ATLANTIC CITY — Vanessa Arteaga sat at the “Danger Arena” game at Harrah’s Atlantic City with a controller in hand, shooting at robots as they jumped from behind walls.
With each successful shot, the robot burst into an orange plume of flames.
But Arteaga wasn’t just playing a video game. She was gambling.
Harrah’s debuted the country’s first skill-based gambling machine, developed by GameCo Inc., on Wednesday, the latest attempt by an industry to attract younger gamblers by offering them something outside the scope of traditional slot machines.
“Because I’m not a card player, this is something that would draw me to a casino,” said Arteaga, a professional gamer who was demonstrating the game. “It’s similar to a lot of the video games out.”
Danger Arena, a first-person action video game gambling machine, was debuted during the event. Payouts will be determined by a player’s skill. Caesars will feature 21 units in high-traffic, prominent locations in all three of its Atlantic City properties. The company owns Bally’s Atlantic City, Harrah’s and Caesar’s Atlantic City.
“I spent my summers growing up playing video games at the arcade on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. It’s a unique honor to be bringing the first-ever skill-based video game gambling products to launch in Atlantic City with Caesars Entertainment.” said Blaine Graboyes, GameCo co-founder and CEO. “Our goal is to create a VIP experience for gamers, and the casino is the perfect destination. We envision a bright, revitalized future in Atlantic City as a new generation of gamers find their way here.”
Over the last few years, the city’s casino industry has looked for ways to entice millennials, born between 1980 and 2000.
The demographic numbers 75.4 million and last year overtook baby boomers as America’s largest generation, according to U.S. Census data. Their buying power, which ranges as high as $2.5 trillion, is expected to overtake the boomers’ by 2020, making it a popular target for businesses.
“We think this is critical,” said Kevin Ortzman, president of Caesars and Bally’s. “Internationally, when you look at slots gaming, those numbers are starting to decline. So how do you revamp and re-energize the slot product? ... We believe this is the avenue to do that.”
Through September, slot machine revenue in the city was down by more than $8.5 million compared to a year ago, according to state gaming records.
“We have to evolve,” Ortzman said. “It’s a product that is packed with adventure, excitement, action that will grab the attention of the millennials.”
GameCo’s video game machine is an arcade-style cabinet and controller. Each unit features a single-player game and generally takes between 60 and 90 seconds to play. The object of the game is to destroy as many robots as you can.