Playing Young

Public speaking and the dangers of Ralph-Kramdenitis

Playing Young

I happen to be hosting the first in our series of educational sessions at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on the 22nd of this month (tickets still available—see me at the door), and coincidentally, this ends up being the month Roger Snow writes about being afraid of public speaking.

Personally, I’m terrified of it. Luckily, when I do it, it’s normally in a roundtable format (although the table, to be honest, is usually rectangular), and I typically have great panelists, so it becomes easy to moderate a really interesting discussion. But going out there by yourself? With nothing but a microphone? And talking? To people? In business suits?

While I certainly can do it—hey, I’m a pro, OK?—there will always be that petrifying moment where I have to mentally ward off, oh, let’s call it Ralph-Kramdenitis:

“Humma-humma-humma…”

That cartoon where Bugs Bunny tries to do a vaudeville routine for an audience of brain surgeons also comes to mind.

There will be no such shenanigans on March 22, I assure you. I’ve got a distinguished panel of slot operations pros talking about what kinds of games are going to take the slot floor, and the rest of the casino, into the future.

I’m sure that at some point, somebody’s going to sling the M-bomb. You know, millennials? When the issue of how to please this new generation first came up, my first thought was that we still had plenty of time to figure this out. Now, suddenly, the oldest millennials are in their mid-to-late 30s. Yikes! They probably have money now, too! How do we get some of it?

Some of the ideas so far are things like eSports matches, shooter games, mobile-style games, virtual reality and a few other cool, if mystifying activities. (In a space once crammed with slot machines, Bally’s Wild Wild West in Atlantic City now has beer pong.) But so far, everyone’s still trying to figure out how to monetize activities to which these young, slot-machine-hating whippersnappers will flock, their pockets full from their first real-estate flip.

I only know that I’m not winning money from these games. I’ve tried the video skill games at the past couple of G2E shows, and on each and every one of them, I pretty much suck. I had some very good hand-eye coordination back in my pinball days, and I can still manage to play bass, guitar and mandolin (although not at the same time), but I get on one of these first-person shooter games, and it’s like someone cut off my fingers and replaced them with toes.

I’m just as toe-fingered on the mobile-style games, like that one where you have to slash fruit on the screen to earn points. I’m one of those people who can actually lose to a watermelon.

But these games are still in the experimental stage, and we have yet to see one that can rake in the kind of money slot machines are capable of earning. That’s why the casinos still love me. I’m still a fan of the games that we know can make money for the casino. I’m the guy looking for that old reel-spinning slot machine, preferably with wobbly reels and malfunctioning lights that blink on and off.

I’m good at those games. Of course, so is a chimpanzee. And chimp-friendly games aren’t drawing many young players.

What is drawing young players, as noted by AGS chief David Lopez in our cover story, are the table games. It’s because tables provide a social experience, players must actually use their brains to plan their next move, and there is active interaction with the game.

I prefer to play craps, and I like it the same way my father would have played it onboard a ship during World War II. When I’m on the slot floor, I normally play video poker, or one of those clunky old three-reel dollar games. And the only interaction with the game I have is feeding in cash, or maybe putting my fist through the screen.

That said, I realize that casinos have to plan for when players like me are confined to bingo at the rest home, if not that big coin-operated slot floor in the sky. That’s why we’re doing the UNLV sessions.

Just so you know, I try to bring Looney Tunes into serious trade journalism whenever possible.

Hey, it was a great cartoon, remember? The brain surgeons were there to carve up Bugs’ brain, but he thought they were an audience, so he started to sing and dance, and he…

Oh, never mind. That’s all, folks.

Frank Legato
Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the recently published book on gaming, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying.  

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