Newspaper article International New York Times

Casinos Try to Attract Millennials' Attention ; Skill-Based Video Games Seen as Way to Lure a New Generation of Gamblers

Newspaper article International New York Times

Casinos Try to Attract Millennials' Attention ; Skill-Based Video Games Seen as Way to Lure a New Generation of Gamblers

Article excerpt

Resorts in Nevada, New Jersey and elsewhere are exploring video game gambling as a way to lure younger visitors to the casinos.

Forget slot machines and money wheels. American casinos may soon look more like video game arcades.

In February, Nevada and New Jersey passed legislation allowing for the introduction of skill-based games in casinos as a way to draw in younger players. Imagine Angry Birds and Candy Crush machines next to a high-stakes poker table at Bellagio.

The idea is that one day, different types of skill-based games will exist on casino floors, including games that look and feel more like console video games, from shooters to racing games.

They could be games where single players go against the house, cooperative games like blackjack, or player versus player games like poker. Eric Meyerhofer, the chief executive of Gamblit Gaming, a California company that makes skill-based games for casinos, said the biggest attractions could even be well-known franchises like Call of Duty.

"It won't be a sea of slot machines. You'll see smaller, more intimate areas with specialized themes," he said.

Dr. Tony Alamo, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, said the speed with which the legislation to introduce skill-based games in Nevada passed -- it was introduced in January 2015 and was signed in June the same year -- is a testament to how hungry the casino industry is for something new. "Everyone feels the urgency," he said. "I'm hoping that next year, the whole floor will be full of these games."

It seems not even the gambling industry was prepared for how quickly things moved. Dr. Alamo said that so far, he had seen products from only two slot machine manufacturers. "We are waiting, and we are here, our arms are open. We want to see product," he said.

Tom Mikulich, senior vice president of business development at MGM Resorts International, which owns a number of Las Vegas casinos and resorts, including Aria, Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and The Mirage, said the company was "excited" to attract a younger demographic of players and hoped to introduce various skill- based and arcade-style games inside its casinos by the end of this year.

As casino hotels and resorts have steadily upgraded their amenities in the last decade to appeal to a wider demographic, the unintended consequence is that fewer people are actually gambling.

Visitors to places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City now have nightclubs, restaurants, spas, entertainment and sporting events all vying for their attention. In 2014, gambling accounted for 37 percent of total revenue of Las Vegas casino resorts and hotels with more than $1 million in total revenue, down from 58 percent in 1990, according to a 2015 report on the Las Vegas casino and hotel market from the consulting company HVS. Survey data and visitor reports gathered by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority support this: The percentage of visitors who gambled while in Las Vegas in 2014 was 71 percent, down from 87 percent in 2006.

Young people are already flocking to Las Vegas. The problem for operators is how to get them to spend more time on the casino floor. In 2014, millennials made up 27 percent of all visitors to Las Vegas, but only 63 percent of them actually gambled, compared to 78 percent of baby boomers and 68 percent of Generation X visitors.

"The majority of visitors to Vegas are under the age of 50, while the majority of those who play slot machines are over 50," said Mr. …

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