With G2E 2016 just around the corner, Las Vegas has been on my mind. I’ve been traveling to Las Vegas my entire life and can actually remember when the Mirage was first opened (November 22, 1989!) and it was the latest and greatest property on the strip. I also remember when Vegas shifted its messaging from an adult playground to a family destination (remember the MGM Grand theme park?) but over time the messaging shifted back to its original “Sin City” roots.
Vegas has gone through so many phases since I’ve been traveling there, but only now have I started to notice real change, a shift from old school Wynn and Adelson mentality to a new one more like Jim Murren’s. I also predict the gambling industry will notice a lot of change at G2E this year, but we still have a way to go before the sea of slot machines on the expo floor will be reduced and replaced by something new.
Outdoor venues for food, drink and fun
One of the most obvious changes to Las Vegas over the past year was the opening of “The Park”, MGM Grand’s “pedestrian experience” located between the Monte Carlo and New York, New York properties. I actually stumbled across The Park when I was in Las Vegas this past April and couldn’t believe what I was seeing- a grassy strip of outdoor bars, restaurants and entertainment, accessible only on foot. What a nice change from the dark, windowless, smoky inside of a casino, I was thinking.
The old school mentality of Vegas tycoons was to “trap” the customer inside the casino, let them forget about the time and charge them for using hotel facilities such as the gym….anything to keep guests in front of the slots and table games. While I understand why this was the original strategy, the younger generation does not want to be “trapped” anywhere, if they want to gamble they’ll gamble, the time is easily seen on their mobile device which is in their hand at all times, if they want to go outside, they will go outside. So why not give them what they want instead of forcing them to do something else?
MGM Grand’s CEO Jim Murren is an example of a Las Vegas leader who understands the need to adjust his properties to stay up-to-date with the times. I’m looking forward to watching his movements with Monte Carlo’s rebrand to Park MGM and NoMad in addition to further efforts to “regenerate” the West side of the Las Vegas strip.
Stop thinking like a “box of slots”
Roberto Coppola is a Las Vegas-based marketing consultant for the gambling industry and a true visionary for how things must evolve in Vegas in order to hold the attention of millenials, both young and old. “We’re all millenials”, he told CalvinAyre.com.
When it comes to the actual casino floor inside the Las Vegas properties, Coppola advises to stop thinking like “a box of slots” and focus on psychographics. “My grandma is on Facebook. If you look at Facebook’s fastest growing user segment, its 60 to 70 year olds. So increasingly, everyone is adopting a new way of thinking about leisure & entertainment”, he said.
So why are we seeing forward change with entertainment in Las Vegas such as The Park, but no substantial changes on the casino floor?
“Regulatory plays a role as well, manufacturers are hindered by what they can do certainly, that’s why you’re seeing non-gaming really outpacing gaming in terms of innovation- its an easier solution”, Coppola told CalvinAyre.com.
Despite the need for change, there is still a demand for slot machines and that demand will remain for years to come. In order to cater to all interests, Coppola suggests creating micro-environments or zones within the casino floor “creating exclusive areas for different types of customers to interact in a different way”, he says.
Taking a bet on eSports and other skill based video games
One of the areas casinos really should focus on is skill-based video games, including eSports. Two possibilities for casinos include creating a “micro-environment” for gamers to play against each other for real money or creating an environment for spectators to watch and bet on matches, similar to what Vegas does with UFC events.
Simon Thomas, CEO of Hippodrome Casino in London, recognizes the potential of eSports along with its wide, young fan-base and he told CalvinAyre.com eSports can serve as a fantastic way to attract more people in his building.
“We use sports like NFL actively – we promote it, we do an incredible experience so the American customers will want to come to the Hippodrome and then when they’re there, they will then spend money and we see eSports as exactly the same space. Its incredibly popular, its growing, the technology behind it is just going to keep changing exponentially. It will get better and better. And if we can become a home for eSports fans, they will come into the building and then they will see the attractions we have on offer”, he said.
While the Hippodrome’s plan for eSports is likely going to be different than a Vegas casino’s plan due to regulatory restrictions on sportsbetting in London-based casinos, Thomas is embracing an emerging trend and looking for innovative ways to attract new customers into his property.