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Making Time for Millennials

Making Time for Millennials

It’s been the big buzzword over the last couple of years in the casino business: millennials, and how to attract them to your property. Not being a millennial—in fact, as a baby boomer, I’m about as far from it as you can get—I don’t have a lot of advice on this front. Even my older sons are too old to be called millennials.

Just to be clear, let’s define millennials. This is the generation who reached adulthood at about the turn of the century. So anyone born in 1980 or later is a millennial. Generation X, Y and Z are something different, but don’t ask me to define them; it will get too confusing.

There was actually a fantastic presentation on millennials at G2E last year by Scott Hess from Spark SMG. Not many people saw it because it was presented on the last day of the show (those Thursday sessions are challenging but also some of the best). Hess outlined three reasons why millennials are important to any business today, but particularly the casino business.

First, the millennials are the largest living generation. As a baby boomer, that surprised me until I realized that many of the early arrivers in my generation are already gone, sadly. And it makes sense that this generation is the largest because lots of them are my children and grandchildren. According to Hess, there are 70 million to 80 million millennials. So for anyone hoping to grow a business, millennials are important because size matters.

Secondly, millennials are entering their prime earning and consuming years. And we’ve seen the impact of millennials already on the casino industry. These are the people who fuel the nightclubs and the pools. A very important demographic. The oldest millennials are already in their mid-30s, so they are entering the age when most generations (in fact, all generations up until now) become casino players. So anyone who is not paying attention to millennials is setting up their casino for failure.

Finally, like all generations that came before, millennials are very influential about where society is headed. If you could see my picture from my “millennial” age, you’d see my hair down to my shoulders and my tie-dye t-shirt. So far be it from me to criticize salmon-colored shorts and the spiky Beiber hair styles. But tapping into these influential adapters by using their favorite technologies and devices can be immensely profitable and brand-building (although we don’t know how long those brands will last, given the fact that the lifespan of Las Vegas nightclubs is now down to four or five years).

What’s most exciting about millennials, Hess says, is that they are the ultimate arbiters of culture. That means when they like something, that something becomes big! Think The Hunger Games, Twilight, iPhone 6.

But unlike other generations, there is an uncertainty about how millennials will respond to traditional casino marketing as they age. In all past generations (at least in the 40-50 year history of the modern casino), people—mostly women—became slot players sometime after they hit 40. While we don’t see that yet in millennials, experience is telling us that might not happen. While millennials will gladly come to a nightclub at a casino and drop $1,000 on a bottle of liquor and a cabana, those people have shown almost no interest in gambling. So what happens if they age out of the nightclub scene and don’t age into the casino? Nothing good.

So are we going to have to rethink how to attract this next generation of gambler? Undoubtedly. While it appears they aren’t completely enamored with gambling, they seem to enjoy social gaming, which is a good sign. But do we approach them as potential real-money gamblers or just social gamers? Some companies want to make that distinction, others are confident that they can be converted.

Or do we change what we consider to be gambling and give them a blend of social and real-money gambling? Do we offer it on machines or allow them to access it on their phones and tablets?

However we do it, we’ve got to come up with strategies. Here at GGB, we plan to cover this extensively for the next year and beyond. And at G2E in September, you can be sure there will be a collection of seminars on dealing with millennials. Yes, we all might be a bit older, but we have to speak their language for the good of all our enterprises.

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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