All forms of legal gambling are built around games that were invented in the 1800s, if not earlier. But millennials are not interested in sitting in front of a metal box with spinning reels or choosing numbers and waiting days to find out if they have won. Technology and society are changing the world of legal gambling. Just as the games are changing, so are the gamblers themselves.
Casinos, lotteries, racetracks and even bingo halls face growing troubles with Millennials. This segment of the population, aged 18-36 years old, is now the largest cohort in the population, surpassing the number of Baby Boomers in 2015 with about 80 million members. The problem for gaming operators: Millennials hate most traditional forms of gambling.
Obviously, not all Millennials think and act the same. But there are attributes and attitudes that are widespread throughout this cohort that do make most of them different from prior generations. The easiest way to think of the youngest gaming patrons is to view them as having a different culture.
This is not the first time that Western casino companies have faced the problem of adapting to different cultures.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, it was common to see Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos as adult playgrounds. Then large hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip tried being family friendly for a few years, even building amusement parks. The experiment did not work. Parents had to worry about what to do with their young children late at night. And the whole point of going to Sin City was to get away from the routines of home life. So, in 2003, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” became the town’s motto.
But that party town atmosphere could not be exported to Macau. The shouts and applause from gamblers at a hot craps table, fueled by free-flowing booze, could be heard across a Strip casino. But Macau casinos, and, more importantly, Mainland Chinese gamblers, were different. Gambling is seen as a serious business; it is still rare to see alcoholic drinks at the many baccarat tables. A Macau casino had to replace its large buffet with a noodle bar; Mainland Chinese gamblers did not want to spend their valuable gambling time eating.
Patrons of Macau casinos may not have the patience for buffets. American Millennials do not even have the patience for slot machines.
It is not just reduced attention spans. Millennials really are different.