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Lots and Lots of Slots
Roberts’ Rules
by Stanley Roberts

It has not escaped the notice of any long-term observer of the casino industry, that the dominating trend in new or re-mod-eled casinos has been the addition of more slot machines and the removal of table games. So, is this a good or bad thing? Is it the result of answering the request of public demand, or a decision of a casino accountant, trying to maximize profit?

Once again we need to look at the long-term future of casino gaming, and, whether the business can survive this trend. Clearly, playing the slots is not an activity that exercises the brain, at least not in the same way that games requiring decisions test our mental powers. To their credit, many slot machine manufacturers have been adding elements to their machines that, at this time, minimally force a small decision upon the player. This type of modest mental activity was at the heart of the rapid growth, development, and enormous success of video poker. We need to see more of this creative activity, but perceptual decisions that are essentially meaningless need to be replaced by those where the outcome is dependent upon, and worthy of, mental prowess. This type of creativity is rare, and, it requires thinking “outside the box.” The basic premise of a slot machine is randomness to the extreme. God forbid the player might have something to do with the outcome, which would then violate state gaming regulations. This is a tall order I lay down here, a challenge to manufacturers and regulators, alike!

Of course, there is an issue as to whether the casino going public wants a thoughtful, or thoughtless, recreational expe-rience. The answer to that is obvious, some do and some don’t. At times the same player may desire one or the other. Some people need a mental challenge to create a recreational experience, while others prefer a totally stress-free activity, like inserting coins and pushing buttons. On the other hand, if we follow the trend to its natural conclusion, there will be no more table games in the future. They will go the way of Faro, a game totally unknown to the baby boomers and later generations. The casino of the future will be nothing more than electronic machinery.

What will then be obvious to casino management is that gaming over networks, such as the Internet, will become far more efficient than operating a physical plant with its atten-dant personnel and utility expenses, not to mention amortizing the construction costs. In such a case, the business will surely die, both as a recreational activity and as a place of employment.

Once again we will hear the wisdom of my mentor, the late Abram Krushkhov, a great city planner and a man well ahead of his time, whose favorite expression was, “a business goes to hell, when the accountants take over.” Casino accountants take heed. Don’t let the maximization of today’s profits lead you down the path of industry destruction. Constantly give thought to where we are heading, as you make your inputs in the corporate boardrooms. Demand a higher level of creativ-ity from both your staffs and vendors, lest we remove the true character of our recreational experience and find people can have it just as well sitting at home, as going to the trouble and expense of visiting a destination resort.

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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