Casino Designs for a New Generation

A new generation of gamers is evolving, and designers and architects are looking to them, in part, to envision a new generation of casinos. In their most ideal forms, these plans are being modeled with consideration given to the psychological and sociological profiles of this high-tech, constant stimulation-seeking group. A recent study by the Federal Chief Information Officers Council identified eight norms of what it deems “The Net Generation” (Net Gen), also called Generation Y or the Millennials (individuals born between 1978 and 1994).1 Among these traits are several that are crucial to a gaming industry that seeks to respond to the next wave of on-site gaming consumers.

The pertinent identifiers of these multitaskers include entertainment: “They want to learn new things and be a part of the action,” —they expect to have fun both at work and during their down time, and online gaming is a major entertainment source; customization: “They choose how they get their information or entertainment, when they get it, the color, configuration and applications on the delivery device;” innovation: “Members of the Net Generation are digital natives. IT capabilities are often second nature to them;” and speed: “They will look for avenues to speed their productivity and response time whenever possible.” Theirs is a world of instant gratification where 24/7 access to anything at any moment is quite literally in the palm of their hands.2

Although these traits also characterize the preceding Generation X, and a few baby boomers to some degree, it is the gaming industry’s response to the Net Gen that will determine the look and feel of gaming centers in the future.

Most gaming floors today guide customers strategically through the gaming area, with banks of slots and table games, in order to get to their hotel, a restaurant or other amenities positioned around the casino. The intent is to spark an impulse to take on the machines and dealers they pass along the way. Observation confirms that younger casino visitors continue to bypass the rows of slot machines to get to the bars, lounges and nightclubs, where they spend much of their time. Turning these clubbers into players will require creating an enticing casino habitat that defines gaming in a new way. At the same time, gaming properties cannot afford to neglect their current, lucrative base of Generation X and baby boomer customers, so expect to see transitional designs for the rehabilitation of existing casinos. This first wave of design solutions will logically include strategically positioned spaces to accommodate the younger generation. However, a subsequent wave of newly constructed casinos will be more fully focused on the Net Gen and, in a sense, these new designs will be an inversion of the traditional layout. Eventually the Net Gen gaming lounge will likely be at the center of the casino—or as they see it, at the center of the universe.

Wherever the Net Gen spaces are placed on a casino floor plan, when correctly conceived and executed, they will satisfy the hunger for layers upon layers of fast-paced entertainment with customizable experiences, and, most importantly, they will offer the latest technology.

What will this habitat look like? Imagine a colorful lounge—most likely with multiple floor levels defining the hierarchy of entertainment options—where customers will voraciously multitask. The bar will continue to be a fixture on the scene, but it must be a “chase bar”—a circular or horseshoe configuration allowing ease of movement and flow. There is a strong voyeuristic appeal to this space, with people peering through the bar at each other and to each other’s games. There may be a sports component in this space, but the space must not only appeal to men. Multiple video screens placed throughout will carry content that appeals to both sexes. Other interactive displays may be centered on social media, with Twitter feeds for example, updating players’ scores, jackpot wins or other activities. Live entertainment may include a disc jockey booth or bandstand. Competition and impulse will feed off this high-stimulation environment.

While it may be assumed that these lounges will all be high-tech in feel or have a dark, club-like atmosphere, casinos are advised not to make them cold and impersonal. Studies into the notion of biophilia—the innate human attraction to nature—make a case for creating natural environments that also meet the gaming and entertainment desires of the Net Gen. From gardens and water features, to daylighting and open space, the business case for using biophilic design elements points to positive outcomes—including influencing financial growth potential, the ultimate goal for any casino enterprise.

The Economics of Biophilia, a study published in 2012 by Terrapin Bright Green LLC, explores the very profitable value in applying biophilia to help transform mundane settings into stimulating environments. The research points to three pillar concepts: Nature in the space (the direct use of nature elements, such as plants, water and animals); natural analogues (materials and patterns that evoke nature); and nature of the space (the way humans respond to different spatial configurations). While the first two are more easily identified, the latter speaks to the instinctive attraction people have to “the design concepts of prospect and refuge—elevated views coupled with protected spaces—as well as enticement and peril—exploring unseen space and evoking pleasurable distress.”3 The positive response people tend to have toward biophilic design boosts image perception, which translates into a way to improve profits. While Net Gen culture may revolve around technology, it is in human nature to enjoy natural elements, whether real or perceived.

What haven’t we mentioned? The games themselves, of course. Young people prefer to compete against one another, as opposed to competing against a machine or against the system. The games are best conceived not as slot machines in rows, but socially interactive gaming elements in this lounge-like environment. Imagine, for example, a space in which players game and interact around a central liquor service. The games may be arranged in pod configurations or housed in sunken dens or elevated lofts to encourage play among intimate groups. They may be extensions of the multiple-player games enjoyed in people’s living rooms or basements, where they compete online. But here, the attractive social element will be a dramatic new draw compared to playing in isolation.

These gaming lounges will create an environment that accommodates the Net Gen’s thirst for the latest technology. The interactive gaming component is a significant part of this. Touchscreen games—a format that is second-nature to Net Gens—will make them at home here. Research by network firm Cisco showed that in 2012, mobile phones and tablets outnumbered the 7 billion humans on the planet.4 Gaming companies will extend that trend by outfitting the Net Gen lounges with handheld playing devices. Or they will allow for the customized immediacy and intimacy of playing on their own tablets or phones.

Technological innovations give casino gaming a dynamic mobile element it has never had before. Of course, it will be guided by what is allowed and defined by the applicable gaming jurisdiction, but where the gamer goes, so too will go the gaming. No longer will players be confined to regimented rows of slots; they can take the gaming device where they want, including right into their social circles. The challenge is to create gaming spaces with a vibrant atmosphere that still maintain, and even enhance, the casino as the profit center of the facility. A new brand of gaming environment that appeals to Net Gens is what will help get this group out of the nightclubs and onto the gaming floor.

More than any other generation, the Net Gen socializes to a huge degree online as it learned to play games that way. And gaming companies have recognized this trend. For example, Caesars Entertainment has a director of media and the Palms Casino has a director of e-commerce. Before Internet game provider Zynga severed its ties with Facebook late last year, it provided up to 19 percent of the social media giant’s revenue.5 Zynga and Facebook have essentially been a training ground for Internet gaming. While the Internet has provided free gaming, it has also enticed new gamers into the market. The casino of the future will give these gamers a real social experience simply not available in social media.

The above recommendations are based on recent research, but there is one timeless value that most of us know intuitively: Social interaction is essential to all generations. Casinos that offer both online and on-site social experiences in the same space will be all the more successful at satisfying the desires of a new generation.

1 “Net Generation: Preparing for Change in the Federal Information Technology Workspace,” Federal Chief Information Officers Council, published in 2010, http://www.govexec.com/pdfs/042310ah1.pdf.
2 Ibid.
3 “The Economics of Biophilia,” Terrapin Bright Green LLC, http://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/ideas/ideaindepth.php?ideaid=9j94FtOu….
4 “Mobile devices to outnumber people on planet this year,” Yahoo News, published on Feb. 16, 2012, http://news.yahoo.com/mobile-devices-outnumber-people-planet-091454604.html.
5 “Facebook, Zynga revamp partnership,” Gerry Shih and Alexei Oreskovic , Nov. 29, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/29/us-zynga-facebook-idUSBRE8AS1F…

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