How Casinos Should Market to Millennial and Gen X Players
During the recent Western Indian Gaming Conference at Harrah’s Resort Southern California, a panel discussion was held on how to convince more millennial and Gen X gamblers to play slot machines. The panel members discussed five different strategies for spiking interest from the latest generations of gamblers.
The panel discussed tactics like changing the gaming floor in order to appeal to younger gamblers, create new and creative games that appeal to the right demographics, market specifically to millennials, and not simply chase the youngest potential customers.
That last point was important. It is probably no surprise to the readers, but the Gen X demographic is no longer youthful. The discussion focused on the 21 to 49 demographic, meaning all millennials and most of Gen X.
It is a huge part of the gaming public. People in their late-40s are the parents of people in their early-20s — and the two group often have little in common. What the panel was recognizing is casinos no longer should market exclusively (or mainly) to the Baby Boomer generation, because it is a shrinking demographic.
Redesign the Gaming Space
Marcus Yoder, the VP of Gaming Development for Gamblit Gaming, made that point to the rest of the panel. Yoder said customers age 21 to 49 are increasingly ignoring slots row. Part of the reason they are is the presentation of gaming machines by casinos.
The Gamblit executive, whose Glendale-based company manufactures skill-based gaming machine, said slots row has to be redesigned: “I think the best approach is create a gaming space with a bar; don’t put a gaming space in a bar. Our operation tried that four different times and they failed — they completely failed.”
Mr. Yoder said casino operators need to design a new type of gaming experience for these players, adding, “And it’s going back to that idea of, ‘Hey, if I’m in a casino, I’m doing my flirting time, my walking time, my shopping time, my gambling time and my drinking time’ and a lot of times you want to be in a different space for all that.”
Millennial Gaming Studios
Roberto Coppola, the VP of Advanced Gaming at Aristocrat Leisure, reinforced Marcus Yoder’s points. Coppola said casinos must design a gaming space which appeals directly to millennials, who are not apt to like the same slots row their grandparents enjoy. He said, “We need to carve out these spaces on a gaming floor that cater to a certain demographic, themed a certain way, rather than just throwing something in the middle of a slot floor hoping that the person will stumble across it.”
Part of a new marketing strategy must understand millennial needs. Those who entered the workforce during or after the Global Recession face economic realities that their immediate predecessors did not face. Millennials are more frugal about their discretionary income because they don’t have as much as 20-somethings and 30-somethings in the past two generations.
If they did, they might be as freewheeling with their casino cash as previous generations. Since they don’t, Roberto Coppola says casino owners must consider that reality: “The industry has evolved with this current slot player and people over time tend to become interested in higher volatility games. The problem is, what about the wave coming in behind them that might not want to get wiped out right away with their 20 bucks?”
Focus More on Gen X Players
Coppola added that Gen X should not be ignored. At a time when fewer Baby Boomers exist and millennials might not have the cash to spend huge amounts in the casino, it is Gen X that might have to fill the breach. The Aristocrat exec mentioned the Baby Boomers’ parents — the so-called Silent Generation — and said Gen X in many ways falls into the same category.
Advertisers and businesses often focus on the Baby Boom or the millennials, because those generations are larger. That makes Gen X a new kind of silent generation, but they are an untapped potential source of revenues. Coppola said of Gen X, “These people kind of have one foot in both worlds; they grew up with technology and video games and mobile phones, yet they’re older and they have more discretionary income.”
“They’ve evolved in terms of their life stage [so] that they don’t want the super social experience. They’re not going to night clubs. They still want to do things and go out…Rather than trying to figure out what a 25-year-old wants, what does a 40-year-old want? I think that’s a better way to frame the issue.”
Segregating the Gaming Experiences
Gamblit Gaming already learned that lesson to a certain extent. Millennials complain that some of the skill-based gambling machines they find are games they never played and might not even know about, but those games are designed for the so-called slacker generation.
In conjunction with Bandai Namco, Gamblit developed “Pac-Man: Battle Royale” and “Pac-Man: Cash Chase“. Most members of Gen X remember playing Pac-Man in arcades, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants as a kid, so the game is designed for 40-something players. Their childhood spent in front of a video game console might be put to good use in a casino nowadays.
Of course, Gamblit designs games for millennials: Smoothie Blast, Into The Dead and Breakneck (both from PikPok), and Lima Sky’s Doodle Jump. Like the game designers, casino operators might have to design separate gaming experiences (sections of the casino) for millennials and Gen X customers. Ultimately, they have to understand that these are two generations who probably won’t mix tastes or gaming experiences that much.
New Ways to Market Old Casinos
Mike Trask of Ainsworth Technologies hammered home that point. Trask, who oversees marketing and product management for Ainsworth, said he sees hundreds of casinos a year and the vast bulk of them have similar gaming spaces.
The Ainsworth executive said, “We are talking to people in the same way again and again and again.”
Instead of presenting players with the same experience over and over, casino management should play around with their gaming space and find a combination that works better. To attract a different demographic, the people who market to a new set of gamblers must “be engaged, be authentic, and be themselves.”