slot wagering experiences that appeal to all ages and types of patrons. Bring on the the draft beer, wings and ESPN 8.