As South Jersey tries to diversify its economy to escape the painful lessons of over-reliance on the dwindling casino industry, the surviving casinos need to adopt a similar mindset.
Attracting younger gamblers has long been a goal. With varying degrees of success, casinos have tried booking younger entertainers, providing a wider range of nightlife and offering “social gaming lounges” where you can play blackjack while relaxing on a couch.
The latest promising move is Caesars Entertainment installing the country’s first skill-based video gambling machines at its three Atlantic City properties. It shows a welcome willingness by the industry to adapt by offering an avenue to tap the lucrative millennial market.
Getting those potential customers born after 1980 into casinos has not been an easy sell. Relying on the old table games and traditional slots is not enough. So installing games such as Danger Arena, in which payouts are determined by a player’s skill in shooting robots, is a small step in the right direction.
Tournaments involving the world’s best video gamers have attracted huge audiences in South Korea, New York City and elsewhere. The video games at Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s could help Atlantic City become a player in those types of events as it tries to gain an advantage in a saturated casino market. The city already has hosted the Gameacon convention for independent video game developers, as well as a tournament of players competing in popular Nintendo titles earlier this year at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.
Atlantic City’s monopoly on East Coast casinos has evaporated as neighboring states entered the gaming business. Skill-based games are an area where Atlantic City could gain back some momentum.
When The Press offered 10 ideas in November 2014 on how the city could help the local economy, skill-based gambling was among the suggestions. Success was envisioned as including video gaming rooms with machines based on popular games. Some would be for solo play, while others would have players competing against one another for money, with the casino taking its cut. Weekendlong tournaments for cash prizes could attract large crowds.
The Danger Arena games are a move in that direction.
Commenting at the introduction of the video games last month at Harrah’s Resort, professional gamer and millennial Vanessa Arteaga, who is not a card player, said, “This is something that would draw me to a casino.”
That should be encouraging to casinos who can no longer counnt on their traditional clientele pumping profits into rows and rows of traditional slot machines.