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Ch… Ch… Changes

Looking back and looking ahead on how Covid-19 will impact gaming long-term

Ch… Ch… Changes

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you… never get involved in a land war in Asia or go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Wait. That’s two different…

Ah, forget it.

Point is there are a lot of to-do’s that are actually to-don’ts. Take pushing your luck. Or more aptly, don’t take it. Instead, heed that Aesop fable of the dog with the bone in his mouth that looks in a stream and sees what he thinks is another dog with another bone in his mouth, so he barks to get him to drop the bone and ends up losing his in the water.

Rut roh.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s better to—in the parlance of our profession—quit winners.

But then again… What the hell? Let’s throw caution to the wind and see if the blowback blows back in our face. One year ago, as Covid came a-knocking, we predicted widespread disruption and changes to casino operations and customer service, from enforcement of mask mandates to reduced players at tables to shutting down buffets, etc.

And yes, looking back, we guessed right. More often than not, anyway. And no, looking forward, we’re not leaving well enough alone. So once again—and you should do this too, as a thought exercise—let’s don our fortune-teller hat and gaze into our crystal ball and see what the future holds.

  • Promotional gifting is headed online. The days of players showing up and queueing up for their free beach umbrella or George Foreman Grill are over. Maybe not literally over, as the inevitable isn’t always instantaneous; however, as 2021 unfolds, you will see more and more casinos—and this is already happening among the early-adopter crowd—pivot away from ordering and the warehousing and the distributing (and the returning, oh the returning) of promotional items. They will shift instead towards what you would call an online boutique, where players choose what they want right at their slot machine and have it shipped to their homes by a little company called Ever heard of it?
  • Cashless is coming. Maybe not at the supersonic speed of TITO and maybe not at the melting-ice-sculpture pace of skill-based games, but it’s coming. In fact, at 100 or so casinos around the world, it’s already here. For now, cashless is available in two flavors: 1) Players use their debit cards at the gaming table to buy chips; and, 2) Players use an app to transfer funds from their phone directly to the game they’re playing.

More offerings are in the offing, including another app for establishing a credit line at casinos and a debit-card reader for buying a TITO ticket right at the slot machine. And when you consider adoption of digital wallets and the like are highest among younger players, the predictions of exponential growth over the next 10 years seem attainable.

  • Buffets will stage an all-you-can-eat-sized comeback. It’s easy to hold your rosary beads and administer the last rites for the iconic casino gastronomical gorge-fest, but, like Lazarus or Frankenstein or Westley in The Princess Bride, buffets are only… mostly dead. They will return. Likely starting with a restriction of seating and an abundance of Plexiglas partitions, but they will return.

Here are few others prognostications to chew on: more casino personnel on hand to fork over food; higher quality and higher prices; one-hour time limits on all parties; and—and this is just a personal wish—lifetime expulsion to any customer that eats so much as a crouton while still in the chow line. With no chance for parole.

  • Someone is going to create an in-table chip sanitizer. Imagine a roulette chipper mounted underneath a blackjack table (or a roulette table, seeing as it already exists). When losing bets are pushed down the tube and into the machine, instead of merely collating them by color or denomination, it also gives ‘em a little blast of UV light. Sure, it seems like something out of the Jetsons, but it’s either that or re-racking your joint with anti-microbial chips.


  • The next World Series of Poker in Las Vegas—no matter when it happens—will have more entrants than 2019. OK, this seems totally crazy, but consider that first of all, people are dying for this. The pent-up demand has pent-up demand.

Second, people will make the pilgrimage just to be part of the WSOP’s return.

Third, poker players are typically young, typically male, and typically convinced of their own invincibility, whether they’re trying to catch an inside straight or trying not to catch a deadly virus.

And fourth, what do you think a lot of people have been doing with their spare time the past year? Reading Shakespeare, Chaucer and Steinbeck? Playing Words with Friends online? No, they’ve been reading Sklansky, Brunson and Malmuth, and playing $20 sit-and-go’s online, and they’re ready to take their talents—not to mention their stimulus checks—to the biggest stage in the game.

Which leads us to our final prediction…

We will look back at 2021 as a historic, seismic inflection point for slot machine innovation. Think about it: Over the past 12-plus months, R&D departments among the suppliers have had the luxury—so to speak—of not having to worry about day-to-day technical and performance issues on casino floors. Instead, they’ve had the chance to reflect and regroup and refocus. It’s as if Sci Games, Aristocrat, IGT, et al got a collective standing eight-count.

And what’s coming next will be a shock-and-awe fusillade of content and hardware the industry has never seen. This has already started, and it will only accelerate and amplify as we barrel down on G2E Las Vegas.

We hope to see you there.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.