Tech and the Gambling Habits of Generations

group of Boomers using a smart device to take a photo Source: Milwaukee Independent Digital technology – at this point in history, our lives depend on it. While technology has been in our lives for decades, we have seen an upswing in the last 30 years. We have quickly gone from almost abandoning touch-tone phones and CDs to cloud technology and virtual reality video games. Two generations are at nearly opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to adapting to technology evolution. These generations are the Baby Boomers and Millennials. The dichotomy in their behavior towards tech evolution affects gambling habits as well, setting up the casino industry to take an interesting turn in the near future.

A Tale of Two Generations

Both the Baby Boomers and Millennials rejected the lifestyles created by their parents. However, they adapted to the technology of their time differently, setting up an interesting parallel as we examine each generation’s traits, priorities, and gambling habits.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers were born between 1945 and 1965. Literally born during a “baby boom”, these kids were the product of parents who had delayed marriage and childbirth during the Great Depression and World War II. When Boomers were from teenage years to early 30s, they were experiencing the first IBM PCs and Apple computers. They did not grow up with mobile tech, only using devices like radios, televisions, and rotary landline phones. This generation is considered “digital immigrants” because they did not gain access to digital technology until much later in their lives. They lived most of their childhood, teenage, and young adult years without screens. Their interactions were organic and outdoors. When the Boomers were first introduced to a real tech wave in the 1960s, it still did not have much impact on their lives. By the 1970s, developing technology was still not considered a major necessity. Most people saw technology as something only academics and scholars used. However, by the 1980s, technology was finally becoming more a part of people’s everyday lives. Boomers began actively using modern credit cards, mobile phones, and other mobile devices as they have become more prevalent in recent years.


Marketers of the digital tech industry have been much more interested in the children of Boomers – the Millennials. Born between 1979 and the early 2000s, the Millennials are known as the “digital natives.” Most of them have not known a world without the established technological evolution. For the Millennial, technology is ever-changing, unlike their Boomer parents who saw slow, relatively inconsequential tech evolution during their formative years. During the 1990s, technology exploded, and Internet was born, connecting everyone from around the globe. Most Millennials barely remember a time when life was not digital. As a result of this technological upbringing, Millennials have different money-spending behaviors and priorities from their parents. Compared to Boomers who were concerned more about just comparing prices and brand names, Millennials make decisions based on the company as an entity as well as price. They care about what the company or organization represents and base their opinions off that trait.  Millennials also tend to go for technology-forward products, whereas Boomers are still less inclined to integrate tech into their daily lives.

How They Use Technology Differently

Based on how they were raised, Boomers and Millennials experience a divide in how they view today’s technology. Boomers like to use technology to help them find information and for the sake of expedited convenience. Millennials mostly use the same technology for establishing connections and contacts. Basically, the Millennials see tech as a way to maintain social circles and self-expression, but their parents still see social media and smartphones as “new tech” to be mastered. Yet, older generations are catching on. A recent report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has proven that Americans over 50 years are branching out and using tech to stay connected. In fact, 7 in 10 Americans above 50 use a smartphone and 9 in 10 use either a laptop or PC. Marketers have picked up on Boomers starting to use more technology. They realize that the older generation is the one with they money. However, they also know that Millennials are setting the mold for future generations of technology users. Tech is here to stay and industries, including the gambling industry, need to strategize to meet the demands of tech-loving demographics.

Gambling Behavior Differences Between the Two Generations

The way Boomers and Millennials use technology is reflected in how they view gambling and spending money in general. Boomers like more material things they can buy whereas Millennials seek experiences and connections. When it comes to gambling, a New Jersey casino study showed that only 8.5% of a Millennial’s vacation budget was spent on gambling. 23.5 percent of non-Millennials (older generations) would include a gambling budget when on holiday. Vegas is also a concrete example of the big differences between the two generation’s gambling habits. In 1985, nearly 58 percent of a visitor’s budget was spent on gambling. By 2015, if someone went to Las Vegas, only about 35 percent was spent on gambling. To adapt to these changing figures, casinos in cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City have started to adjust their strategies. Now, beyond gambling, they offer other entertainment activities such as shopping, dining, and clubs headed by famous DJs to attract the younger crowd. Remember, Millennials like experiences. Why do Millennials not want to gamble as much as their parents? Part of this is – to recap – due to how each generation was raised. Baby Boomers used to have limited options: Las Vegas or New Jersey. However, for the Millennial, times have changed. Now you can also gamble online or go to local tribal casinos. Gambling was also a rare occasion or treat for Baby Boomers. They planned a vacation to Vegas and spent months saving so they could have the time of their lives. Millennials see gambling as an everyday opportunity, if and when they want to partake. Millennials also grew up with another aspect of gambling that Boomers did not experience: mobile and online casinos. This generation grew up knowing that online poker and slots are as easy to download as play as Angry Birds. four Millennials standing together using their respective digital devices to communicate Source: Getty Images

Economy Factor

Another big difference between Boomers and Millennials are what they want to spend their money on, dictating how they view gambling. Boomers came from one of the strongest economies in history and devoured capitalist opportunities with abandon. Millennials came of age during the Great Recession and are more careful about throwing their money on chance. They experienced a worse economy than their parents and are faced with piles of student debt and severe unemployment rates, leaving them with less disposable income. A Millennial needs to see spending as an investment and not a frivolity.

The Future of Gambling

Online and land-based casinos are acutely aware of the differences between Boomers and Millennials. As a result, there is no end in sight of the development of the online casino industry and mobile gaming. Millennials live their lives on smartphones and computers and casinos are adapting to this trend. Casinos are also moving more towards marketing skill-based games. Millennials are more intrigued by games that require skill, similar to video games. Games more anchored in skill include online poker and fantasy sports gambling, both preferred by Millennials. It will be interesting to see the direction casinos are headed as they learn to cater more to upcoming, technologically-driven generations. Are you a Millennial? You may also enjoy reading this article about defining traits of your generation.

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