Two recent news items worry me. First, a record 33 per cent of America’s estimated 84 million Millennials (born 1980-2000) live with their parents. Also, 66 per cent of all adults do not have $1000 for an emergency. The remaining U.S. population, often more financially fixed, includes 78-80 million Baby Boomers (1946-1964) like me and 50 million Gen-Xers (1965-1980).
Unlike prior generations, today’s parents often have different perspectives on maturity and independence. While millions of Millennials have college debt and low-paying jobs, being 22 and 32 at home seems worlds apart emotionally.
Statistically, millions of older Millennials have delayed marriage, home ownership and children during these years. However, millions still spend hundreds a month on casino nightlife, drinks and dining.
That became an issue at the 20th East Coast Gaming Congress (ECGC) in Atlantic City last month. Multiple seminars discussed ways to attract Millennials and technology on gaming floors over five years. Most Millennials expect smoke-free environments, ever-advancing technology, skill-based gaming, designated group social areas and entertainment zones, but age is not always the main factor.
GAN Vice-President of Sales Dana Takrudtong, herself a Millennial, claimed younger customers view themselves as ageless and slot players as old. She explained that successful operators will understand “psychographic mapping” pursues multiple age groups with similar player traits/interests instead of targeting age-related demographics.
What about traditional players? Should operators now substitute mobile or online gaming on gaming floors for conventional games? Remember, under-21 Millennials cannot legally gamble and drink, which eliminates a huge group.
Gamblit Vice-President, Regulated Market Business Development Marcus Yoder suggested offering segmenting casino areas with new technology for younger customers and older, hesitant players wishing to learn. Onsite personnel can assist them. Hard Rock International Senior Vice-President Design and Construction Joe Emanuele agreed and urged integrating gaming with non-gaming amenities.
Brad Friedmutter, Las Vegas architect and ECGC sponsor, says his clients already do. “Our group‘s integrative resorts are ahead of the curve by reinforcing changing generations’ normal evolution. I recommend properties transform amenities for diverse groups at different times.”
One example is conference host Harrah’s Atlantic City daytime dome-enclosed swimming pool. At night, it becomes The Pool After Dark nightclub, earning $15-$25 million annually from a different customer base.
However, some respected executives like Boyd Gaming President/CEO Keith Smith say not so fast with all the changes. Boyd will soon sell its 50 percent Borgata ownership stake to co-owner MGM for $900 million. Smith said Borgata has consistently surpassed all Atlantic City competitors since its 2003 opening by wisely offering something for everyone. He labeled it misguided to emphasize the future at the expense of existing business.
Attitudes about automation are also generational. Younger guests may prefer using only technology, from reservations to check-in/check-out, but that could turn off older visitors. Las Vegas Sands (LVS) Bethlehem President Mark Juliano described his former employer’s belief that “casinos are country clubs our guests can’t get into,” so developing personal relationships in business is critical.
I support that premise, convinced the $2 billion Revel’s dominant focus on high-tech, under-45 customers doomed the property. When they stopped coming, it closed within two years. Without warmth and accessibility, Revel ignored older consumers with money. After initially discounting this group, Revel never recovered.
It’s not only gaming that frequently doesn’t get it. I love great shoes, but if I enter a casino shoe store with inventory geared to a Millennial customer, I leave with my credit card. That shop lost me because my needs didn’t matter.
My advice to aspiring Millennial designers, game developers and operators? Pay attention…you are not the center of the world. Millions of older customers with money have different interests. If you overlook them, you will lose them.
Sustaining business is tough enough. What will happen when these “basement dwellers” age and settle down? They’ll have additional financial obligations that limit their visits. If you’ve forgotten those other demographics, expect a challenge to win them back.