Facts, False Assumptions & Reality
This blog first appeared in October 2018. I am revisiting this content as TerraProForma is in the process of writing a white paper aggregating the insights we have gathered through our work in destination gamification.
Fake news and fact versus fiction dominate our modern dialogue. A positive outcome of this sometimes tiresome discourse is that we’re becoming more critical of information sources. We’re also increasingly aware of “news bubbles” or “feedback loops”, where we only hear and read information that reinforces our world-view. This is something we should be mindful of in our professional lives, as well as in our personal lives.
Earlier this week I saw a post on LinkedIn about the demographic breakdown of people who had visited casinos in the last year as a subset of the general population.
The chart, see note 1 below, which was shared with “hmmm….” as the only context, suggested that a higher percentage of Millennials were visiting casinos than from other demographic cohorts.
The discussion that followed was dominated by expressions of disbelief that Millennials were actually attending casinos, and comments about the types of gaming product and non-gaming experiences that would be required to engage the “elusive” Millennials.
This past summer TerraProForma hired Ipsos Marketing to complete a study exploring the relationship between casino visitation, mobile gaming and loyalty, as part of our work to develop Play the Field™. The discussion on LinkedIn inspired me to return to the data tables [see note 2] to review the age distribution of people who had visited casinos in the last 12 months.
Our findings confirm that individuals between 18 and 34 and those between 35 and 49 are visiting casinos far more frequently than individuals 50 and over.
One commenter on the thread (a renegade thinker!) noted that many “Millennials” are now in their 30s: an excellent and relevant point. The casino industry has attached itself to the challenge of engaging Millennials. Apparently, we have been trying to solve this “problem” while forgetting that this generation has been aging as we go about our business. In effect, the industry has persuaded itself that Millennials have been standing still, when in fact, their behaviour has not conformed with our expectations. In this case, the distinction between expectations and reality works in favour of casino operators, based on the data we are reviewing. So, when operators are looking around their properties and thinking of “Millennials”, their vision of how this group appears, we now know, is far different from the reality.
Beware casino operators: Millennials are among us and passing unobserved!
Another brave LinkedIn commenter shared his long-held perspective: that it was only a matter of time before Millennials started to attend casinos and play slots. The "inevitability" argument has support in our data, corroborated now by other sources.
Our survey asked respondents about how much money they are spending on various casino activities. While younger people are visiting as often as people between 35 and 50, this latter group is spending far more than those older and younger on both casino gambling (slots, tables, electronic tables) and non-gaming activities (food, drinks, shows). This finding supports long-standing wisdom about the consumer lifecycle that has been largely ignored by the industry.
If, as the LinkedIn data suggests, nearly 50% of Millennials and just over 40% of GenXers are visiting local casinos, this is really good news. Our study shows that members on the upper and lower ends of these two demographic cohorts are valuable casino patrons:
In terms of frequency and engagement;
Based on the gaming and non-gaming spend of people between 35 and 49.
According to US census data, there are 75 million Millennials and 66 million GenXers. This means that between these two groups, the casino industry has approximately 66 million prospects and customers to work with. Jackpot, as we say!
It is encouraging to see the industry questioning information. What was the motivation of the company that posted the original data? What methodology was employed? Leaving all that aside, it appears that the industry is holding onto “orthodox” views about Millennials: stories we’ve been telling ourselves, despite evidence to the contrary.
We should all think critically. In this spirit, we also have to ask ourselves if we have recently taken the trouble to question our own assumptions. Are we missing realities that our day to day concerns are hiding?
Stating the obvious: change happens gradually. Has your customer base been changing, but escaping your notice?
As an industry we have a lot invested in solving the “Millennial” problem: that it may be resolving itself as people move through the lifecycle is not something that most casino professionals are talking about.
Just because some Millennials are coming to casinos as they move through their lifecycle, thus conforming to the behaviours of past generations, doesn’t mean that time, effort and financial investments made in products and experiences have not been worthwhile.
In fact, this commitment to modernization has been absolutely necessary to generate the results we’re discussing today.
More than previous generations, Millennial entertainment-seekers have endless options. By showing an awareness of their preferences and making an effort to engage with them on their level, the casino industry is ensuring its ability to connect with the segment of Millennials that are experience seeking, and spending money on entertainment. Whether it is new kinds of non-gaming amenities (theatres, restaurants, night clubs, or spas), or new gambling products (electronic table games, skill-based games like those pioneered by GameCo, interactive slot experiences, sports betting expansion), or new ways of connecting to customers through their mobile devices (social casinos, fantasy sports, mobile-on-premises, property apps), innovations continue to have a role to play in the sustainability of the industry.
To be transparent about my own motives for presenting this research, I have to say that this data came as a surprise to me. Like many I assumed that engagement from younger generations was low. Our product, Play the Field™, is an innovation that connects mobile behaviour with activity at a destination. We built it as a funnel to help identify prospects we thought weren’t coming to the casinos, including Millennials, and then engage them with gaming and non-gaming activities on property. Our quantitative research referenced in this post, as well as our qualitative research and pilot pointed us to the reality that the audience we are trying to engage with casinos is already visiting, and spending on both gambling and non-gaming activities. Does that mean our business isn’t viable? No! Quite the contrary. Play the Field™ can:
Support customer acquisition, from a qualified prospect group;
Increase engagement among casual customers with gaming and non-gaming amenities at your properties..
This industry is slow to adapt – largely due to technology, security and legacy systems. While we’re working on modernizing, we need to take the time to look for and celebrate signs of success. It should not be a surprize to learn that stage of life continues to be a significant influence on the customer’s value to the business. While stage of life is important, my view has been and continues to be, that casinos operators – and just about any business category for that matter – should be more focused on behavioural traits of their current customers and prospects than on their ages. Not every Millennial is a prospect, and some segments within those that will visit casinos are better than others. Technology gives us the ability to target prospects in a surgical manner that can yield better results.
I plan to share more of our research findings based on behavioural groups in future posts. For those who can't wait, you may access a selection of highlights from our qualitative proof of concept focus groups, the pilot and the quantitative study on our website, www.letsptf.com.
 The original source for the information is not clear in the post.
 A couple of notes about the Ipsos study: Online surveys were completed during June 2018. Respondents had to have visited a casino in the last 12 months to qualify, meaning we are only seeing information about people who are casino patrons.