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Get Ready for Millennials

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Get Ready for Millennials

One of my colleagues, just for shiggles, played a little game with himself at this year’s Global Gaming Expo. Whenever he heard the word “millennials,” he drank a shot.

The convention doors swung opened Tuesday at 10 a.m., and yada-yada-yada, by lunchtime his blood-alcohol level was higher than Doogie Howser’s grade-point average.

The M-word was indeed on everyone’s breath that week, from the owner of a small-time startup to the CEO of a big-time casino operator. Anybody and everybody you talked to was talking about, or talking about somebody else talking about, this newly coined and newly coveted demographic of 21- to-34-year-olds.

With all due respect to Puff Daddy (or Weird Al), it’s clearly not all about the Benjamins (or the Pentiums) any more. It’s all about the millennials, baby. Uh-huh, yeah, this group of adults that has less money than any other, that has a third of its population living at home with mom and dad, that has reached the requisite age to vote for president but not to run for it, had become the singular focus of our attention and resources.

OMG. No wonder these kids today have such stratospheric self-esteem.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re sick of the word “millennials,” do yourself a favor and move to a cave in Uzbekistan. One without Wi-Fi. Why? Because this buzzword hasn’t reached its half-life let. Business jargon has come and gone the past 10 years, from “mind share” to “touch point” to “core competency,” and believe you me: This one has more sustainability than, well, “sustainability.”

“It’s tough to make predictions,” the previous-millennium Yogi Berra said, “especially about the future.” Well, undaunted and undeterred, and hopefully unremembered if they all crap out, here are a few casino gambling prognostications about the millennial crowd:

#SameOldSame

Sorry, all you iconoclasts and daydreamers out there, but millennials will not trigger a radical change to the content or context of casino gambling. At least not anytime soon. Now, you may think that forecasting young people will play traditional games seems wishful thinking. And you’d be right.

Most definitely. Our company is the world’s largest supplier of card shufflers and proprietary table games, and one of the largest suppliers of slot machines and electronic tables. There’s no doubt we want this particular prophecy to prove prophetic.

But even if we were selling ink daubers to bingo parlors or oxygen tanks to keno lounges, we’d still be going all Nostradamus on this. Consider human nature. There’s just something self-contradictory hard-wired into the human psyche that makes us, as TV writer David Milch puts it, “spin against the way we drive.”

People are always rebelling or repelling against themselves. To wit: millennials spend most of their waking hours wired into their, ironically enough, wireless devices. You think they want to experience that experience everywhere? Then explain European backpacking, the Electric Daisy Carnival, and Tinder. Millennials want to keep it real as much as the next generation.

Besides, if you think about it, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et. al are social and interactive. Do you know what else is social and interactive? Table games. You’ve got other players. You’ve got the dealer. You’ve got the background music. You’ve got cards and chips and dice. Oh my, you’ve got the ambient noise in the casino, and at least for a few more years in a few more places, you’ve got the waft of cigar and cigarette smoke. Every sense is touched. You got an app for that? Ha, didn’t think so.

#ByeBadBets

Millennials are without question the most knowledgeable generation when it comes to gambling. That’s what happens when you’ve had all the world’s information in your pocket for as long as you’ve had pockets. They know the good (high-denomination slots) from the bad (double-zero roulette) and the ugly (big six wheel). But this bodes well for games of all types that give players a fair shot at winning. OK, a fairer shot. Pretty much everything you find in a casino, save for blackjack and certain video poker machines, tilts toward the house. That’s expected.

But gouging isn’t. The Las Vegas Review-Journal posited in a recent article that high hold percentages are driving down slot play. Maybe yes, maybe no. That’s an opinion, but so is this: millennials are going to find a good gamble or they’re going to find something else to do.

#ChChChChanges

The millennial generation, like any other, is a work in progress. Think back, baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers, to when you were their age. Think about what you did, what you thought, what you prioritized, and what you didn’t. When you stop laughing, think about how little you think like that now.

Millennials too will evolve in all aspects of their lives, from the music they listen to, to the food they eat, the movies they watch, and yes, the games they play. So be careful when taking aim at this target market, because the target is moving.

Casino suppliers and operators should study what happens over time with these folks. Experiment. Trial and error may not be sexy, but it works. If it’s good enough for evolutionary biology, it should be good enough for games of chance. Don’t assume and don’t take anything for granted. Remember, trends are always obvious when you connect the dots after the fact; it’s much tougher to draw inferences in their infancy.

And finally, when it comes to millennials—or Millennium Falcons for that matter—my new hope is the same as my old hope: May the force be with you.

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.

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