Lately, every conference includes a panel on the “casino of the future.” Perhaps this has been a theme for decades, but it does seem that our industry is on the cusp of another meaningful evolution. Today’s younger generations are the first to have grown up fully immersed in technology such as video games, social media and smartphones. It’s reasonable to assume that these demographics will not “age into” past gaming products such as slot machines, and that they will expect a new paradigm at casinos.
From 1931 to 1975, gambling in the U.S. was the sole (legal) domain of Nevada and established the historical cool factor of the tuxedo-clad “Rat Pack.” In 1976, legalized gaming expanded to New Jersey, and the next two decades brought rapid expansion across the country along with an evolution of the casino “brand” towards a more family-friendly destination. The end of the 20th century brought the crossover point for the “X-Chart” in Las Vegas, whereby non-gaming revenue overtook gaming revenue, and that trend has continued.
How will casinos look over the next five, 10 or 20 years? Let’s propose seven considerations for the evolution of the gaming industry and tomorrow’s casino.
Consideration 1: Seamlessness
Today, most casinos are highly structured, with clear division between the gaming floor, entertainment offerings, food and beverage, retail and other components. The future will likely bring an experience and philosophy that is more seamless and integrated, with a free flow of design and construction that mixes these and other casino elements. Imagine a casino floor with a well-connected blend of gaming, entertainment, shopping, restaurants, bars and more. Patrons will have quick, simple access to the products and services they desire in a seamless environment.
Consideration 2: Technology
The pace of technology innovation and acceptance continues to quicken, and casino operators are well poised to benefit from the rapid integration and deployment of new technologies. This includes everything from back-end systems such as powerful customer-tracking databases and cloud computing platforms to consumer-facing measures including virtual, augmented and mixed realty, to a greater connection with patrons’ smartphones and social media. While previous adoption cycles for new gaming technologies such as TITO, video slots and electronic table games often took five to 10 years, today’s digital evolution is expected to take place more rapidly.
Consideration 3: Video Games
Video games have increasingly grown from a niche pastime to mainstream entertainment. Since 2007, first-week sales revenues of video games have exceeded those of blockbuster Hollywood movies. Consumers who grew up playing interactive, immersive video games are also looking for a greater degree of engagement, socializing and competition than what is offered by many current casino games. More recently, eSports have become a growing entertainment trend, further leading casinos to integrate video games in the form of skill-based games, video game gambling, eSports book betting, virtual reality experiences and other related products.
Consideration 4: Weight
Casino architecture has historically trended towards a rather “heavy” design and construction with dark colors, rich fabrics and masculine cues. Modern retail stores and restaurants have embraced a “lighter” palette of materials, colors and textures. Examples such as the Apple Store or contemporary quick-service restaurants come to mind. These same building styles will likely serve as reference points for the casinos of the future looking to attract and retain a younger, more diverse clientele.
Consideration 5: Experiences
The growth of non-gaming “experiences” at casinos will almost certainly continue. To date, this has often meant nightclubs, day clubs, pool and outdoor events, and celebrity chef-driven restaurants. This will allow casinos to host everything from ARGs (alternate reality games) to virtual-reality amusements to pop-up retail stores. Consumers are always on the hunt for the latest, unique experiences, and casinos are well-positioned to host, promote and deliver an ongoing evolution. The billions of dollars invested in casino operations provide the perfect destination for implementation of new experiences.
Consideration 6: Brands
Despite the challenges facing the American mall, brands continue to want to expand and grow their connection with consumers. Today’s consumers feel a connection with brands that provide products and services while still aligning with principles that are critical to each shopper or patron. Casinos have already embraced brands with themed slots, retail, entertainment and food-and-beverage offerings. The integration of brands will continue to expand into every area and aspect of the casino, including hotel rooms, new gaming products and public areas.
Consideration 7: Hospitality
Casinos are experts at offering the highest levels of hospitality. But the definition of what constitutes world-class service for today’s customers is changing and evolving, creating new opportunities. From the check-in process (concierges with tablets) to the guest rooms themselves (more sparsely designed with high-speed Wi-Fi over larger spaces with adorned fixtures), the casino of the future will need to incorporate a more streamlined look and feel with a greater focus on experience over facade. The casino patron of tomorrow is looking for the next generation of VIP hospitality defined by an era of ubiquitous technology and ease of use.
These seven considerations, each in isolation, all offer unique opportunities and appeal to the new audience of younger gamers, and when combined in some synergy, they produce a game-changing experience for the future of casinos.
But what does it really mean to deliver VIP hospitality to the next generation of casino patrons? Our next article will explore four potential “pillars” for understanding how to make a customer feel like a very important person—your brand, the environment, their experience, and how these elements combine to define a culture.