Skill-Based Gaming Machines
This article on Skill-Based Gaming Machines is the third in my series on various topics of interest discussed at the East Coast Gaming Congress held at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, May 24-25, 2017. Casinos, like most other viable businesses, have to keep reinventing themselves to keep pace with both the continually improving technology and the changing tastes of their clientele. No one is going so far as to say that a decade from now, traditional slot games will no longer exist. But one thing is for certain: there will be many more skill-based gaming machines on the casino floor, and these games are expected to generate heavy play.
At one time, people went to casinos primarily or exclusively to gamble, but this is no longer the case. Non-gaming now constitutes 65% of casino revenue. As the average of casino visitors continues to skew downward, casino operators are looking for new ways to get their younger customers to do more gambling, and skill-based gaming machines could be the answer.
On the other hand, surveys that directly ask millennials about their gambling habits are unreliable, and may underestimate the amount of gambling they do. Many millennials say they don’t gamble when they actually do because they don’t want to admit it.
Even so, the consensus in the casino industry is that the best way to get more millennials to play more often is to put more skill-based gaming machines onto the casino floor.
It is no secret that the most popular casino games for players in this age group are not the traditional slots their parents and grandparents may have played, but electronic table games and branded games. Among those in their mid-thirties and younger, table games receive 3x as much play as slots. Millennials consider slots boring. That is why today’s casinos have fewer slot games and more electronic table games than they did a decade ago. However, large casino operators would also like to see a greater commitment on the part of more game manufacturers towards developing skill-based video games that people in the targeted age bracket would play frequently and that would be profitable for the casinos.
How Casinos and Skill-Based Gaming Machine Manufacturers Are Responding
Game manufacturers, in an effort to appeal more to the younger demographic, are focusing on tweaking popular skill-based video games and adding gambling features so they can be used in casinos. However, there is a lot of trial and error, as there is no real way of knowing if the game is working until it is on the casino floor.
The following are some of the new features that are being considered to encourage increased play on these machines.
- Radial Transparency
Players are given the odds associated with the maximum and minimum payouts. This information reassures them that the game is fair.
- Setting aside a designated casino floor space for skill-based gaming machines
The new games may generate more traffic if given their own special space on the casino floor.
- Food delivery to the gaming location
Video game players like to stay put for the entire duration of their play, so it makes sense to have food and beverages brought directly to the game console. By pressing a button on the machine, food can be ordered and delivered without the need to interrupt play.
While some casino operators are taking a wait and see attitude towards these games, the evidence so far indicates that with the right mix of games in the right setting, they should receive a lot of play. In fact, the Amazon subsidiary twitch.tv, the world’s leading live streaming online and mobile video platform and community for gamers, currently attracts more than 100 million visitors per month. .
Clearly, there is no shortage of potential customers who would jump at the opportunity to put their gaming skills to use in the casino. However, that statement does not mean that any skill-based video game will be an automatic success in any casino environment. It will take a certain amount of trial and error, and there will also be a learning curve among game developers to come up with the right products. Caesars Entertainment learned this lesson the hard way.
Caesars Atlantic City installed 21 skill-based slot machines, only to remove them six months later because they were not producing enough revenue to cover the vendors’ fees. However, Caesars Entertainment is not throwing in the towel with regard to skill-based video games by any means. On the contrary, management is eager to try again with a new set of skill-based gaming machines and is committed to bringing them in as soon as they become available.
By the way, within the broad category of skill-based video games are the increasingly popular eSports. Be sure to read my separate article entitled “ESports: The Newest Form of Casino Gamblingfor the latest developments in this rapidly growing industry.