Life changes over time, but lessons learned along the way are forever. Everyone confronts personal and/or career challenges, but our response often makes the difference.
I grew up two hours from New York City in the 1960s. My first Broadway show, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,“ profiled J. Pierrepont Finch, a skyscraper window-washer who joins a corporation and advances from the mail room to Chairman of the Board within weeks. The opportunistic Finch easily weasels his way over company colleagues. He attracts enemies during his meteoric rise as he shamelessly panders to the original chairman. It’s good fun with perfect music for that era.
Instant triumph is the exception, not the rule. Few get there “overnight” and most successful people must adapt many times along the way. Sometimes the fix is slight, sometimes more major. Smart gaming people understand perseverance and that success on the casino floor often requires trial and error.
In my coin-op days, a “loser” video game or pinball machine could rebound by just moving it. All locations and customers were not created equal and
The same holds true for casino games. Last November, Harrah’s Atlantic City‘s gaming floor became the test site for GameCo’s new skill-based video gaming machines (VGMs). With much fanfare, Harrah’s debuted the games at two media events, with professional players demonstrating how to play. Bally’s Wild Wild West and Caesars followed, totaling 21 across their three Atlantic City properties.
GameCo co-founder/CEO Blaine Graboyes believed VGMs could resolve his generation’s (Gen X over 40) decreasing slot machine play. Millenials born between 1980-2000 play slot machines even less many variables impacted a game’s success or failure. We kept trying because giving up was unacceptable.
In fact, Millenials are converging on gambling venues nationwide in huge numbers, but not to gamble. After a lifetime of high-tech games and devices, slots don’t impress them. The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) claims a 2007 high of $355 billion dropped to $291 billion in 2014.
Graboyes envisioned a win-win scenario for both generations. VGMs would combine the arcade storylines and action of his youth with the advanced technology and rewards of modern slot machines. VGM payouts, with bonus rounds and other activity, differ from slots because skilled players can reduce the house edge.
VGMs also require regulatory approval since they must equalize all players’ winning chances. Nevada legalized them first in late 2015; New Jersey in early 2016. Graboyes chose New Jersey to launch since he lived in New York and could regularly monitor them on site.
The VGMs proved disappointing and Harrah’s removed all 21 games after six months. Their minimal traffic among 1,500 other slots meant revenues too low to even cover vendor fees. However, Caesars affirms its commitment to work towards increasing their appeal to Millenials in the future.
Ironically, while speaking at Atlantic City’s East Coast Gaming Congress (held at Harrah’s) in May, Graboyes remained firmly optimistic, despite probably knowing the machines were being
removed just downstairs from the conference itself. He views this as a setback that offers an opportunity to work harder. Graboyes wants GameCo to continue collaborating more strategically with Caesars and other operators in perfecting a successful formula.
Now looking towards Macau, Graboyes aspires to capture a second frontier in Asia. He hopes to earn regulatory approval by late 2017 and succeed in a vastly different marketplace.
I’m cheering for Graboyes, who will clearly persist until he makes it. I’m convinced Blaine will because he reflects the ever-changing gaming industry with its history of designers, operators and workers whose dreams never let them quit. Instead, they learned from their disappointments and reached higher for their next star. We have all needed a “Plan B.”
As 19th century English poet Robert Browning said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” He was right…we must aim high and not give up.