How Casinos Plan to Get You to Spend More Money

neon gambling sign

Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel on Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Millennials are already changing the worlds of work and travel. Now, this up-and-coming generation is set to reshape the gambling industry. Younger people aren’t adverse to betting a few bucks, but they want something different from the slot machines that attracted their parents and grandparents to Vegas and Atlantic City. Casinos are planning to give it to them.

Right now, casinos aren’t having trouble getting young people in the door. Those under the age of 35 are more likely to visit casinos than any other age group, according to data from the American Gaming Association (AGA). But once they get there, they’re slightly less likely to gamble than other visitors. Instead, millennials gravitate towards casinos’ other amenities, preferring to take in a show, visit a club or restaurant, or relax in the spa than to take a chance with the roulette wheel. When they do gamble, 57% of young adults set a budget of $100 or less. And those slot machines grandma loves? Well, young people are passing them by.

“Slot machines are still one of the world’s best cash-cows, but are not so popular with millennials. As a result, casinos are looking at different approaches to attract these younger demographics back into gaming halls,” Sophie Bearns, a casino industry specialist with OnlineCasino.ca, a guide for Canadian gamblers, told The Cheat Sheet.

Millennials are famously risk averse with their money, so you might assume they’re passing on gambling because they see it as financially irresponsible. Yet it’s not quite so simple. OnlineCasino conducted a sentiment analysis of hashtags on Instagram and found most users had positive things to say about gambling. Because 60% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 34, the results provide a pretty good snapshot of how younger people feel about gambling.

Millennials may not have a problem with gambling per se, but they aren’t particularly interested in games of pure chance, like slots. Instead, they prefer table games like poker and blackjack (which are less lucrative for casinos) because they’re more social and involve more skill, according to a report by the Marketing Research Association.

woman playing slot machines in Atlantic City

Slot machines are a big money-maker for casinos, but they aren’t very popular with millennials. | Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Younger gamblers “want more direction, more choice at decision points, and they are more comfortable with different technology, Internet gaming and social gaming,” Alex Bumazhny, a financial analyst at Fitch Ratings who studies gambling, told the Pew Charitable Trusts Stateline blog.

To get millennials to open their wallets, casinos are looking to introduce games with more social interaction and where the payout is based on the player’s performance, not just luck. In the casino of tomorrow, you might be able to win money playing games similar to Candy Crush and Guitar Hero. Both Nevada and New Jersey have recently changed their regulations allowing casinos to roll out such games, and other states may soon follow.

These new skill-based games “offer players a chance to pit their wits against each other, providing millennials with a different motivation to spinning slot reels,” Bearns said. “Millennials are attracted by the feeling that they can influence their win rate, that they can use their knowledge of the game to win, and this is bringing younger players back into casinos.”

The popularity of fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and DraftKings may also help draw younger people to casinos. The amount wagered on sports in Nevada (one of the few places in the United States where sports betting is legal) has jumped almost 15% since 2014, concurrent with the rise of daily fantasy sports, according the AGA.

“Fantasy sports may be serving as a catalyst for sports betting growth and helping the casino industry to attract new customers,” Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the AGA, said.

Whether skill-based slots and sports betting will be enough to make millennials fall in love with casino gambling remains to be seen. But don’t count the gaming industry out just yet. If there’s one thing you can count on when it comes to gambling, it’s that the house will always win.

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