It is no secret that traditional US land based casinos have been in decline for some time with fewer players at the tables or the slots. The Caesars Bankruptcy, blamed on high debt loads , and the exit of CEO Gary Loveman to greener pastures in the insurance industry point to a troubled land based casino business environment that cannot magically be rectified by a change in management.
The issues impacting land based casino participation and revenue in Atlantic City and Vegas are numerous; including the rise of regional native American casinos, other non native American regional casinos, online social casino, legal and illegal online gambling.
The existence of alternative gaming venues can be partially blamed for a percentage of the decline in visits and gambling revenue in Vegas and Atlantic City. However, the nature of "gaming" engagement itself has changed with less interest on the part of existing gamers to engage in "Vegas" style games and land based gaming in general. The online world, and to some extent, the console gaming world in the form of eSports and other popular connected console games have taken precedence over the physical gaming experience.
The passing of the baby boomers and the rise of the millennials has resulted in a change in gaming behavior, preference, and venues. Ironically, visits to Vegas are increasing. However, the visitors are not gambling when they arrive in Vegas. The problem with this trend is that gamblers spend more money then tourists and party goers. This trend has created a challenge for Vegas, and to a certain extent, Atlantic City when it comes to offering a casino style experience without the casino revenue.
The recent eSports competition held at a Vegas casino points to a ray of hope for casinos. This event was well covered by the media and strongly endorsed in the G2E gaming conference in Vegas. G2E is a conference that has a long history and is predominately sponsored by land based casinos and suppliers to the land based casino industry. The enthusiasm and curiosity of the attendees about the eSports phenomena was obvious.
The real question going forward, is what do the land based casinos do to further encourage gaming that involve millennials? eSports is just one flavor of "connected gaming that is popular amongst this demographic. What other connected games can the casinos leverage?
The Connected Casino Floor - When you watch a traditional slot player sitting at a slot playing for hours you wonder how that experience could be extended by having head to head play or at least some form of competition amongst other players on the floor. There is no reason why you can not connect theses players in tournament style gaming. Each of this players could create a made-up/fictional name and select an avatar. Play could start with all players participating and ending after an elimination of all players except two. This final showdown could and would attract spectators if the floor was properly configured to broadcast the players final competing. This could also lead to a "big money" final tournament which is televised. There would be time limits on each competition and a jackpot achievement that would complete the competition. The start of each competition would be announced, players could decide if they want to participate and add their names to the list of participants. The connected floor players could also play against online players that have access to the same game in a virtual context.
Console Games On The Casino Floor - The connected casino floor concept could be extended by adding console gaming in the casino itself. Instead of a slot machine a console with joy sticks, etc. would replace the slot. The console would give the player a number of game options to play individually or against other players. Play would require coin in by the player and perhaps additional wagers as the game progresses. Players ready to play against each other would be listed and a time for a game to commence would be displayed on the machine/device and on notifications screens through-out the casino. Big winners engaged in console game play would be given special attention throughout the casino and on social media to keep everyone updated and engaged in the competition.
Connecting Land Based Casino And Social Media - When a players engages in an activity on the casino floor there activity should be broadcast on social media. Player wins in particular or large payouts should be the focus of the communication. This will engage the social media audience within and outside casino in a games progression and how certain players are doing. The goal of social media communication is to increase "engagement" and "awareness" inside and outside of the casino.
Connected Blackjack And Poker In And Out Of The Casino - Blackjack and poker are traditional multi player gambling games that are popular gambling games that millennials play in and out of the casino. To extend the popularity of these games amongst millennials online poker and blackjack matches should be sponsored by land based casinos leading to finals in the casino. The qualifying games should also be played with a mix of players outside the casino and within the casino. Within the casino itself the "connected" casino could have computer terminals placed in sections of the casino where people could also play online. These terminals would allow players in the casino to join poker and blackjack games being played worldwide on the net. The results of their play and the play of the online players would be displayed in strategic places in the casino. The final tournaments would be played in the casino either at a traditional table or in the connected casino environment.
There are certainly many options that the land based casinos have to grow and attract the "connected" generation of players. Poker and Blackjack are popular gambling games that conveniently bridge the gap between offline and online game play.
Social media can also play a big role in creating an online audience for gambling game tournaments keeping the online audience aware of what is happening, when it is happening and where gaming events are occurring.
It is clear that the land based casino business must change and change quickly if they want to remain "relevant" in a connected world. The recent eSports event in Vegas demonstrates that Vegas can pull this off. The question is: Do the traditional gambling business owners have the energy, expertise, will and courage to reinvent the casino as we know it by combining the offline and online gaming audience?
Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane and FitCentrix, Inc. Kevin spent time at the Machine/Learning Lab at MIT as a technology transfer fellow engaged in model based reasoning, case based reasoning and rule based systems to enhance diagnostics systems. Kevin has worked for and with US land based casino operators helping them evaluate social casino and iGaming platforms for the purpose of joint ventures and acquisitions in addition to launching online gambling operations in Europe. Gameinlane is also startup "friendly" understanding the unique value new gaming companies bring to the marketplace. Kevin frequently speaks at gaming conferences around the world providing him with a unique perspective on this very interesting business sector. Kevin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and or twitter at @kflow1776.