No One Is Playing Any More

Recently, I had coffee with a member of the board of directors of a major clothing retailer. He had some very interesting observations about the way our consumer society is changing. He said a very clear line dividing society into two separate age groups is emerging; and each age group shops differently from the other. Let’s call it The Great Divide. Those over 50 years old still shop the same way they always have – they go to a bricks and mortar store. These “overs” look, touch and try things on before they buy; and they usually go Judi Online Terpercaya with a surprise or two, things they had not intended to purchase. Shopping in the traditional sense is very complex, time consuming and a buyer-beware experience, but the bricks and mortar world is the world of the over 50 crowd.

On the other side of the Great Divide are the under 50 people who rarely go to a store. Instead the “unders” shop online and only for exactly what they want at the moment. Actually, my coffee partner said they shop using a mobile device. Always on the move and multi-tasking, they shop, listen to music, watch sports, talk and gamble wherever they are and regardless of what else they are doing. The only reason “unders” go to a store is to pick up a purchase and even then they often have the purchase delivered and avoid the store visit. Theirs is a satisfaction guaranteed experience. Whatever they buy, if they don’t like it they send it back and expect full credit. Although, the chain offers incentives to entice them to visit the bricks and mortar locations, they rarely do. Cyberspace is their space. He said there is only one exception; it seems that when a woman buys a dress she goes to the store to see, touch and try it on before she buys.

The Great Divide is going to affect commercial gambling just as it does retail. Changes in behavior and tastes are not new. Both in gambling and shopping, the evolution from the one behavior to the other has been taking place for years. However, we still have a foot in each camp as it were – not quite online and not quite in bricks and mortar. That will change as the over-50 foot, the one in the bricks and mortar world gets too old to stand anywhere.

Gambling has been constantly evolving in the United States for the last century and a half. The kinds of games we play and where we play them has always been a moving target. In the 21st century some of the most popular games of the 20th century are disappearing into extinction. Keno, horse racing, bingo, roulette and craps are on the list of endangered gambling species. Those games are dying because they are slow, boring and no longer attract, entertain or retain players. In the casino environment, boring is not acceptable and it is not profitable; but those games were not always boring.

Take keno for example. In 1969, I returned to Nevada from a decade-long road-trip. I came back home with nine dollars in my pocket, no marketable skills and no plan for the future. My cousin was a school teacher and had a second job writing keno in a local casino. He graciously took me to meet his boss and I was hired on the spot; I worked 30 days without a day off. I had never seen anything to compare with the atmosphere, excitement and sheer mass of humanity that filled the casino every evening – especially on a Saturday night.

On Saturdays there were 25 or so keno writers on my shift. Each writer would write nearly a thousand tickets in an eight-hour shift. The average ticket price in those days was around a dollar, so each writer generated approximately $1000 in gross revenue on a busy night. The thousand dollars would give the casino net revenue of $250; minus the departmental expenses, the casino would have netted $200 out of every thousand dollars. That $5000 in net profit for one shift on a Saturday in 1969 was very significant to the casino owners.

When Warren Nelson and his fellow keno writers came to Nevada in the late 1930’s to ply their trade they stood at the top of the heap. Tired of fighting local law enforcement in Montana, Warren simply moved to Nevada where gambling was legal and paying the sheriff off was not necessary. He and others like him and their keno games added a great deal of excitement as well as a lot of cash to casinos around the state. In 1962, the average keno game revenue represented 25-30% of an average casino’s total gaming revenue. Even as late as 1980, keno statewide still contributed 10-15% of total gaming revenues. Today, keno represents less than 5% of total revenues and is continuing to decline.

Keno was introduced into casino gaming during the Great Depression as an adaptation of the Chinese lottery. The Chinese lottery was played all around the west coast – everywhere where Chinese laborers had settled in the 19th century. The American version was faster; during those years keno was played 4 to 6 times an hour while the Chinese game was played weekly, daily or at most twice a day. The American version offered prizes that were very large for the era – by the 1970s, the top prize was $50,000. Even in the depression the top prize was over a thousand dollars. The possibility of hitting a “big ticket” was important to the success of keno; the big hit could give the lucky gambler enough money to solve all of his financial problems and change his life.

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