Slot Machines Aren’t Dying – They’re Actually Poised to Explode

Slot machines have been the biggest moneymakers for casinos for decades. Video slots have revolutionized the gaming industry thanks to their impressive graphics and features.

But while gamemakers have done a reasonably good job at keeping up with the technology curve, they’re missing the mark with many young adults. Millennials aren’t playing slot machines as much as previous generations.

This trend has created a narrative that slot machines are only for old people. With slots being stereotyped as an old person’s game, it seems like they won’t be around forever.

However, recent research indicates that the exact opposite will be true. This research actually suggests that slots are going to be bigger than ever in the coming years.

How is this the case when considering that millennials are playing far less than older generations? Keep reading to find out about the study, along with why the industry is poised for great things.

Government Support & New Technology Will Drive Slots Growth

Hexa Research studied the slots market to determine where it’s going to be in the coming years. Their findings have led them to the conclusion that slots are in for substantial growth.

The report cites the growing number of legal online casinos as one driving force. Regulated internet gaming should continue spreading across the US, leading to more revenue for the slots industry.

Virtual reality is another factor that has the potential to boost slots play. VR is finally gaining steam on a consumer level and is also starting to enter the gaming space.

Hexa notes that supportive government initiates will help improve slots revenue too. Governments will continue supporting casinos as long as they keep providing employment opportunities and tax revenue for social development.

They also note that the continued growth of mobile gaming will help the slots world. More and more people are diving into mobile slots on a daily basis, which bodes well for slot machines.

Europe may be the biggest winner with emerging slots technology. Their casino industry is particularly high on skill-based slot machines.

Of course, North America should also experience plenty of success with slots in future years. The US already has numerous casinos, while Canada and Mexico are expected to see more built in the near future.

Hexa notes how the US is particularly interesting because internet gaming companies are working closely with established casino corporations. For example, International Game Technology (IGT) has been collaborating with Caesars Entertainment to produce online slots.

Asia hasn’t embraced slot machines quite to the extent that western countries have. But this trend is expected to reverse moving forward.

Japan recently legalized casino gambling, which should bring numerous slots to the Asia Pacific. Japanese gamblers already love pachinko (pinball/slots hybrid), so slot machines should be a natural transition.

What Can We Look Forward to with Slot Machines in the Near Future?

As Hexa Research points out, slot machines should become more popular due to government support, increased mobile play, and the budding Asian market.

But how will some of these factors drive slots growth? Here’s a closer look at what each of these elements will do to increase the worldwide player base.

Skill Based Slot Machines

Slot machines are a pure gamble for the most part. You spin the reels and hope that luck is on your side.

Of course, some mild strategy does come into play. You can boost your chances of winning by picking games with high return to player (RTP) and taking advantage of comps.

But slot machines aren’t like blackjack or poker, where skill plays a substantial factor. You can’t spin the reels better than somebody else.

This luck-based style of gaming has appeased gamblers for decades. However, young adults have grown up with advanced video gaming technology and aren’t as impressed with slot machines.

As mentioned before, game developers have done a solid job of keeping up with the technology curve. But they’re definitely behind compared to advanced console games.

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch have raised the standards for video game tech. While some modern slot machines compare to these systems in terms of graphics, they don’t offer the same interactivity and skill-based play.

Slotsmakers are trying to fix this problem by rolling out skill-based games. Like the name implies, a skill-based slot machine gives players some control over the results.

Here’s an example on how one of these games works:

  • You’re playing a Wild West-themed slot.
  • The bonus round offers a first-person-shooter mode.
  • You need to control your gun and shoot outlaws to earn more credits.

Non-skilled slots feature bonuses that seem like they contain skill. For example, you may have to select treasure chests to reveal your prizes. However, you’re merely making random guesses as to which chests offer the best rewards.

Some game makers are already in the skill-based arena. For example, Bally has released Space Invaders slot.

Space Invaders is based on a 1978 arcade classic of the same name. This game’s bonus round involves blasting tiny alien ships as they descend towards Earth (bottom of the screen).

Nobody is going to confuse the Space Invaders bonus with Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4. However, it at least features some skill and involves more than just spinning reels.

The more ships you shoot, the more credits you receive. Therefore, you can improve your chances of winning money by mastering the bonus round.

More Types of Gambling Added to Slot Machines

Slot machines are currently used to do one thing: spin the reels for prizes. However, slots terminals could be used for other types of gaming in the future.

BMM Testlabs recently offered an industry report that discusses this very matter. They suggest that slot machines should include sports-betting options in the near future.

Sports gambling is popular among all age demographics. Adding sports betting could be a good way to draw younger people to the reels.

Of course, casinos don’t have to stop at just sports betting. They can also include electronic table games, poker, and video poker.

Casinos already offer plenty of video poker and electronic table games to a degree. But combining everything into one terminal would be handy and cross-promote multiple types of gambling.

Here’s an example of such a scenario:

  • A gambler wants to bet on sports.
  • They sit down to a combination gambling terminal.
  • They begin placing sports bets.
  • The gambler notices that slots are available on the same machine.
  • They begin playing slots, even though this wasn’t their initial interest.

Gambling establishments would also save money with combination terminals. They’d especially save by making sports betting available through slot machines because they could get away without offering a separate sportsbook area.

Upgraded Technology

We’re currently in the midst of one of the greatest technology booms ever. Everything from smartphones to smart cars are revolutionizing the way we live.

However, gamblers aren’t seeing a whole lot of these benefits in casinos. That could very well change, though, as casinos look towards technology to make the customer experience better.

Voice control is one technology option that could spread throughout gambling establishments in the near future. Players could control slot machine or video poker options with their voice, rather than pushing a bunch of buttons.

Of course, most gamblers are still more comfortable using their hands to make selections. But with voice control becoming a bigger part of life, players may eventually prefer this option.

Gambling terminals could also give patrons the ability to order different services. They might call for valet parking, reserve a restaurant table, or order drinks.

The ability to watch sports through a slot machine would also be a handy feature. Casinos might not like that this could slow gamblers down, but it would give customers another entertainment option.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is yet one more major technology upgrade that could draw more customers. VR is already becoming more popular on a consumer level by the year.

Casinos will look to capitalize on this experience as well. They could feature advanced VR terminals that allow players to have unique experiences, such as playing poker in the Arctic Circle or spinning slots reels while sitting in the Amazon Rainforest.

Online gaming companies are already dabbling in virtual reality. PokerStars has launched a free VR Poker Room, while NetEnt has re-released virtual reality editions of Jack and the Beanstalk and Gonzo’s Quest.

Gamblers aren’t rushing to PokerStars VR or playing Gonzo’s Quest non-stop. However, these are just small inlets into what should be a much bigger industry.

The number of people who own a VR headset is expected to reach 37 million by 2020. This growing customer base increases the chances that more people will be gambling in virtual reality.

Land-based casinos will do well to capitalize on this growth by offering their own VR products. Given their budgets, they could offer more-unique experiences than gamblers get through inexpensive commercial devices.

What Challenges Do Slot Machines Face in the Future?

Just because research shows that slots are destined for growth doesn’t make it a reality right now. The industry still have some roadblocks to clear before realizing success.

I fully expect slots makers to find solutions to these problems and continue holding players’ interest. However, the following challenges are still worth keeping in mind.

Not Enough Millennials Playing

Again, millennials just aren’t playing slot machines as much as older generations. A study shows that only 44% of millennials play slots, versus 72% from previous generations.

The good news for casinos is that millennials are spending money in other areas, such as nightclubs, restaurants, shopping, and shows. But less than half of these visitors are willing to play slots.

Gambling establishment still have time to work on games that can attract younger people. After all, Baby Boomers and Generation X still have plenty of good years left in them.

At the same time, though, casinos are missing out on younger people who don’t spin the reals. Slot machines are the easiest way for gaming venues to make money.

Even though people generally make small bets on these games, they play at an extremely fast rate. The average player spins the reels between 500 and 600 times per hour.

Casinos can always look forward to millennials playing baccarat, blackjack, and other table games. But they still have to find a way to interest gamblers in faster-paced gaming.

Blending Slots Reels with Modern Gaming Tech

Video slots are the most-important invention in modern casino gambling. They run on computer programming, which gives developers more options for graphics, themes, and bonuses.

Contrast this to the older style slot machines, which run on mechanical reels and levers. Most of these games only feature one payline, three reels, and completely generic symbols (e.g., 7s, cherries, BAR).

But as impressive as video slot machines are, they’re not enough by themselves to keep up with the never-ending technology curve. Developers need to constantly add new features to continue attracting players.

For the most part, they’ve done a good job at delivering upgrades. 3D graphics, second-screen bonus rounds, animations, and soundtracks have kept slot machines relevant.

But they must continue innovating to keep slot machines popular. I covered several options earlier, including voice control, virtual reality, and the ability to order services from a machine.

Of course, floating such ideas and putting them into practice are two different things. Casinos must figure out how to effectively add new features to slots without diminishing what currently draws many gamblers to them.

Gaming venues also need to find a balance between tech upgrades and maintaining the quick rate of play. Giving players numerous options at a gambling terminal is nice. But how will all of these options affect the current play rate?

Casino Oversaturation

Casinos used to be sparsely spread across the United States. Atlantic City and Las Vegas featured the bulk of gambling establishments, while it was rare to find casino games elsewhere.

Fast-forward to today, and casinos are in virtually every state. Many other countries also feature a great deal of gambling establishments.

You no longer have to hop on a plane just to play land-based table games or slot machines. Casinos are located just a few hours away from most people.

As if the brick-and-mortar casino saturation isn’t bad enough, online gaming now features more sites than ever before. You can choose from hundreds of internet casinos when looking for quick action.

Of course, more casinos means that players have numerous options with regard to slot machines. On the downside, though, all of this competition will eventually come to a head.

People only need so many choices when it comes to land-based and online casinos. The competition will weed out some of these actors.

The number of available slot machines will also be reduced when some of the casinos are forced to close. I don’t expect this scenario to ramp up anytime soon, but it’s a definite possibility in the future.

Conclusion

It may seem like time is running out for slot machines. After all, younger people aren’t playing them much right now.

However, the slots industry has reason for optimism. Hexa Research’s report suggests multiple factors that could make slots even more popular than they currently are.

One factor involves governments continuing to lend their support to casinos. This support is invaluable because it allows casinos and slot machines to continue spreading.

Slotsmakers are working closely with casino corporations to provide more online/mobile gaming opportunities. This relationship is important, given that most slots players currently gamble through their phones.

Hexa Research also cites the emerging Asian market as a driving force for slots. Asia is a largely untapped market when it comes to slot machines.

The Hexa report casts a positive light on the slots industry’s future. But there are still challenges ahead before growth becomes reality.

Casinos still haven’t solved the millennial problem. They’re experimenting with skill-based slot machines as a possible solution. But how well will Space Invaders and similar games go over with crowds that are used to advanced console gaming?

The industry also needs to find the right balance between adding technology without disrupting game flow. Slots bring casinos so much revenue due to their quick play rate. Offering players too many options might slow this rate down.

Finally, land-based and online casinos continue piling up across the world. But exactly how many casinos can players support?

It’s no given that slot machines will continue at an accelerated growth curve. After all, the industry must overcome multiple hurdles moving forward.

But as Hexa’s report contends, slots developers and casinos have reasons to be optimistic. Government support, VR, and untapped markets all indicate that more slots expansion is on the horizon.

Michael Stevens: Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.