Lately, there has been a flurry of articles and concerns regarding the dilemma of Millennials and their impact, or lack thereof, on casinos.
Sadly, most of the articles are filled with clichés, gross misinterpretations and, worse yet, offer little understanding on to how to solve the Millennial problem most casino executives seem to be facing. According to Time magazine, 10,000 Millennials turn 21 every day. So, what are we to do about the largest generation ever on our planet, whose combined buying power for 2015 was $2.45 trillion, according to Oracle? And what are we to do about their adversity to following their parents into casinos?
To begin, we need to look at what we think we know about the Millennials:
- They’re young and weird;
- Many still live at home;
- If they’re out of school, many are carrying a huge amount of debt;
- They’re marrying later;
- Many survive on the lower end of the pay scale and have little disposable income;
- They’re addicted to their phones and other technology;
- They have short attention spans;
- They don’t like slot machines; and
- They think casinos have too much smoke and are filled with losers.
Now honestly, many of the above statements have a measure of truth, but much of what is written above is overly generalized, ill-conceived and does little to help understand and address the situation. Yes, this generation is young, and they have a different take on life, but they are far from being stupid or foolhardy. In fact, they are the most educated of any generation today with 63 percent holding Bachelor’s degrees, according to Millennial Branding. If anyone needs a lesson on how to understand them, it’s us. So, let’s take a look at their world.
WALKING IN MILLENNIAL SHOES
Without question, this is a generation that lives and breathes technology. They have grown up with scientific advancements that dictate their very existence. They eat, drink and play through a myriad of visual and electronic cues most of us don’t understand. There are more games packed on their phone, Xbox, laptop or iPad than we can even begin to imagine. The Internet is their life source, and it’s filled with anything and everything they want to learn or play.
They can access any game, from the most simple to complex, from fantasy to gambling to sports or war with mystery and role playing thrown in—and all these games are available at their fingertips at any given moment. So, with that in mind is it any surprise that they find slot machines to be a waste of time; especially when some old geezer is sitting next to you puffing on a cigarette and polluting your space. Think about it… after spending a day at work or school staring at a computer, texting messages, compiling data, playing games on your break, would you have the burning desire to sit in front of another machine and stare at a screen?
So, what do Millennials want? Well, they’re young, so it goes without saying that they like to party, kickback, socialize and drink. This is accentuated by their “data stream isolation” which increases the need for human contact. Millennials need to get out and breathe in the real world. This is why Pokémon Go has been such a tremendous success. It moved the player outside and into the public realm where they could interact with the real world and one another.
This is a powerful clue that casinos should emulate and follow.
Unfortunately, many in the business have never dealt to a Millennial. If you did you might be surprised. Look at the way many of them play blackjack. Have you ever questioned how people so well versed in computers and technology could pay so little attention to basic strategy—especially when they could easily brush up on it to improve their ability? Couple this with their constant use of phones, texting, instant messages and personal calls while on the table and it seems like they’re out to drive you crazy. But look closer—watch their interaction with one another. For them, the game is not about winning or losing, it’s about the social consciousness of the group—everything is a discussion on how to proceed.
Indeed money, while important, is not the driving factor of their lives—socialization is. This is their drug and life blood. Millennials are starved for interaction with one another, and this is why they congregate in coffee houses, restaurants and other public forums even while remaining connected to their devices. Even when the dealer has to stop and tell them to put away their phone—it’s social interaction that fills their need for contact with another person.
Poker is another great example. The game is the epitome of socialization, pitting one player against the next and it’s doing just fine. Another example of socialization is the table game War. The appeal of the game rests on one simple fact—it’s simple, and that’s the allure. You don’t have to think, make any decisions, the cost of entry is low, and you are surrounded by others like yourself who are drinking and having fun playing a guessing game. Once again, it’s all about the group consciousness and enjoying one another’s company.
RULES OF ATTRACTION
With all this in mind is it any wonder that slot play is down as Millennials shift their attention to more social events like table games, nightclubs, restaurants, concerts and pool parties? For many in gaming, there is a sense of panic as they try to understand how the biggest money maker, the slot department, is experiencing a downward trend and what they should do about it. The quick answer seems to be more interactive slots with an accent on group play, which is fine, though don’t get your hopes up. Even if you bring in interactive games like Candy Crush or Call of Duty, you’re still faced with the fact that a machine is a machine, and the competition with the Internet, smartphone, at-home gaming systems, 3D virtual reality and other devices are something Millennials are already hooked on and playing for free. This is a massive obstacle to overcome.
For interactive slots to truly succeed you need to break away from the isolated machine or station—follow the Pokémon Go format by creating apps exclusive to your casino. Move the players from place to place within the casino or even property to property—like a treasure hunt.
Fill this pay to play app with small rewards that accumulate over use and time. Design the games so as players move about, they encounter new and unique challenges. Have them perform tasks,(like buying a drink) or obtain certain goals (answering a trivia question in 30 seconds or less) then move them onto the next stop. Engage their play with others and lead them up the ladder to a bigger and greater reward.
Additionally, revamp the casino pits. Look hard at optioning new physical games where young players can congregate and socialize. While blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and pai gow are great games, they are old, and it’s time to move on especially if you want to attract the Millennial crowd and the generations that lie beyond. For self-preservation, casinos should create R & D departments to explore new playing options and directions, following a game plan that is inventive, progressive and fearless.
Human nature is a funny thing. Over all, and much to our chagrin, we all turn into our parents as we get older; but in between, we strive to make ourselves different and make our mark in the world. And so it is with gaming. Millennials want, need and crave socialization and the best way for casinos to profit from this fact is to actively pursue the market with fervor. Seek out new games with bright, colorful layouts, make them easy and fun—set up exclusive (smokefree) pits designed just for them with photo ops, music, a DJ or other amenities. Market to them as if your life depended on it, with games or apps designed to bring them in the door. And then keep them there with accumulative rewards, free new game play coupons, free lessons and new games designed solely for them. Stop treating them with disdain and instead, embrace them—welcome their play and POV. Train them by piquing their interest, fulfilling their social needs and rewarding their loyalty for coming back.
Eventually, as their tastes and perspective on life change and their wallets grow, Millennials will migrate over to the more established traditional games; and your casino will continue to reap the benefits and profits long after you’ve started complaining about the next rising group.