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Modernizing European Casinos

05 November 2017, 16:01 CET

Changing demographics have created an urgency on the part of European casinos who wish to boost their profits. In recent years industry experts have pointed to the fact that millennials are not flocking to the casinos in the same way that their parents and grandparents did.

The challenge lies in finding ways to attract people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have become used to video games that can be played on a home computer or even on a mobile device. Casino industry CEOs and their staffs want to work out how they can improve the economics of casino gambling by keeping their businesses relevant to younger players.

History of European Casinos

The first casino-type venue opened in Italy in the 17th century but gambling wasn't new – it had been a feature of Europe for thousands of years. Historians say that gambling in Europe started as early as 500 BC with dice games in ancient Greece. The Romans frowned upon gambling but Roman citizens were creative and found inventive ways, such as chips, that could mask their gambling activities.

Prohibition on gambling became an element of the Church but by Medieval times Europeans had developed new forms of gambling. This didn't prevent the authorities from instituting new restrictions from the authorities but it did encourage more secrecy on the part of the players.

The favored games of the 15th century included new types of card games. Most of the gaming entertainment took place in private homes. In 1638 the first gambling house opened. The Riddotto of Venice was owned by the government and was an official gambling venue. The Riddotto (which still exists today, though in a different location in Venice) combined gaming entertainment with top-notch service and a well-apportioned interior décor.

From the outset, the Riddotto geared itself towards an upper class clientele. It was originally envisioned as a carnival attraction but it stayed open well after the carnival closed and remained in operation for more than 100 years when gambling became illegal in Italy.

The Riddotto closed but other European countries had taken notice of its success. In 1762 the Redoute Casino was opened in Belgium. That was followed by the Baden Baden Bath House (which continues to operate today as the Casino Baden Baden), the Redoute in France and the Vaux Hall in Belgium.

Once the roulette wheel was introduced in France the casino industry exploded and the entire French Riviera/Monte Carlo region turned into a casino mecca. Some of the new casinos included the Villa Bellevue in Monte Carlo, the Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo and the Casino Terrazur of Cagnes Sur Mer, the Casino Joa D'antibes La Siesta in Antibes and the casino Barriere Cannes Les Princes along the Cote d'Azur.

European Luxury

In the heyday of the European casinos the sites were known as the playground of the rich and famous. Members of European families, including reigning monarchs, visited the European casinos where they could mingle among like-minded aristocracy and decision-makers

Today the casinos have found it advantageous to market to the widest clientele possible Most European countries host casinos. The largest number of casinos are located in Czechia (218) followed by France (201), Great Britain (148) and Germany (66)

For many countries a successful casino industry is dependent on the country's tax laws. Many European countries don't tax gambling profits and this encourages their casinos to enjoy success and growth. Some of the European countries that allow gamblers to take home all of their money, with no tax obligations to the host country, include Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Finland, Italy and the United Kingdom.

European Casinos' Economic Future

Casino analysts are suggesting that European casinos follow the examples of Las Vegas Casinos and reinvent themselves. From the 1940s through the 1970s Las Vegas was known as "Sin City" – a place of fun and entertainment.

In the 1980s casino developers Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson began to focus on identifying Las Vegas as a convention and entertainment destination. These two developers built casino resorts and convention centers that combine gaming activities with other pursuits.

Financial experts point out that people still come to play at Vegas but two-thirds of Las Vegas revenue now comes from hotel room rentals. European casinos still depend on gaming revenues but it doesn't have to stay that way.

Additionally, the Asian gambling market has expanded. Casinos have opened throughout Australia, New Zealand, Macao, Hong Kong and Singapore. The growing middle and wealthy classes throughout Asia, especially in China, is fueling the Asian casino industry.

Casino advisors note that, by combining tourism packages with casino packages, the European casinos would appeal to the Asian market.

New Avenues

Today's European casino operators are working hard to come up with new ideas for attracting young players. These innovations include introducing new types of slot machines that deliver wins based on the gamer's skill. Other innovations include LED screens that switch from one interior background to another, gravity-free rooms, virtual-reality shoot-em-up games that combine with traditional gaming machines and more interactive gaming options.

For the companies that own the casinos, however, it's not clear that these options are the way to proceed. High-tech glitz and glitter requires high-costs to acquire and maintain these elements. The bottom line for many casino operators involves the economic feasibility of making such investments since, in the end, they might not appeal to younger players.

Appealing to younger players is a risk because, research indicates, the majority of the millennials don't have the ability to access a large amount of ready cash. Additionally, statistics cause gambling executives to wonder if young gamers are prepared to gamble big.

Many 20s and 30s would simply prefer to play at Vegas style games online which provides more entertainment and more excitement than the "stogy" old casinos of Europe.

Casino insiders worry that if the casinos make big changes they would risk alienating their older, more reliable patrons. But if they don't take a chance on something for the young, the future of European casinos is in doubt.

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