Will Millennials Bring The End of Gambling?


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Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. They entered adulthood around the turn of the 21st century, giving them their name. Millennials represent a quarter of the world’s population, holding considerable spending power and giving them great influence over many sectors, including gambling.

Compared to older generations, millennials are not as interested in casino games such as slots, craps, and blackjack, online and off. Some in the industry worry that this lack of interest spells the end of gambling, however this is not necessarily the case.

What do millennials do if they aren’t gambling?

Millennials are still flocking to locations such as Las Vegas. However, these trips do not center around gambling. Rather, the Strip is seen as an entertainment destination with lots of experiences to be had.

The fancy hotels, trendy bars and restaurants, entertaining shows, and hot nightclubs – all the area and casinos have to offer attract Generation Y, except for the gaming floors themselves. And when a millennial goes into a casino, it is seen first and foremost as a social activity. They want to hang out with their friends and enjoy a fun evening. They may end up trying out their hand at a table game or slot machine during their evening but will not spend much time nor money. The experience is more of a holistic one, than one centered on any one aspect, casinos included.

Is this truly a millennial problem?

As much as some people may wish to blame millennials, there are several studies that suggest that it is less a generational problem and rather an age issue.

Life magazine put out an issue in June 1955 forecasting the end of Las Vegas. The current generation, the largest in history at the time, was not interested in gambling like their parents and grandparents. New technology was changing the game. Things had to be done to lure the new generation onto the gaming floor, even while numbers of visitors to Vegas were constantly increasing. These were the baby boomers, not the millennials, but already the industry was worried nearly 70 years ago. And yet it has survived.

The issue then is not the generation, but the fact that people in their 20s and 30s simply don’t gamble much. They have less disposable income than older adults and they have other priorities for their money and their time. For example, many are interested in home ownership, a goal which can only be met if money is saved rather than gambled away. They also want to be out living life to the fullest and having as many experiences as possible.

Statistics have shown that as people age, their interest in gambling peaks. So theoretically millennials will follow in their elders’ footsteps, moving away from the shows and restaurants and on to the slot machines in about 25 years.

Do millennials not like games in general?

Even if millennials are not interested in gambling, they do love gaming. They grew up with gaming systems such as Nintendo 64, PlayStation, Gameboy, and Xbox. A large number continue to make use of traditional systems, but also increasingly on mobile phones.

Interestingly, the casual mobile games that draw in millennial players today have similarities with casino games. Both types entice people to play by using techniques such as colourful graphics and music that pulls one in. Many mobile games also include virtual currencies that must be spent to purchase items for use in the game. These virtual currencies may also require real money to be spent, just as casino games do. And unlike casino games, they usually do not offer the possibility of a payout. Yet, millennials prefer the casual games over casino games.

What are casinos doing and what more can they do?

Casinos have discovered that to appeal to millennials, they must use technology and use it well. Millennials grew up with technology and are constantly adapting to the latest and greatest innovations. If casinos have outdated websites and machines, this will only lead to frustration, whereas smooth-running current technology will keep millennial players interested. The industry has already introduced online games for PC and mobile devices and esports betting as two options to attract the tech-savvy Generation Y.

Some studies have shown that more millennials might gamble if existing games were changed or new ones introduced. One example is new games offered that look and feel more like console video games than traditional casino games. These machines which are reminiscent of the video games players grew up with and are playing now, add a level of comfort that makes it easier to approach the machine. Also similar to video games, skill-based games with goals that millennials can aim for are more attractive. They do not wish to play games of luck – even less so when the house edge is much higher than it was in the past – but rather games that they can study and train to play. Already, they show more interest in poker and video poker than luck-only slot machines.

It is also important that casinos offer some team-oriented games. Players can work together to build their strategies and achieve their goals, something that can be much more fulfilling than a “everyone for him- or herself” game. It also satisfies their desire for social interaction. Rather than sitting alone at a slot machine simply pressing the buttons, they would have a shared-experience.

Casinos will need to stay up-to-date with the latest technology. As mobile connectivity also means that millennials may choose to play in online casinos more than land-based, options such as virtual reality are good to integrate. Live dealer casinos allow some of the interaction millennials look for, but virtual reality is a way to further expand upon the gaming experience. Being immersed in a 3D environment and interacting with it provides a stronger connection to the game. For land-based casinos, wearables are an ideal investment. They not only offer increased customer satisfaction, but also lots of data for casinos. Wearables will allow truly personalized experiences and promotions, especially on millennial’s favourite items - food and drinks.

Casinos must keep in mind that millennials are a different target audience, but the industry has seen similar behavior before and is still going strong.

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