ICE London: Casino industry striving for balance

February 8, 2023 11:51 AM
Photo: Casino 2030 Entertainment/CDC Gaming Reports
  • Jake Pollard, CDC Gaming Reports
February 8, 2023 11:51 AM
  • Jake Pollard, CDC Gaming Reports

The need to attract younger players to land-based casinos has been a recurring theme among the industry in recent times, but Simon Thomas, executive chairman of London’s Hippodrome Casino, also noted that there could be “too much talk about young people” coming to casinos.

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“They’ve never gambled much in casinos, because traditionally, casinos have been aspirational and players migrate to them as they get older and have more disposable income”, said Thomas.

Asked if not focusing on attracting younger demographics would risk losing them to other leisure options when they get older, Thomas said it was important to “keep things relevant. Table games are expensive. Players need a bankroll of a few hundred pounds just to get going. That’s why offering electronic gaming machines where they can gamble with much lower-value chips is important. We want to attract as many people as possible, but it’s also important not to push them into anything and enable them to find out about products in an organic way.”

Colin Hughes, director of onboard operations at Virgin Voyages, said his company was mixing land-based and digital concepts by bringing products like Evolution’s Lightning Roulette to its casino venues. Lightning Roulette allows them to “bring online gaming concepts to a land-based context and enable customers to experience the breadth of the product at their disposal”, he said.

With the rise in entertainment options and casinos looking to develop more non-gaming revenues, Mark Dvorchak, managing partner of ProForma Advisors, noted, “Gaming is unique, because margins are so much better than in any other entertainment sector. We can afford to experiment and understand how the entertainment value is generated and how non-gaming ROI can also drive return.”

Erwin Van Lambaert, CEO of Casinos Austria and newly elected chairman of the European Casino Association, said most of the casinos in Europe had adapted to the impact of the pandemic over the past three years. “The majority have adapted, because it’s the games and the experience that matter”. However, he added that the industry should look at attracting younger players, because it’s losing 2.5% of its customers to old age.

From a regulatory standpoint, Van Lambaert said lawmakers should separate “facts from emotions” and follow an evidence-based approach to responsible gambling, especially as the percentage of recreational players coming to casinos for both gaming and non-gaming experiences considerably increased following post-lockdown reopenings.

The theme of combining land-based and online environments was also highlighted by Anika Howard, CEO of Wondr Nation, who said digital products were providing great educational value and had completely changed the way the player base had evolved in recent years.

Online channels are “enabling offline casinos to open up to whole new audiences”, she said, and pointed to her company’s close collaboration with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Nation that operates the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. “In many markets, first-mover advantage is very important, but it was not available in Connecticut, so it has been really important to focus on players, communications and messaging, mobile offering, and ensuring the user experience is top quality.”

Howard added that while land-based slots had helped drive online slots, digital gaming products were now driving slot-machine designs in retail environments and that was a trend that was increasingly prevalent.

George Wagner, managing director of Casinos Austria’s online subsidiary Win2Day, echoed the words of Hughes of Virgin Voyages and said his group was working on launching a live casino offering in the group’s retail properties. “It really helps with trust and credibility when players can see the real-world environments when they play online.”