Should casinos gamble on millennials?

Eric Pearson, the new chief executive at Valley Forge Casino Resort, was too polite to actually roll his eyes when asked a question about whether millennials would ever take up gaming the way older generations have.

Even so...

"I think it’s funny," Pearson said during our Executive Q&A interview in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. "I’ve been to a lot of conferences and heard a lot of people speak about what millennials like and don’t like and do and don’t do. By most people’s definition, I am a millennial. 

Well, at 34, you're a little on the old end.

Right, I’m the very oldest.  I’m on that GenX, millennial border.  So, I can kind of fall into either category.  But, when I look at what the folks, my friends and our sort of peer group, when we have birthday events and things like that, we’ll go to Vegas.  And, a lot of the folks in our groups, they’ll gamble their butts off.  So, the sort of generalization that millennials don’t gamble, or all the old games have no interest to them and or that we have to have these skills-based games... [is just a generalization.] I think skills-based games are interesting to a very broad swath of the population.  Some people like them and some people don’t. When you accept Candy Crush or games like that as a video game, my grandmother plays more video games than I do, or anyone else I know playing Tetris on her phone or those mobile games.  

I think that it’s good that we continue to evolve that play experience and we offer different. It’s been a popular talk in the industry that, `Oh, we’ve got to get millennials! We’ve got to get millennials.'  Really, the best way to convert a millennial or get them interested into your casino is, for the most part, to do it en masse.  We’ve got to wait until they’re older.  The entire time I’ve been in this business, the age range of where our core players are hasn’t changed.

What is the age range?

It tends to be around 45-65.  It tends to be folks that are still working or very recently retired.  Usually, they have children that are older and have moved out or are sort of later in high school.

They don’t need a babysitter.

Right.  Coming to the casino can be – it’s a lot of fun and it can be exciting.  There’s not a lot of things to do that are really that exciting for a lot of folks in that age group. They're not going out to play a pick-up game of basketball with their friends, but they can go to the casino and still have fun, and they can have a bit of a social experience.  So, I don’t know if the games we put on the floor are going to drastically change that make up. But on the weekends, there’s definitely younger folks who are looking for something fun to do.  Having games that they might identify with more...

That they don’t have to learn 100 percent. 

Right.  They recognize elements of it and they say, `Oh, I know this game.  I’ve played it on my phone and I’ll jump in and do it.'  We do the same thing with machines on the floor.  We have games that are based on movie themes like Titanic, and stuff like that.