Seniors: the quiet daily foundational players that pay the light bill
As time marches on and healthcare science improves long-term regular customers continue to live longer. Often as the age of players increase their mobility decreases. These regular customers may not represent high amounts of daily spend but can have a strong aggregate playing value when adding up all of their frequent visits over time. This group can provide a significant segment of business during typical slow casino business periods of mornings and weekdays.
What do they like to play? Slots…this is great news for casinos.
Slots require less staffing labor and deliver a higher return than other forms of gaming. Seniors frequently are not trying to get rich but simply entertain themselves and look forward to the social aspects that a casino visit and group events represent. They can be very loyal when treated well and when they believe that a specific casino provides a definitive advantage in benefits to them.
Here are some suggestions of how to enhance accommodations for seniors and become their casino of choice:
Prior to arrival
Not all seniors are comfortable or adept with new technology and electronic forms of communication. Some resent begin forced to convert to these methods and see automation as a reduction in personal service. Offer options in communication through loyalty programs with “old school” choices such as mailers, phone calls and staff members. Seniors who have converted to mobile technology may request email or text communications and recognize the opportunity to improve the speed and options of this process. Don’t eliminate PBX and don’t complicate the process with tiresome telephone recordings and phone menus required to navigate to a live person to ask questions. Consider website design and make it simple to find the phone number, casino address and directions. Don’t bury this in a section of the website graphics where the property address can’t be simply copied and pasted into a map application/GPS.
At Arrival – Outside the Casino
Directional signage for parking, exits and casino entrances must be simple and very clear, especially in multi-level garage areas.
With inclining amounts of seniors with decreased levels of mobility the demand for assessible parking spaces has increased. In most locations the amount of parking spaces is determined by fire code/building code (per federal and state guidelines). Building codes mandate the minimum numbers of accessible spaces but rarely are the codes written to consider the demographic of customers specific to a neighborhood or business. In retirement areas often the difference between requirements and real needs are quite different. There is no rule against providing additional accessible spaces. This is a business investment and over time can be a more valuable investment than points, gifts and parties. The high cost of building parking spaces (even more so for covered spaces) creates a challenging consideration for casino operators when determining the required investment to expand the amount of accessible parking spaces.
Most seniors will refuse valet parking when considering setting up walkers and mobility devices. This is a personal activity. They have plenty of time and do not want to be rushed. A valent attendant attempting to assist may inadvertently create a feeling of intrusion. Seniors want to control this themselves at their own speed.
Many properties do not do a great job of accommodating customers with reduced mobility. These players tend to have lots of time. If seniors arrive and don’t find an accessible parking space, they may leave and come back another day or keep on driving…to the competition.
Directional signage for casino entrances must be simple to understand and located near accessible parking areas. This includes elevator signage to direct players to the proper floor to enter the casino. Multiple casino entrances can help with parking by allowing shorter distances from parking spaces and closer proximity to desired gaming devices. Providing longer ramps, better lighting, more weather protected walkways from parking areas as well as benches for waiting and resting along the way are all key areas to positively accommodate seniors.
Inside the Casino
Consider creating dedicated zones or “happy spaces” specific to seniors. The environment can be customized and allow different music programming, different volume levels, enhanced climate control and more non-smoking gaming stations. Areas away from the loud sports bars, nightclubs and high activity areas are excellent accommodation options. Offer more of their specific favorite slots, additional low boy slots, movable stools, and much wider aisles. Important considerations are dedicated gaming areas with proximity to: entrances, player’s club locations, restrooms, and favored food and beverage outlets without having to walk long distances. These are opportunities to demonstrate consideration for seniors. A dedicated spaces should not make seniors feel as if they are restricted to certain locations within the casino but offer friendly specialized areas designed just for them.
Restrooms should be nearby to senior gaming areas. Some of the first stalls should be accessible stalls, not all located in the rear of the restroom that requires more walking. Ensure that floors are non-slip and that handwashing facilities are easily accessible exceeding ADA requirements. Many operators have eliminated restroom doors and opted of a series of turns for entrances. This is a very friendly accommodation for seniors.
Self Service Beverage:
Locate a beverage station nearby to senior gaming areas. Ensure that all items are handicap accessible for beverage dispensers, cups, condiments, lids and straws. Soft drink and coffee providers have not currently perfected ADA compliant dispenser systems and may not be easy to use. It is best if dedicated service staff are assigned in senior friendly zones. Include signage and a way to summon assistance at the station. The option to order beverages from slots is excellent technology but must be very simple to understand.
Lines and Queues:
Standing in lines, waiting for long periods for promotions and giveaways are often difficult for seniors. Offering additional options using kiosks, mobile tech, or services integrated into slot machines can assist in the reduction of lines and waiting. Vouchers for a monthly/ weekly gifts could be printed at these stations for redemption at the end of a visit rather than requiring waiting in another line and carrying the item around during the casino visit. Allow pickup of gifts when leaving the casino by exits (possibly with carry out assistance from staff).
Food and Beverage:
Buffets have historically been a method of promotional food giveaways. The concept is based upon offering a large variety of menu items, all-you-can eat value portions, and speed of dining. Over time the increasing costs of staffing/labor coupled with declining mobility has made buffets a less attractive option for operators and seniors. It is not a simple process to walk from a table/booth to a long buffet line and then return while attempting to carry plates of food with a walker, wheelchair or cane. Consider converting food offers from buffets to a combination of QSR and full-service casual outlets. Most seniors aren’t trying to see how much they can eat at a buffet but simply follow the promotions that they are offered. Fixed menu options provide a way for the seniors to determine their own portion size, decrease times waiting in line and stretch their redeemable loyalty points. Some properties are taking this opportunity, while improving how they accommodate mobility challenges for seniors, as the time to eliminate their buffet outlet. Consider offering pagers or mobile phone paging for diners at full-service restaurants as an alternative to standing in line. Ensure that menu signage at quick service outlets is large enough to read at a distance while waiting in line or provide alternative copies of menus or duplicate menu boards that can be read while waiting in line.
Once considerations and adjustments have been made to the physical aspects of the senior guest experience the opportunity still remains for improvement of some of the elements of personalized service. Casinos can be socially isolating for many players of all ages. An interaction with a slot machine is not generally a social experience. This is where the opportunity exists for casinos to provide a unique individual specialized personal experience.
Here are some ideas:
Assign dedicated hosts of the same age range with similar interests and life experiences to seniors. These individuals can more easily connect with these players, understand multi-generational family experiences, health challenges and can create personal connections, recognition and familiar faces to visit. A personal one-on-one invitation to specific future events from a familiar host can produce amazing increases in attendance.
Host dedicated senior player recognition parties (based upon player value calculated by the property) on slower days such as Sunday afternoons during non-sports event days or Tuesday/Wednesday afternoons during football season. Most casinos operate 24/7. Slow times are prime opportunities to generate visitation. These parties do not need to be an entire meal/concert event but simply social mingle, ice cream socials, cocktail parties and dedicated fun events.
The Best News for Casino Operators
Seniors are living longer. This requires new accommodations by casino operators. These players represent a fixed budget expenditure. Increasing the number of regular players is the way to increase revenues, energy and excitement. The younger generation, “Millennials” cause anguish within marketing departments and don’t have much money to gamble with. This young generation of potential players don’t represent a group with similar gaming interests as other age groups which has been confirmed in many studies. While figuring out the younger generation conundrum casinos can take advantage of the opportunities provided by expanding the senior player group to help pay the fixed casino expenses during the slower business periods and becoming the favored “seniors’ casino”.