Attracting a younger customer base is a key concern for gaming industry leaders, and that fact was on display at the recent Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. To put it simply, slot machines are failing to grab the interest of the younger crowd, and industry experts are mulling over innovative solutions to their aging problem. By now, you’ve probably heard about the impending wave of ‘skill-based’ gaming options that reward talented players with improved odds of success, but the change won’t be as sweeping as some have reported.

Fans of traditional slots – including classics such as Blazing 7s, Buffalo and Wheel of Fortune – aren’t going to be forced to switch games. On the contrary, it seems likely that newer, skill-based offerings will, initially, inhabit a very small section of the casino floor. At the Global Gaming Expo, developers showed off updated versions of classic slots that feature flashy graphics and high-tech features, such as the ability to capture a player’s photo and include it in the game. While these slots will look fresh and new and come in modern cabinets with surround-sound speakers built into custom-designed chairs, the gameplay will be far from unfamiliar.

While updated slots may catch the eye of young gamers, the main course for appealing to this crowd is something a little more innovative. Imagine a gambling device based on popular games such as ‘Guitar Hero’, ‘Space Invaders’, and ‘Candy Crush’. In many ways, the evolution of slot machines is similar to a unique marriage between the casino industry and adult entertainment destinations like Dave and Buster’s.

Choosing the exact iteration of these skill-based titles is still in process, but Nevada gaming regulators took a major step toward instituting them in casinos throughout Las Vegas by approving regulations covering skill-based slot machines last month. Technical standards for these games are still being written.

Despite the eye candy, analysts suggest that skill-based games are still in the early stages of development. For developers, determining the ideal formula for rewarding skill while maintaining a house edge is still a difficult balance to strike. Additionally, following the institution of technical standards, testing and approval of these titles will likely take as long as eight months. In other words, don’t expect to see an ‘Angry Birds’ skill and chance hybrid machine on your next casino visit.

Gamblit was one company at the expo that had a working concept to present to industry leaders. The developer’s game, titled ‘Smoothie Blast’, utilized a gameplay mechanic similar to ‘Candy Crush’, allowing players to match fruit that ends up in a blender. When the time’s up, payouts are determined based on what fruits make it into the smoothie. While skill allows players to improve their winnings, limiting the availability of combinations prevents the game from being beatable on a regular basis, effectively maintaining the house edge.

If slots aren’t your idea of a good time, skill-based games may be right up your alley. While still in development, the writing is already on the wall. Expect to see casino games that reward the talent of players in the years to come.


Simon is an overactive gambler and the Staff Writer here at Silver Oak. He loves casino bonuses, online slots, and using the em dash too often. Currently, he rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada.