- The arrival of skills-based slot machines in Vegas is hoped to halt decline in slots revenues
- However, the machines don’t seem to be attracting their target audience – millennials
After several years of debate, discussion and considerable anticipation, the first skills-based slot machines finally made their inauspicious casino debut last month. Appearing in Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, the machines could quite possibly signal the start of a new era. Or so the casino industry around the world hopes.
New slots for a new generation
The issue that these innovative new machines are meant to address is the perceived slide into unpopularity of the more traditional style casino slot machines. The decline of such machines has been readily apparent, with some casinos reporting significant loss in revenues. At best it could be said that revenues and sales from slots have been stagnating over the past decade.
Nevada alone is down some 15% since 2007 on slot wins. Revenues from tables and other games have also shrunk in the same period of time, but this was only by six percent. The money that slot machines bring in is still substantial; last year the take was $7 billion. But if the current decline continues so will the decline in revenues.
Skills-based slots aimed at millennials
It is believed by many in the industry that the reason behind the decline is the changing demands of the millennial generation – those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Numbers from this age range have been steadily increasing in Las Vegas, representing around 34% of the 43 million who visited in 2016. That’s an increase of 24% on 2015. And, it’s been noted that as numbers from this age range go up, the revenues from slot machines have gone down.
The conventional wisdom has been that millennial’s just don’t find slot machines compelling. Rather, they prefer to play games that have more social interaction and involve elements of skill.
Hence the development of the skills-based slots. Gone are the vertical screens. Instead the screen is like a table, and the games require at least two players – it’s even possible to play with up to four players but, importantly, you cannot play on your own.
How the games work
Three different games are currently being trialled at Planet Hollywood. There are two games of Gambit Poker, and a third game based on Blackjack called Cannonbeard’s Treasure.
The games are inexpensive to play, with $2 and $5 playing options. They are also more competitive and of course, there is the added social aspect you get from a multiplayer skills-based game. Players are no longer just staring at a display continuously hitting a button, but playing with friends in group environment.
Critics of the games however are pointing at two crucial downsides. Anecdotally it would appear that the people playing the games, if they play at all (it will take a while for people to get used to them being games and not tables), are actually older. They are the people who normally play slots.
It would appear, certainly from these reports, that the jury is still out on skills-based casino games – certainly in the Vegas casinos in which they are being trialled anyway. But the industry shouldn’t be deterred. There’s little doubt, as is evidenced by the declining revenues of many casinos and their existing games that, if nothing else, a shake-up of the traditional model is most certainly overdue. And, in some respects it’s obvious that the skills-based games are the right approach. Not only is the popularity of online casinos and mobile play increasing (illustrating our ongoing love affair with hi-tech games), but there are other things like the growth of the mobile social casino sector, the popularity among the younger generation for crossover style video game betting and the propensity for bringing more immersive experiences into our casinos. It all points to these types of games being popular in the future.
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