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Youth Be Served

Reel-spinning may not suit the millennials

By Frank Legato


Sooner or later, the slot manufacturers are going to cater to these players. Some have already begun, injecting competitive bonuses into community-style games. But those slot experiences are still solitary, except for the bonus rounds.


There are 7,249,919 slot machines operating in the world today, according to market research group TNS. If you were born after 1990, there’s a good chance you don’t like any of them.

The main moneyed class frequenting casinos these days is still comprised of the massive Baby Boomer generation, those folks born in the 1950s and 1960s who pretty much matured with the slot machine. As far as a slot, these players fall into one of two categories: They either are gamblers who like to find high payback percentage and watch reels spin as they wait out the house edge—hoping to win big—or they play for frequent, entertaining bonus rounds with catchy themes, getting an arcade-style experience for their dollars—and not minding if their small investment doesn’t yield a winning night, as long as they were entertained.

Either way, slot play for the Boomers is a solitary experience: man (or woman) vs. machine.

These players are currently paying all the bills for the casinos, so the casino operators love them. But they won’t be there forever, so casino operators are now beginning to court the youngest of their patrons, those in the 21-35-year-old age range.

Those in this so-called “millennial” generation—who grew up connected to the Internet, texting their friends and playing competitive video games in their living rooms—don’t want to watch reels spin. And they don’t want a solitary experience in a casino. They want to multi-task while interacting with others. Theirs is a social world.

So far, casinos have catered to younger patrons through nightclubs, DJs and pool parties. The millennials that do go into the casino stick mainly with live poker or table games—the social aspect is important to them—or to the race and sports book, where their recession-strapped budgets can be stretched farther than in the main room.

Sooner or later, the slot manufacturers are going to cater to these players. Some have already begun, injecting competitive bonuses into community-style games. But those slot experiences are still solitary, except for the bonus rounds.

Other games have injected skill into the mix—games from IGT, Aruze and others that employ joysticks for distinctly video game-style experiences. Probably the best of them is IGT’s “Reel Edge” series, which actually launches into a classic video game—a 3D, joystick-controlled course through obstacles, catching coins, aiming at objects to collect “points,” which in this case means actual money.

This is only the beginning, though. Those video-game experiences are still solitary, and they’re only in the bonus rounds. Some slot developers I’ve spoken with recently can envision the day when the reel-spinning portion of slots like these will be totally eliminated, or at least only optional. There was a game or two a couple of years ago that actually offered the option to go right to the bonus, but the bonus itself was a typical picking game—you know, the kind we in the older generation go for.

The next generation of video slots, or more likely two or three generations of slots down the road, is going to include more games that are primarily home-style or computer-style video games, with the traditional trappings of the slot machine—all those bars, cherries and 7s, presented on spinning reels—nowhere in sight. In their place will be something more akin to Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto or Angry Birds.

How about Dance Dance Revolution on Wii, only for money, in a special area of the casino? Bally has already basically reproduced Rock Band with its “All That Jazz” game; the only difference is that you have to go through reel-spinning to get to the Rock Band experience as a bonus event.

It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing games with features like these as the primary attraction.

Of course, none of this means the old spinning reels, 7s and bars are going away at any time soon. As I said before, we Boomers are still the moneymakers for casinos, and it’s going to be a long time before we’re gone. Bally, IGT, GTECH and others are still cranking out new versions of high-denomination classic reel-spinners to serve this massive market.

But video games are coming to the casino. They may be in a special area, or mixed in with the traditional games, but they will be here.

Youth will demand it. •


This Just In… The campaign for a second casino in Philadelphia is winding down. All the five candidates for the second casino to be licensed in the city have made final presentations to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which is expected to make a decision within the next month. There are three proposed casinos in South Philadelphia, and two in the Center City downtown section. Best bet? Local politicians favor Market8, which would be a “vertical” casino—basically, a skyscraper—at 8th and Market Streets, on a lot once occupied by the Philadelphia Gimbels department store. The locals want to revitalize what was once the central shopping district, so this project—Mohegan Sun would operate the casino—has the inside track. … Meanwhile, Maryland regulators have decided what will open, in 2016, as the state’s sixth casino. It will be an MGM mega-resort at National Harbor, a vibrant entertainment and dining district right on the Potomac River a mile south of Washington, D.C. You’ll be able to see the monuments of the nation’s capital from the hotel. More on this to come.


Quick Tip: Bankroll Your Game

Often, enjoying a session on the slots depends on having enough money to enjoy the game. Take enough to play the denomination you’d like to play, for a good long time. For pennies, that’s pretty easy—$50-$100 should last you all night. For quarters, take at least $200, and probably $300-$400 to assure you will outlast your stake. Don’t sit down at a dollar game without at least $500, and more realistically, a grand.

In any case, regardless of your denomination, you must always observe a simple rule: Gamble what you can afford to lose. Here’s hoping you don’t!


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