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Have Casinos Unlocked The Millennial Secret?

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(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

People try out a Grab Poker game machine at the Gamblit booth during the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas in 2015. It is one of the new skill-based games designed to attract Millennials.

A video game arena could be coming to the Strip.

And the regional finals for World of Tanks – yes, another video game – is coming to the Downtown Grand.

And then there’s the drone racing at Zappos.

You see, Millennials aren’t your X-gens or your Baby Boomers. They can get bored with two-hour movies. And if you ever see one sitting at a casino slot machine, take a picture: you’re not likely to see another for a long time.

But is the gaming arena an example of how Las Vegas is finally catching on and figuring out what Millennials want?

Casey Morell is the coordinating producer for KNPR's State of Nevada and a millennial.

He wrote an article for Nevada Public Radio's Desert Companion magazine outlining his efforts to find a game on the Las Vegas Strip that he wanted to play. 

“There wasn’t too much that really screamed, ‘Hello, young person come spend your money here!’" he said,  "It was a lot of things like a ‘Friends’ slot machine from the 90s. I was a kid when ‘Friends’ was on. That doesn’t appeal to me.”

Morell said he's really only gambled twice in the year since he moved to Las Vegas, and he pointed out he has better things to spend his money and time on. 

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It is that mentality that has some people in the gaming industry worried. The Millennials are the customers of the future and if casinos can't find a way to lure them into gambling, it could hurt the industry.

J.D. Morris is a gaming reporter for the Las Vegas Sun and a millennial himself. He wrote an article about the proposed gaming stadium

He said there are many gaming technology companies working on slot machines and other games to draw in the twentysomethings.

He said at the Global Gaming Expo, a company was featuring a Guitar Hero game, which played like the video game but also allowed wagering. There were also racing games similar to Mario Kart that was set up for gambling.

“I’ve seen these gamblified versions of video games that people are already playing,” Morris said. “I think I would be very interested to see what would happen when those hit the casino floors”

However, Morell explained that a video game that has been modified to becoming a wagering game “at the end of the day [is] still a slot machine.” 

Scott Roeben watches all things Las Vegas on his website VitalVegas.com. He said the lack of skill-based game is really only part of the problem.

“They’re not seriously looking at the next wave of potential customers," he said. "They’re saying, ‘We’ll let the technology folks figure it out’ rather than you really have to start understanding your customers and your younger customers and your future customers.”

He believes that everything from the way casinos try to market to younger customers to the entertainment they have for them is often missing the mark. 

“They’ve got a product problem and they’ve got a marketing problem and I don’t think anybody really knows what to do about it at this point,” he said.

He said rules like not allowing players to use cell phones at table games point to how casinos don't understand how millennials want to connect and be connected. 

Some in the gaming industry have said the problem isn't that there is nothing in casinos to lure in millennials but that the group as a whole doesn't have the disposable income to spend money gambling.

"I don't think the answer is clear on whether or not that is a true," Morris said, "It very well maybe to some extent."

But Roeben believes it will take a major shift in how casinos work. 

"I think it's going to be a real understanding of a different mentality," he said, "The slot machine are all about disconnecting. You're disconnecting from everything. It's you and this machine. It's almost hypnotic but a millennial wants to connect."

He said that is the opposite of what casinos are really good at, "get you in your little shell, give a comp to get you back into your little cone of gambling."

Guests

Casey Morell, KNPR coordinating producer; J.D. Morris, Las Vegas Sun reporter; Scott Roeben, VitalVegas.com

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