In an ever-changing marketplace, companies are challenged to keep up with the needs and desires of consumers. The gaming industry is no exception. Understanding the player has never been more important. With the availability of new gaming options, supported by the proliferation of the Internet and mobile devices, the mindset of players has changed considerably. Those who understand players and the forces that impact their decisions will succeed.

WMS continues our tradition of focusing on players and tailoring product development to their needs. Since 2009, we have provided our customers with insight into the behaviors and preferences of key players via the Active Gambler Profile™ report. In the past two years, the changing marketplace has warranted a different perspective on players, one that includes other gaming activities outside the brick-and-mortar casino. Over the next several months, WMS will share details with CEM readers on how players have changed and how these changes are continuously shaping the gaming industry. In this first article of the series, we look at the Active Gambler™ of 2013 and how he/she has evolved.

The 2013 Active Gambler Profile is one of the industry’s most comprehensive player studies. This year’s sample includes more than 6,000 respondents, a more than 50 percent increase over the 2011 edition. The data was collected in an online study in late 2012 and includes active players in the United States, Canada and Mexico who have visited a casino in the past 12 months. Similar to prior editions, we break players into three key groups based on how much they spend on gambling per year: Casual Gamblers spend up to $500 per year, Frequent Gamblers spend between $501 and $2,500 per year and Avid Gamblers spend more than $2,500 per year. While Frequent Gamblers make up the largest portion of the Active Gambler population, it is the Avid Gamblers who bring the highest monetary value to the industry. Key findings in the 2013 Active Gambler Profile indicate that Avid Gamblers are the trend-setters in the industry: the group to watch. They are younger, more likely to be college-educated and more strongly opinionated than the average Active Gambler. The industry trends are clear: The gambling population is evolving with Avid Gamblers leading the way. Understanding them provides knowledge not only on the current state of player preferences, but also a sneak peak of what the future holds.

In the 2011 Active Gambler Profile, we identified that Active Gamblers were becoming increasingly more comfortable with technology and its use in their everyday life. While it was a small point we made two years ago, it has become a driving force in players’ preferences today. What defines the Active Gambler today? The Active Gambler of 2013 is 1) connected—technology has become an inseparable part of the Active Gambler’s life, in the form of computers, laptops, mobile devices and the Internet; 2) involved—easy access to the Internet facilitates almost unlimited access to information and a sense of control, thus encouraging players to be more involved in all aspects of their lives; and 3) interactive—Web 2.0 capabilities, touchscreen phones and multi-functional apps have conditioned players to want to actively interact with their immediate and virtual environment.

The Active Gambler is more connected than ever. Mobile device ownership has increased dramatically since 2011. Among U.S. Active Gamblers, iPhone ownership has more than doubled and other smartphone ownership has increased from 16 percent in the 2011 edition to 27 percent today. When the data for the 2011 profile was collected in 2010, the iPad/tablet category was not even considered, yet today, 22 percent of U.S. Active Gamblers report they own one. Avid Gamblers are trend-setters in this category. Compared to the U.S. population of Active Gamblers (Figure 1), U.S. Avid Gamblers are far more likely to own a mobile device with Internet access—29 percent own an iPhone, 32 percent have a smartphone other than an iPhone and 33 percent own a tablet. Increased ownership of mobile devices with Internet access highlights the evolution of players’ connectivity. Ninety-five percent of Active Gamblers report they are active online, performing a wide variety of activities from paying bills to researching different topics, to entertainment such as watching TV shows.

Accessing the Internet has become an essential part of players’ everyday lives—information is at their fingertips, distance is no longer a barrier for communication and cumbersome tasks such as banking and tax preparation are now just clicks away. This advancement and accessibility of technology has led to a significant change in the behavior and social values of players. The Active Gambler of 2013 is involved.

The majority of Active Gamblers (63 percent) agree that they are focusing more on what they can control and worrying less about what they cannot control. This number is significant on its own, but even more powerful considering it increased 10 percentage points from the 53 percent who claimed the same in the last edition. The focus on control illustrates that players are more attentive to their personal lives, more present in their current situations and, hence, more involved. More than half (52 percent) of Active Gamblers want to become more involved in their community, a significant increase from the last edition when only 34 percent agreed with this. Being involved appears to play a significant role even when players visit a casino. Eighty-four percent of Active Gamblers bring a companion along on their visits.

The intersection between being connected and being involved introduces a new behavioral characteristic that adds a third dimension to the player of today. The Active Gambler is interactive. Being interactive can be interpreted in a variety of ways—choosing hands-on experiences, participating in a wider variety of experiences or being involved in a social network. These are all true about the Active Gambler of 2013. Fifty-seven percent of Active Gamblers state that to truly understand something, they need to experience it themselves (Figure 2). Within the larger group, Avid Gamblers lead the pack, with 65 percent agreeing to this statement. An increasing number of Active Gamblers prefer to go places where they can get a sense of participation: 38 percent in this edition compared to 26 percent two years ago. Many also like to try new technology, especially Avid Gamblers. While the desire to experiment with new technology is growing at a slower rate among the overall Active Gambler population (Figure 2), findings among the trend-setting Avid Gamblers indicate this number will grow in the future. Fifty-two percent of Avid Gamblers agree that they like to experiment with new technology. In addition, while Active Gamblers are experiencing new things, they like to interact with their friends and share their experiences: Seventy-three percent of Active Gamblers maintain a profile on one or more social networks and, more specifically, 65 percent are active on Facebook.

The trend of increased connectivity from two years ago has evolved beyond our expectations; it continues to develop, supported by continuous improvements in technology and the willingness and desire of Active Gamblers to participate. It has fragmented into three separate trends—connectivity, involvement and interactivity—that shape the behaviors and lifestyles of Active Gamblers. While each of these trends is significant and influential on its own, the combination of all three leads to the creation of a new “evolved” player. Active Gamblers have a better understanding of what they want. They want entertainment and they want it instantly. They want to participate in the creation of their own entertainment experience, and they have higher-than-ever expectations of the quality of entertainment for which they pay. The Active Gambler of 2013 will strongly influence change for the gaming industry and it is up to us to offer solutions they are seeking. We look forward to sharing how casinos can provide solutions for these evolved needs in our next byline, when we explore emerging trends in online behaviors and social, casual and online gaming.

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