Casino Patrons Get Younger; What’s Fueling Encouraging Industry Trend?

Casino Patrons Get Younger; What’s Fueling Encouraging Industry Trend?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

For years, the gaming industry has fretted over what it perceived to be a gradual but steady aging of casino customers. The bottom-line concern was obvious – casino patrons might eventually vanish.

Then came a startling finding that reflected a change over the last couple of years. The average age of casino customers dropped from a high of nearly 50 years old in 2019 to about 42.5 in 2022. That comes from research done by the American Gaming Association, which made its state-of-the-industry presentation this week.

The shift in demographics was a surprise to many and good news for the gaming industry that was already celebrating a record year in 2022, when commercial gaming revenues were more than $60.4 billion.

There are 11 commercial casinos in Illinois, and legalizing Illinois online casinos has been an idea recently introduced in the state legislature.

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AGA Pleased Over Demographic Shift

Dave Forman, vice president of research for the AGA, said the demographic trend was remarkable.

“Every year since 2014, we’ve done a national survey of all Americans looking at their attitudes toward gaming and their participation in gaming,” Forman said.  “And as a part of that, we collect a lot of demographic information on age, education, household income. So, we have about a decade of data to go back and look on and the trend has been pretty astounding. 

 “The average age of casino visitors had been steadily increasing from 2014 to 2019 when it was almost 50 years old. Then, in 2020 during the pandemic and then continuing through last summer, the average age dropped considerably.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was an inflection point, it seems, for casino visitation as it was for so much else in life.

“You see that young people, or at least people under 40 … have come back to the casino at the same rate that they were before the pandemic, or at a little higher rate than before the pandemic. Older visitors, say over 60, really haven’t come back in the same numbers.”

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Are New Casino Customers More Affluent?

Plus, the younger visitors appear to have higher household incomes and they’re spending more per visit than in 2019, Forman added.

All of that could bode well for an ambitious Bally’s Casino project in Chicago. This week, Bally’s announced that it was offering training for table games dealers because the casino will need hundreds of them.

The gaming industry’s ability to evolve with changing circumstances and the tastes of its customers is on display in the demographic figures, AGA senior vice president Casey Clark said.

“The one thing about our industry that’s really true is that we’re really great in creating entertainment experiences that consumers want,” Clark said. He noted gaming’s strength in “being strong innovators in how we bring that product to market and how we adjust the offerings to accommodate and adjust to the consumer base.”

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Other Amenities Matter Too

Clark cited the integrated resort model, “where we’re bringing high-end retail and restaurants and entertainment into casinos in order to attract all sorts of visitors.”

“Bringing new experiences to customers – however they want it – that’s how you evolve your business with an evolving consumer,” Clark said.

The Land of Lincoln is a prime example of moving with the times, as the robust online Illinois sportsbook apps market proves. Mobile Illinois sports betting accounted for about 96% of the market in 2022, with total statewide handle nearing $10 billion for the year.

Courting the Casino Experience

Yet, as demonstrated when the Chicago City Council approved Bally’s for the downtown casino project in the Windy City, many folks – including that younger demographic – still seek the brick-and-mortar casino experience.

When the average age of casino visitors was edging upward, some within the gaming industry felt that casino floors needed overhauls to appeal to a demographic that had grown up on sophisticated video gaming. Forman said that it appears that the changes in technology and gaming experiences seem to be hitting the right note, and that consumers are looking forward to what may come next.

“There was concern in the industry that the experience and the technology on the casino floor was kind of staid and static. But we did some research even before the pandemic when the consumer base was older (and) that wasn’t really the case,” Forman said. “They felt that the technology on the floor was innovative and they were willing to try new products and new technologies that were rolling out on the casino floor.

“And it seems the majority of them expects that in 10 years when they go to a casino that the mix of games, the technology, and the products they see on the floor are going to be completely different,” Forman continued. “That’s partially tied in with younger people being more comfortable with that (change), but I also think that it’s part of the overall casino consumer mix enjoys and is looking forward to technological change and innovation on the floor. … They don’t expect the experience to look the same and they’re looking forward to new experiences.”

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Author

Bill Ordine covers state gambling issues for IllinoisBet.com. He was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years.

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