Each generation is distinct from the last, but none as drastically as the Millennials. As American psychiatrist, Dale Richards, said, “Millennials can be a big frustration if you’re trying to put them into the Baby Boomer or Generation X mold.”
The Millennials think differently from all previous generations because of their exposure to digital technology since their toddler days. Ever since they were old enough to understand, they have had the convenience of the Internet and smartphones to get information they needed instantly, at the push of a button. As recent studies show, the average Millennial spends 18 hours a day on their smartphones, most often on multiple platforms at the same time, seeking, discovering and exchanging information. Millennials are unique in their relationships, handling them mostly online. As studies indicate, on average, they spend 5.4 hours on social media every day.
This behavioral trend has upset the way many industries handle their customer interactions, and the way in which the young customers engage with the product. Veterans in the field are dismayed as they realize they are unable to appeal to millennial taste, and that what they offer leaves them cold.
It is no different with gambling. A recent survey conducted in the US at the request of several casino operators, found that only 21% of millennials considered gambling as “important in their list of activities. There were twice as many respondents from other age groups who considered gambling important.
Another recent study by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University in New Jersey, found that Millennials enjoy spending their money on dinner and drinks or dancing and nightclubs, but not on gambling. What was discovered is that if slot machines included an element of skill, and if it allowed playing with family or friends, rather than alone, Millennials would enjoy playing slot machines.
The reality is that the casino floor and facilities have remained unchanged for decades. And with a generation like the Millennials who appear revolutionary in comparison to earlier generations, the “same old” does not work. They may visit casinos but do not spend their money on the casino floor. As financial analyst at Fitch Ratings Inc., Alex Bumazhny, observed, millennials who visit casinos, spend more time and money on food, drink and entertainment than they do on gambling.
Design experts and architects suggest that casinos need to be completely re-designed to attract millennials. They believe that casinos needs to be more “immersive and inclusive,” with open spaces and communal areas, easy to navigate, vibrant and alive, and tell a story that Millennials can relate to. Chief Marketing Officer at Gamblit Gaming LLC, Darion Lowenstein, understands that Millennials “grew up in entirely different technological surroundings and thus have entirely different gaming interests.” He says, “Walking through any casino today shows that there’s a huge age divide. Younger audiences want games that are similar to what they grew up with – Xbox, PlayStation, mobile and PC games are the bar, but the offerings on floors haven’t really changed to keep up with the new generation.”
And so, finally realizing that millennials are not going to gamble the same way their parents did, the casino business appears to be changing course, and adding various non-gambling facilities to their casino set-up, like e-sports arenas and various Instagram-worthy attractions. They are also providing different gaming options like mobile tournaments that can be played on smartphones without having to leave the bar or the pool. Executive Director of Interactive Gaming Development at MGM Resorts, Lovell Walker, said, “We think that mobile is going to be a major part of gaming.”
The gaming industry stumbled onto the truth that though Millennials may not be attracted to the conventional casino slot machines, they enjoy a different type of gambling experience. And the medium to approach them was the Internet. Luring them on home ground led to little resistance.
The first online casino, InterCasino, based in Antigua and comprising 18 games, was launched in August 1996. In the intervening years, thousands of internet gambling websites have joined in to entice Millennials.
A kind of gambling that Millennials particularly like, is fantasy sports gambling. The Apps created by well- funded gaming startups, which can be downloaded onto smartphones, allow people to bet on their favorite players or teams through the App, when they turn on their TVs. There were 57.4 million people engaged in fantasy sports gambling in the U.S. and Canada in 2016. Furthermore, since the World Series of Poker became a popular TV program in 2003, the number of online poker websites multiplied significantly, although it was some years earlier, in 1998, that PlanetPoker, the first online poker site was launched. As American politician and mental health advocate, Patrick J. Kennedy, said, “No one is immune from addiction; it afflicts people of all ages, races, classes, and professions.” And so, Millennials are not immune to gambling addiction, either.
The problem with online gambling is that it is a constant temptation, with 24/7 availability. Anyone can gamble at any time for however long they want. Even though the U.S Congress limited online gambling through the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act and the Federal Wire Act, individual states are able to choose if online gambling will be legal or not in their states.
Once gambling habits reach the stage of addiction, medical treatment may be necessary. An ideal treatment blend would deal with gambling addiction as well as Internet addiction. And as with all habits, giving up is hardly easy. Like Mark Twain once said, “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”