It's no secret that the casino industry has been hurting within the United States since just before the Great Recession hit in 2007. Since that time, the two largest gambling markets (Las Vegas and Atlantic City) have experienced huge drop-offs in terms of gambling revenues, even though people are still coming to their respective cities.
A big problem for the industry appears to be the advancing age of their player base. While there are a healthy number of younger visitors coming to Vegas, the people playing the games are actually older. The average age of a visitor to Las Vegas is 45, but the number of people actually coming to gamble primarily was down to 9% in a recent survey by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
This led to casinos asking the question: Why aren't younger gamblers betting money in casinos?
A Change in Interests
While there is a certain allure to slot machines and table games, younger gamblers don't seem to be too enamored with the games. In part, this is related to the fact that casino games are almost exclusively focused on luck, rather than strategy. Because many younger adults have grown up with video games, they are used to experiences that test the skills that they've gathered from years of playing these games. Standard casino games simply cannot bring this experience in their current form.
The Future is Here
You can say that the casino industry is aging, but you certainly can't say that it's stupid. Developers and casino properties alike have realized that they have to change their game offerings in order to lure in millennials.
Companies like Gamblit are taking charge, developing a series of games that manage to bring social experiences, skill, and modern technology to casinos. During the 2016 Global Gaming Expo, the company showed off a variety of games that are a real sea change from what casino goers are used to.
The crux of this change is a series of games that are being deployed through the Gamblit Model G and Gamblit TriStation Machines. The Model G lays horizontally and allows up to four players the chance to play a game at the same time, while allowing for different games to be played. One example of this was a game where players crowded around the table to work together to match specific bottle caps in the middle of the table. Players needed to match a certain number of caps to win back their bet amounts, and more matches on top of that to walk away a winner.
The company has also worked to develop a series of games based off of mobile properties. The most recognizable of these is probably Jetpack Joyride, while games that resemble Fruit Ninja are also available.
Other companies also had games aimed at younger audiences, as groups like GameCo had a first person shooter skill style game, and there were also games where players competed in Mario Kart style races in order to win cash prizes.
These games all proved to be hits during G2E, as there were dozens of people lined up to give them a go, and there's little doubt that younger players will be drawn in to them.
But What About the Established Groups?
While the companies above are certainly on the ball with trying to get younger players gambling, more established developers are also seeking to bring new players through the doors.
Companies like IGT are working on developing Virtual Reality titles for use in casinos, which will see players paying a set fee to participate in a tournament-style match. As it was explained to me, players will have the chance to pay to enter the tournament, play their round, and leave. Players will then be contacted if someone beats their score, giving participants the chance to come back and play again.
Another interesting change for betting games was a racing style of game put out by Konami, which had a racing game on display. This game saw players selecting races like you would in a virtual sports title, but the difference is that the race was then played out by miniature toy horses. This is certainly a different take on things, and at first I thought it was silly, but after sticking around the Konami space for a while I noticed that people were staying at the game for multiple rounds, which is interesting.
The Coming Years
While a lot of this technology was at the forefront of G2E, many of the companies were reluctant to spell out any firm plans to implement the games into casinos. It will be interesting to see when and where these new style games are deployed.
Without a doubt, the casino industry knows that it has to do something to lure in younger players, and I am really looking forward to seeing these games on the floor of my local casinos.