There’s simply no way Americans are doing less gambling these days.
In fact, when you count illegal or unregulated domestic gambling, plus offshore operations that provide outlets to bet on just about anything, we’re risking billions every week.
That translates to good news for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which operates its slick and popular hotel-casino complex near Worley.
But the tribe’s management board can’t just relax and count the income.
There may be a new trend emerging among casino gamblers, and it needs to be followed very, very carefully.
One remarkable thing the tribe and other stakeholders are seeing is most Las Vegas casinos actually removing large numbers of slot machines, simply because the number of players has gone down.
Indeed, the total number of slots in Vegas is down 23 percent from its peak in 2001.
Visitors to the famous gambling mecca are still coming — but they’re mixing in their casino action with nightclubs, shows and other attractions.
That trend nicely suits the Coeur d’Alene Casino formula, which is built on more than lottery-style electronic gaming tables and slot machines.
“Our goal is to provide guests with a quality entertainment experience,” said Tyrel Stevenson, the tribe’s legislative director. “That includes our restaurants and all the other amenities.”
Down in Vegas, the giant casino owners aren’t just sitting on their hands and observing the loss of cash from slot machines — which they’ve concluded is due to Millennials having different interests than their parents and grandparents.
Some of the bigger operators, such as Caesars Entertainment Corp. and MGM Resorts International, already have installed some skill-based machines to see if they can lure a generation that has grown up on video games.
It’s definitely a slowly growing experiment — there are currently just 500 of these skill-for-cash machines out of 982,000 gambling devices in the United States and Canada.
“There haven’t been huge shifts yet,” Stevenson said, “but sure, there is some belief that skill-based games are the future, because the current demographic is aging out.
“But nobody has really proved that yet.”
STILL, IT’S obviously something the gaming industry is watching very closely.
It’s a sure bet (pun intended) that if gamblers in their 20s and 30s begin flocking to these machines that mimic challenges they’ve enjoyed for most of their lives, the big casinos will react accordingly.
Stevenson indicated that the tribe stays abreast of changes in the casino world, but that doesn’t mean there will be any quick overhaul in Worley.
“For one thing,” he said, “I don’t think there’s enough data yet on whether these are actual trends that will permanently affect casino operations.
“The tribe is always paying attention, obviously, but if anything is going to change in the casino here, it will be very low-risk.
“Right now, business is very steady. There’s no need to rush into something new.”
In addition to a culture of caution, anything the tribe does with its gaming operation must fall within the guidelines of its compact with the state of Idaho.
“It would require rigorous regulatory scrutiny,” Stevenson added.
For now, the Coeur d’Alene Casino is happy to offer the same variety of entertainment — gaming and otherwise — that has successfully lured visitors for years.
No one is in a hurry to change, nor should they be.
Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.