Hope Remains For Skill-based Gaming Machines

Despite setbacks in Atlantic City, there is still a push to include skill-based gaming machines in Atlantic City’s casinos. Caesars Entertainment introduced some skill-based games, but pulled them from their casino floor after six months. Blaine Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo, a skill-based gaming developer said that despite the machines being pulled, valuable marketing lessons were learned.

Skill-based gaming got a tryout in Atlantic City this year, and for the most part, it flunked the audition.

Caesars Entertainment introduced 21 skill-based games—video game slot machines that reward gameplay—but had to pull them after six months as they were not generating enough revenue to cover their rights fees.

Despite the setback, however, Blaine Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo, a skill-based gaming developer that supplied the games to Caesars, says the games can succeed if marketed correctly.

Analysts also point to skill-based gaming as a way of attracting younger players to casinos.

“Casinos thrive on new gaming content, and the skill-based products will definitely be increasing their footprint long-term as more of the customer base is exposed to the products,” gaming consultant Robert Ambrose told the Press of Atlantic City. “I think with the skill-based product, the industry needs to take a long-term view. Right now it is something new to the casino floor. Some players I have talked to have met it with both skepticism as well as an opportunity to challenge a game.”

The games could also fit in with a growing trend of casinos hosting eSports contests.

“This game product will draw the skilled video player—and yes, they will be younger,” Ambrose told the Press. “If the game only provides an illusion of skill, the knowledgeable player will not be playing it for long.”

Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo said that while his company and Caesars mutually decided to remove the skill-based games, the six months they were in action taught them a lot about introducing and marketing the games.

“The big thing that we took away was how to market the machines,” Graboyes told the Press. “How do you get the non-slot player to the machine?”

Ambrose agreed that the games have to be marketed in a way in which video gamers will respond.

“This is where marketing comes in. The players of these games are part of the social network generation,” Ambrose said. “So, some clever strategies via the various social platforms should be part of the plan of introduction. Just dropping the product on the casino floor and seeing what happens will doom it before it starts.”

Meanwhile, some skill-based games are still being offered at another Atlantic City casino—the Tropicana.

Steve Callender, Tropicana Atlantic City general manager, told the Press that skill-based gaming machines are gaining popularity.

“Tropicana Atlantic City continues to offer guests skill-based games on the casino floor. Although they don’t perform to the level of our traditional slot machines,” Callender said. “We’re generating incremental revenue from this new demographic.”