Despite setback, skill-based gaming still seen as way to attract younger crowd

ATLANTIC CITY — Earlier this year, skill-based gaming was hailed as a way to attract a young audience to the casino floor.

But in May, after only six months, Caesars’s Entertainment properties in the resort removed skill-based games from their floors after they failed to generate enough money to cover the rights fees. Despite the setback, many still believe skill-based gaming will be key to attracting millennials.

“Casinos thrive on new gaming content, and the skill-based products will definitely be increasing their footprint long-term as more of the customer base is exposed to the products,” said Robert Ambrose, a gaming consultant. “I think with the skill-based product, the industry needs to take a long-term view.”

Skill-based gaming was billed as a way to attract the millennial market to slot machines, but since its introduction, it has struggled to gain traction with gamblers and its youthful target audience.

“Right now it is something new to the casino floor,” Ambrose said. “Some players I have talked to have met it with both skepticism as well as an opportunity to challenge a game.”

From skill-based gaming to e-sports, the city’s casino industry has looked for ways to entice millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, over the past couple of years.

“This game product will draw the skilled video player — and yes, they will be younger,” Ambrose said. “If the game only provides an illusion of skill, the knowledge player will not be playing it for long.”

Blaine Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo, a skill-based gaming developer, said skill-based gaming has a bright future.

“The momentum for it is already there,” Graboyes said.

GameCo had more than 21 games removed at the Caesars properties earlier this year after they failed to generate enough revenue. Graboyes described the decision to remove the games as a “mutual decision.”

“The big thing that we took away was how to market the machines,” Graboyes said. “How do you get the non-slot player to the machine?”

Ambrose said the marketing of skill-based gaming will be a key to its future.

“This is where marketing comes in. The players of these games are part of the social network generation,” Ambrose said. “So some clever strategies via the various social platforms should be part of the plan of introduction. Just dropping the product on the casino floor and seeing what happens will doom it before it starts.”

Steve Callender, Tropicana Atlantic City general manager, said skill-based gaming machines are gaining popularity.

“Tropicana Atlantic City continues to offer guests skill-based games on the casino floor. Although they don’t perform to the level of our traditional slot machines,” Callender said, “we’re generating incremental revenue from this new demographic.”

Graboyes predicts skill-based games could make up nearly 5 percent of the machines on casino floors in the next five years.

“If we make up 5 percent of the machines on gaming floors, that is 50,000 machines,” Graboyes said.

Press Of Atlantic City