Southern Gaming Summit closes with questions of industry's future [The Sun Herald :: ]
(Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 09--BILOXI -- In 2013, Internet gambling was the hot topic at the Southern Gaming Summit. This week's discussions kept coming back to how the industry is going to bring younger customers to the tables and slot machines.
Figuring that out is a priority of the American Gaming Association, said its president, Geoff Freeman, who closed the Gaming Summit on Thursday. The industry can't thrive without change, he said. "We're going to need to find new products that connect with people."
As casinos become multi-faceted entertainment centers -- with restaurants, entertainment and amenities designed for all ages -- the casino floor also needs to evolve, he said.
The younger generations are playing social games right now and don't see casino games as attractive, said Joel Simkins, a senior casino, lodging and leisure analyst for Credit Suisse.
Slot machines designed to appeal to the baby boomers, who comprise the majority of the players in the casinos now, and new games that are more interactive to appeal to younger customers were available to play at the Gaming Summit Expo.
Richard Martinez, a product specialist for Aruze Gaming, was dressed in costume and turban to draw players to the new Sinbad game. The games lets two people compete against each other. Skill and luck are involved as players collect golden coins and use the touch screen to spin a prize wheel.
"This is the first game I've seen played side by side," said Vincent LeBlanc. He and his wife, Marcella LeBlanc, are dealers at Island View Casino.
Slot machine manufacturers are reaching out to younger generation with better graphics, sound and even the style of the cabinet. "Curb appeal matters," said Matt Wilson, vice president of marketing for Aristocrat Technologies, which hired an industrial designer to help create its new Helix cabinets outfitted with four-point audio and a subwoofer.
Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said casinos study and know their customers better than any other business does. To entice younger players, he said, "all the smart money is on technology."
The AGA will work with casinos on common causes, including cracking down on illegal online casino sites and Internet cafes, Freeman said. The Internet gambling debate isn't something the AGA will get involved in, he said, because it is divided into businesses that support federal regulation and those that believe in states' rights.
He said Mississippi's regulators see casinos as part of their economic development strategy, and the AGA will be focused on telling the success story of casinos and their value to communities.
"We will be a relentless champion of gaming," he said.
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