Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Taking sin out of Sin City

February 20, 2015

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Photo by Ricardo630

Millennials are flocking to Las Vegas. But they’re taking some of the sin out of Sin City.

Even though more people are visiting the city, gambling, long Las Vegas’ reason for being, now represents just 37 percent of casino revenues. 

That compares with 58 percent in the 1990s, and there’s an obvious reason: younger people are visiting. The average age of visitors is dropping fast, from 50 in 2009 to 45 in 2013.

But old school games, like slot machines, aren’t enough to keep younger gamblers interested. With so much technology at their fingertips, millennials are carrying their habits with devices over to their gaming habits, according to The Washington Post.

From the article:

The typical casino “wants somebody to sit down in front of a slot machine and be at that slot machine for hours, interacting with that piece of entertainment for as long as possible. … Millennials don’t do that. They consume multiple streams of entertainment simultaneously,” Chang said.

“We don’t know when someone is going to want to engage, but we know there’s a very short window for their attention, and we want to maximize our chances of success on a bunch of different channels. … We know millennials have no moral issues with gambling. They just haven’t found products that are designed for them.”

This isn’t great news for the casinos, since slot machines have a 60 percent profit margin for the house. So what does the future casino look like?

Gaming companies are developing skill-based electric gambling, like touchscreen table tops that feature games similar to ones on smartphones. Some regulations need to change for this to sweep the Strip. But,  casino owners are hoping the future of electric gambling might look a lot like the video games millennials grew up playing.

And, according to the CBS report, Las Vegas is reinventing the Strip as well. Instead of gambling, developers are building large attractions and creating new experiences for younger visitors.

“They went from Las Vegas being about going to see Frank Sinatra and then playing craps and you’re watching the show, to going to a nightclub, taking a selfie, putting it up on Twitter or Instagram, and you being the show,” University of Nevada Las Vegas director of the Center for Gaming Research David Schwartz said.

In other words, millennials will spend thousands of dollars on booze, but not on bets.

With lower amounts of debt from things like mortgages and credit cars and their desire to travel while young, Vegas knows this generation is willing to spend money.

But like every kind of gambler, they’re looking for a sure thing.

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