Skill-based games are the new horizon for casinos

Vegas casinos have started to examine a new type of slot machine that, they believe, will draw even more people into the casino to experience slot machine entertainment. The online gambling for real money, skill-based slots have proven to be successful at the online casino. Now, brick-and-mortar casinos want to replicate their success in their own gaming halls.

A recent survey found that more than 70 percent of casinos surveyed said that they were exploring options to adopt skill-based games – games in which skill is needed to win – and integrate them into their casinos in the future as part of their slots rooms.

Skill-based games are the new start-up venture for the gaming industry. Casinos have come to the conclusion that they risk losing young audiences if they don’t adapt to the reality that younger millennials have become most comfortable playing video games that demand that the gamer display an element of skill.

The survey was undertaken by Synergy Blue, a gaming developer. The research surveyed 100 casino executives during the third and fourth quarters of 2018. The report, “The State  of Skill-based Games in a New Era of Gambling” summarizes the need for casinos to focus on skill as a way of expanding player demographic and increasing playing time. Casino operators are looking for new ways to stay relevant, drive traffic and keep customers engaged once they enter the casino.

Tradition Vs. New

Casinos have been finding it harder to keep veteran gamblers coming to the casinos and to entice new gamers to visit casino floors. Many players seem to be just as happy to stay at home and enjoy entertaining, immersive gambling experiences while they play on their video consoles or on their computer screens.

Georg Washington, CEO of Synergy Blue, explained what he believes is happening.  “Competing in a landscape that’s growing more crowded all the time will continue to require casinos to provide new experiences for gamblers, and the emergence of skill-based games offers exactly that. But the newness of skill-based games brings both exciting opportunity as well as daunting challenges.”

Washington elaborated, saying “Because skill-based gaming is still in its early days, and without comprehensive analysis of metrics, it’s difficult for some to give it valuable floor space. We hope this report is a first step in understanding what the path forward for adoption looks like and the learning that can be culled from early adopters.”

Report Findings

Synergy Blue’s report found that:

  • Half of casinos surveyed identified Gen X’ers as their target growth demographic
  • The majority of casinos surveyed believe that skill-based games will appeal to a new generation of gamblers
  • Almost half of respondents say that, through diversifying product offering, the casino can attract more gamers
  • A vast majority of casinos that have already adopted skill-based games or games with skill components say that they did so because such games provide a different player experience which is what, they believe, visitors to their casinos want.
  • A little over a third of respondents believe that providing skill-based games adds a unique marketing element to the property.

General Findings

One of the things that’s surprising about the Synergy Blue report is that it points out that casino operators are focusing their growth efforts on Gen Xers as well as Millennials. According to the survey, half of all casinos are focusing efforts on attracting individuals born between 1965 to 1980 whereas previously, observers believed that the focus was on twentysomethings and thirtysomethings and the over 50s.

This demographic seems to be the target of at least half of the casinos surveyed. Over the next five years these casinos will be focusing their efforts on Gen X. The finding diverts from the previous assumption that casinos want to concentrate on attracting the younger crowd and people in the 50+ age range. However, those demographics are still of interest to many casinos -- over a quarter of the casinos said that they are focusing on Baby Boomers, those born post WWII, and almost a quarter of the casinos are targeting Millennials.

The survey reaffirmed what casinos have been suspecting for years. Slots represent the majority of casino games while video slots are top performers in terms of revenue.  Over half of casinos want to see customers spend more time on a machine. An equal percentage are trying to widen their player demographic.

The issue of player demographic is what is prompting the high level of interest in the skill-based category, especially since many casinos are speculating that millennials aren’t interested in playing traditional slots and the 50+ers are tired of the old games.

Most casino executives believe that for their slots sector to succeed (skill-based or otherwise), each individual game has to be evaluated on a monthly basis with the poor-performing games pulled from the floor so as not to depress the entire games lobby.


Many casino operators are concerned that “legal or jurisdictional requirements” could impede skill-base game adoption while others question whether such games will, in fact, appeal to players. Finally, many casino execs wonder whether gamers are, in fact, aware of the skill-based games and if so, if they are prepared to forgo traditional slot machines to play such skill-based slots.


Casinos could be influenced to adopt skill based slot games if they were persuaded that such games would lead to an “increase net or incremental revenue” and expand player demographics. That would be determined by measuring the new games against floor average and against other “stand alone products.”

In their summary, Synergy Blue says “a new generation of players opens the door for a new generation of games. And future generations of gamers will increasingly be more tech-savvy and digitally native.  Many Gen X’ers in particular are from the early video gaming generations. They are accustomed to a more engaging, more immersive gaming experience. That’s what the casinos hope that the new skill-based slots will provide.