Skill Gaming Struggles Continue, Manufacturer Synergy Blue Cuts Staff

Skill gaming machines were once all the buzz in the US gaming industry. But the innovative gambling devices never caught on.

skill gaming machines Las Vegas casino
skill gaming machines Las Vegas casino
Skill gaming machines, like this multiplayer one from Gamblit on the Planet Hollywood casino floor in 2017, have largely been removed. The devices are designed to cater to millennials, but haven’t been successful. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Synergy Blue, a Las Vegas-based gaming manufacturer that is owned by the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians in Southern California, announced this week that it is greatly reducing its workforce. In a statement to CDC Gaming Reports, Synergy said it has contracted Innovation Capital to search for “strategic alternatives.”

Innovation Capital describes its firm as a “leading boutique investment bank dedicated to representing mid-market clients in the gaming, leisure, restaurant, and retail industries.”

It has become painfully obvious to us that we face significant expense hurdles the longer we operate at full capacity,” explained Synergy Blue CEO Amanda Vance. “Unfortunately, like so many other companies in our sector, we were forced to make the painful move of downsizing our operations in an effort to stretch our resources to be able to survive this situation.”

Synergy Blue reported having 46 employees on payroll at the end of 2020. The company did not specify how many positions were eliminated this week.

Skill Gaming Incompetence

Numerous leaders in the US gaming industry came to the conclusion several years back that something had to be done to lure younger people to casino floors. Millennials, research found, don’t nearly fancy a traditional slot machine as much as their elders.

One study, conducted by YouGov, a data analytics firm in London, found that nearly one in two millennials find casinos depressing.

Skill gaming machines, products that involve chance but also elements of aptitude, emerged as a possible solution.

Manufacturers included Synergy Blue, Gamblit, and GameCo. Tens of millions of dollars were invested and spent on research and manufacturing. Dozens of skill gaming products were developed. But today, casino floors are largely vacant of the games.

Gamblit and GameCo have been the skill gaming market leaders. But the companies’ machines are on only two Las Vegas Strip casino floors — MGM Grand and Park MGM.

Gamblit cut its workforce in 2019. And more recently, GameCo’s founder and CEO Blaine Graboyes was denied a new gaming license in Nevada.

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Commission said Graboyes’ past business dealings rendered him unsuitable to continue conducting business in the Nevada gaming industry.

Slots Still King

Traditional slot machines continue to generate the lion’s share of gaming revenue for US casinos. Unlike in some Asian markets where table games are the bet of choice, Americans lose more on the one-armed bandits.

Despite the pandemic and every single commercial casino being forced to close at some point last year, slot machines won more than $18.8 billion in 2020. That was down 33.8 percent from 2019.

Table games won $5 billion in 2020, a year-over-year decline of 39 percent.

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