As we head toward G2E, thoughts inevitably turn to taking stock of where we are as an industry.
And using experience as a guide, it’s probably best to remember that all change is incremental and, in a highly-regulated industry such as gaming, only more so. But you didn’t have to spend the last month glued to weather coverage to know that we are living in an age of disruption. Our friends in the brick-and-mortar retailing business will attest to that.
Retailers of all stripes have been consumed by online shopping more than anything because they didn’t offer something that was uniquely attainable at their locations that enough of their customers valued. The reason why I don’t expect brick-and-mortar casinos to follow suit is their gambling product is dramatically different from what you can presently find online and enough of their customers, much more than enough, actually, value it.
But things can and do change. Some have zeroed in on slot machines as a category that needs to be rethought, and one well-known example is Seth Schorr, the CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, who has turned a piece of the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas over to competitive video gaming.
“It’s not my opinion that slot machines are going to go out of style in the next five years; I don’t think that’s the case. I think there will always be forms of slot machines but they’re going to evolve,” said Schorr, who keynoted at Casino Journal’s Casino Marketing & Technology Conference in July. “What’s exciting about new forms of gaming, whether it’s eSports, skill-based slots or other skill games, is there’s still a gambling component to them.”
eSports isn’t a fit for all casinos, Schorr, acknowledges, but gamers are rapidly becoming more of a market segment than a niche and as they grow older and have more money to spend, casinos, “are going to want a gamer to find their property relevant,” and not just from a non-gaming standpoint.
Like all technology, it’s going to take many iterations. One is MGM Grand’s Level-Up, where its Golfstream product, which is billed as the world’s first laser golf course and lounge. It’s a space with moving greens, video game graphics projected onto the greens and allows for real golf shots on real golf holes. There’s also a VIP Lounge with actual caddie service; ever-changing mini-holes for players of all skill levels or mini games like hand golf; game within-a game contest like longest drive, closest to the pin, 30-second timed putting with moneyballs… you get the drift.
“Some video games may not cater to people over 30, but golf is something that clearly speaks to our traditional casino guest,” said Schorr. “This golf experience is very innovative; it fits in a small footprint and it’s another example of using technology to gamblify a popular game.”
As often happens at these forums, Raving Consulting’s Dennis Conrad asked a good question: “I get the opportunity to create new types of games with eSports and skill-based games; that seems logical to me. At the same time, anecdotally and even some results from roulette, where the numbers seem to be going up in Las Vegas, young people apparently like roulette a little bit. You see young people at the crap tables, a lot of young poker players… I guess the question is, are we throwing out traditional games too soon?
Schorr said he couldn’t agree more, but, “let me point out what you just said: You just listed all the table games.” He added that when the Downtown Grand held video gaming tournaments, “we did see about a quarter of the people going to the floor and they all played table games.”
Schorr also did some focus groups and he sat some gamers at slot machines, which is product that he still thinks has another 20 years of value, “and they thought it was insane. You know what they find insane? Sitting at a slot machine and not even knowing how it works. These are gamers. They want to get good at something and the more they play the better they get. I hate to break it to you, but there’s no way of getting good at playing a slot machine. That’s the concept that I think is frustrating to certain people.”
I agree, but I also think Conrad has a point, one that should lead more operators to rethink and reinvest in their table game operations as older players are replaced by people who grew up expecting to play games they can learn to play correctly and with skill. We do a whole conference on that next month, if you didn’t already know; Cutting Edge Table Games. You might want to check it out www.tablegamesconf.com
See you at the show.