Thoughts On The Young Gaming Customer
by Dennis Conrad

I’m not quite prepared to say that I have been WRONG. Let’s just say that I have REEVALUATED my position and REFINED my opinion based on new and compelling information.

It relates to the age 21 to 40 gaming crowd. I’m not even sure what you call them – Gen X, Gen Y, the Young Gamer, the Emerging Demographic. Heck, I don’t know.

You see, over the last 10 years or so, I have spoken or written about these “Junior Players” in a number of public forums. And my opinion has remained (until now) pretty consistent. I would characterize it as this:

“Yes, there may be some opportunity in the 21 to 40 year old age group (and you do need to think about your future generation of gamers), but your real focus and marketing thrust needs to remain on the 50+ age group (especially seniors). After all, they have the REAL discretionary time and income for gaming.”

Well, I’ve changed my mind. I now think the younger generation is coming at us like a freight train rather than a handcar, that they have more money for gaming than anyone imagined, that they are already pre-disposed to risk taking in general and gaming in particular, and that we all need to be thinking about how to intelligently seize this major opportunity.

As I look back on my “shift in thinking,” I believe it was affected by any and all of the following:

• Seeing the success of the casinos that target a younger audience. Palms, Hooters, Borgata, any Hard Rock Casino – these all appear to be doing VERY well, thank you very much, even if the profit model (F&B, tables and retail) is different.
• Observing the success of (some) casino entertainment events and facilities, which target the young crowd.
• Watching the comeback of some traditional table games and how many of the new players are young.
• Noticing the poker explosion (both in online and land-based casinos) and the torrent of young players driving it.

So OK, the casino world is changing, but my best casino players are still in the 50 to 80 age group. What should I be doing to take advantage of this new, younger player opportunity? Well, here are my thoughts.

First of all, if you have a casino that’s “been around” and has a long established marketing strategy which has generally targeted older folks (and that is most casino properties), you are not going to turn your “gaming ship” around overnight (nor should you). But it may mean that you experiment with a hip-hop group in your dark showroom on a weekday night. Or you try a late night DJ in your casino lounge which typically goes dead during the week at nine or 10 PM. Or that you try a “meet and greet” with some “young heartthrob” and see what happens (expect some old folks to show up for this too).

Secondly, since the initial thrust of this “younger casino generation” appears to be around table games, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to “prime the table game pump” for young gamblers. Do you have poker? Should you? Is your existing poker room attractive to young players or just to snarly old poker veterans? Do your table games play well with Gen X or do you need a party pit or younger, more attractive dealers? Do you have any of the new table games that appeal to young players or any mechanism by which they can learn to play the games? Much of this just involves putting yourself in the shoes of a novice, young player and figuring out what they would like in your table game experience and offerings.

Finally, I believe attracting a younger casino customer involves having your casino become “easier to do business with” for the twenty and thirty something set. This could mean having more internet capability at your property or communicating more often by Email or text message (or even leveraging blogs). It could be as simple as having an effective ID policy where young folks don’t get hassled or asked for their proof of age at every turn. It could even mean having some “sensitivity” training for your staff on the unique needs of young people. In any event, it means throwing out a wider welcome mat for Gens X and Y, so they know they are “not in their grandmother’s casino any more.”

While issues certainly remain for the generation of casino customers born after 1970 (for instance, they don’t appear to be avid slot players yet, and what the heck do we do about this whole “sex” thing?), nonetheless the pipeline of “future gamers” appears to be well stocked with folks interested in our gaming product. They seem to be inclined to risk taking and less philosophically opposed to gambling in general (as they have watched their parents and grandparents increasingly visit casinos).

Our task then remains the same – continue to evolve our gaming experience, mine the youthful segment for the nuggets of most long term value, and still keep our old folks happy. For although I may have changed my opinion on the opportunity with Gen X and Y, I know who still pays the bills today.

Date Posted: 01-Jan-2010

Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at 775-329-7864 or e-mail dennis@ravingconsulting.com. Visit Raving’s web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.

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