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Back to the Future

Disruptive technologies have heavily impacted many industries, and casinos need to find creative solutions to stay ahead of the curve.

Back to the Future

Last month’s celebration of the 15th anniversary of GGB Magazine left me in a reflective mood. It has nothing to do with my new, more realistic “look,” which is actually a reversion to the way I appeared prior to joining the casino industry. It has left me, however, a bit curious about what the future holds for the gaming industry.

Disruptive technologies have heavily impacted many industries in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago.

The reports about the death of retail aren’t that surprising given the success of Amazon, eBay and other online retailers. Some articles conjecture that those massive malls that used to thrive year-round will now become empty shells as people change their buying habits. Retail companies are scrambling to react, but we already know it’s too late for many of them.

The taxi business has been totally turned upside down with the success of Uber and Lyft. Yes, there are some cities and states that are fighting against this rising tide by passing laws and regulations that make it more difficult to run these ride-sharing businesses. Yet the convenience they offer seems to be winning the battle.

The rapid growth of companies like Airbnb that act as a middleman to lease private homes and apartments on a short-term basis to travelers who would have ordinarily rented a hotel room has challenged the hospitality industry. And like ride-sharing, jurisdictions are fighting back by imposing taxes and fees on those willing to lease their properties.

Perhaps more applicable to the casino industry is the delivery of movies and films. Gone are the video rental stores. DVDs? A thing of the past.

In my business, I’ve been paying close attention to the decline in print publications in favor of online access to information. We’ve been somewhat lucky in that trade magazines seem to be a bit more resistant to this trend, but the impact is strong nonetheless. At GGB, we’ve developed some very well-received web products, so we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.

For the casino industry, the growth of iGaming was supposed to be the big threat. But that hasn’t proven to be the case; in fact, it has enhanced land-based casinos in many ways. While it’s true that gaming revenues have been flat over the past several years, that can be explained by increased competition from more land-based casinos as well as a greater choice of entertainment options both online and off.

But we all know changes are coming. Just look at the attention paid to the dreaded “M” word—millennials—over the past five years. I don’t doubt for a moment they will become gamblers just as their parents and grandparents did decades before, but what form will that take? There already seem to be indications that traditional slot machines won’t hold the same allure to them that they have to previous generations.

So will that mean they’ll be gambling on their devices? And where will they play? Will they still come to the “casino” or will they gather in small clubs or large entertainment centers that may or may not be places where mainly gambling takes place? Or will we be able to figure out how to create “communities” that will attract the gamblers among the millennials?

As you can tell, I don’t pretend to have the answers. I do think there will be some companies that will be thinking outside the box and pushing the envelope (sorry for the clichés) to take chances that will elevate them to become the next Amazon or Uber or Airbnb of gaming, and those companies will become the unlikely giants of the industry.

Or will the current giants take the chances that will cement their positions as industry thought leaders? MGM certainly has been considering the future with the Level UP project at MGM Grand. Caesars has blazed the skill-games trail with installations in its largest properties in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

For slot manufacturers, will GameCo or Gamblit be disrupters? Or will the big companies simply co-opt what they are producing and do it better?

I know that progressive management in any gaming company has to be considering these challenges. Who wants to be the next Blockbuster or Sears?

For the last 15 years, GGB has been covering these changes, and I had been covering the industry for another 20 years before that. It’s been a great experience, but I think the next 15 years are going to be the most exciting that I’ve ever seen, so hold on and enjoy the ride.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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