The Millennial Fallacy and Why I’m Not Sold on Skill-Based Gaming

Steve Ruddock : March 14th, 2016
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino – Tampa


One of the biggest buzzwords in gaming (an industry that has a lot of buzzwords by the way) is millennial. Attend any gaming conference and you’ll find several panels focusing on attracting this elusive demographic, and companies showing off their latest efforts, guaranteed to disrupt (another gaming buzzword) the industry and pull in high-value millennials.

Skill-based gaming is currently being billed as the big thing in the gaming universe; the holy grail that will bring finally appeal to the ultra-discerning millennials, capable of driving them to casinos in droves.

I’m not sold.

Not only am I not sold on the new breed of skill-based games being anything more than a flash in the pan, I find the whole “project millennial” to be an exercise in futility. A time and money sink that is keeping the gaming industry from innovating on other fronts as they focus on millennials.

As I’ve stated in the past, gaming’s inability to appeal to millennials has nothing to do with them being millennials, and everything to do with age. The way you make gambling appeal to millennials is simple: You wait. You wait until they’re older and have disposable income.

We should think of gambling like golf, as a person ages they are more likely to gravitate towards the less physical, and more costly, sport. Trying to make golf more appealing to a 20 year-old does nothing to remove the cost of the game or its perception. The same holds true with gambling.

The 4 gaming age brackets

This is obviously not the answer gaming wants to hear, but it’s simply the truth of the matter; as people get older a casino simply becomes a more realistic entertainment option, replacing nightclubs, house parties, beaches, and participating in sports.

The good news is, even millennials will grow older. That’s the thing with generations, they grow out of age brackets, but not out of their generational identity. I’m sure in 1990 the casino industry was wondering why they appealed to Baby Boomers, but Generation X’ers weren’t showing up to their properties. Now they’re just repeating the cycle, with Gen X’ers sliding into the Baby Boomer role and millennials into the spot vacated by Generation X.

When it comes to gaming, I don’t feel demographics should be broken down into generational differences, but rather life milestones that will have a stronger correlation to the person’s economic situation and changing tastes in entertainment.

So what are my gaming age brackets? There are only four of them:

  • 21-28 year olds
  • 29-39 year olds
  • 40-64 year olds
  • 65+

Obviously these ages are malleable and will have some overlap on the edges. And remember that these are people that might go to a casino or gamble online, the generalizations below are not meant to represent the full cross-section of the population at these ages.

You’ll also notice, the older the demographic the more years we can lump together. For instance, when we’re looking at gambling motivations, it’s fine to lump 48 year-old Gen X’er in with 58 year-old Baby Boomer, and treat them all as a single demographic. But you would be foolish to do the same for a 22 year-old and a 32 year-old, even though they’re both in the millennial generation. And this is why, when it comes to gambling, far from being bright lines, generational identities simply confuse things.

The younger you are the smaller your group

The biggest problem with lumping people of different ages into a single category is the same problem you see in children’s sports.

Placing a single 11 year old in with eight and nine year olds would prove disastrous. The 11 year old, despite being just two years older, is going to dominate.

As you get older the physical advantages of this age difference means less and less, but even into your twenties and thirties, there is a large discrepancy between where people are in their lives. For instance, there is a monumental difference between an 18 year-old and a 24 year-old. One is relatively debt free and prepping for college, the other is two years removed from college, likely indebted, and just getting their feet wet in the work force.

In fact, there is a monumental difference between where most 21-year-olds and 24 year-olds are in life.

On the other hand, there is relatively little difference between a 28 year-old and a 31 year-old. And the differences between a 51 and a 54 year old are imperceptible.

A good example of this is the perception of time. For a 20 year old, a year represents 5% of their total life experience. for a 50 year old that same year is only 1% of their total life experience.

Because of this, when it comes to gaming, I see the different demographics not as fixed points on a calendar, but rather as a rolling period of x years, with the number of years in each grouping determined by age, and not an abstract generational identity.

A closer look at each age bracket

At 21-28 people are in debt from student loans, still pretty keen on partying, and still trying to find their way in life. Since they’re unlikely to have much money, people in this age group aren’t big gamblers, as they prefer their entertainment options to have fixed price points.

At 29-40 people are likely to be settled into a job, starting families, choosing restaurants and low-key bars over nightclubs, and for the first time in their lives, they probably have some disposable income. At 29-40 you still want to think you’re the same as you were at 25, just with more responsibilities. So, on some level, entertainment options may still skew towards those of the younger demographic, but they’ll be more varied as you try to keep one foot in both worlds. You still want to have fun when you go out for the night, but those opportunities are fewer and farther between and when you do you’re more likely to be drinking a bottle of wine at a restaurant or having a Martini at a low-key bar, and not pounding Bud Lights under a strobe light with music so loud conversation is impossible.

From 41-64 people are likely getting comfortable in life. You probably have a decent amount of disposable income, and since you’re now at a point in life where you know you can’t party until 3 AM, or spend two hours on a basketball court without a bottle of Advil and an ice bucket on hand, your entertainment options have fully shifted to things like golf, gaming, and so on.

65+ – at this point you’re dealing with people who are at retirement age, and looking for time sinks, likely continuing on with whatever pastimes they grew fond of in their forties and fifties.


If you want millennials to visit your casino you need to present them with nightlife options, and don’t expect them to do much gambling, even if you line your causeway with skill-based  games.

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