Plaza becoming the hot spot for bingo
December 06, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Jonathan Jossel, the CEO at the Plaza, isn’t buying into the perception that bingo is in decline because it’s only played by the older generation.
From his perspective, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I think it’s growing,” Jossel said. “At least for us, it’s growing for sure. We’ve never seen such consistent growth as we’ve seen now in the last 12 months.”
The Plaza has made bingo a major point of emphasis, particularly since Jossel took over a couple years ago. Next week – Dec. 12-13 – the downtown Las Vegas hotel and casino will host another of its popular Super Bingo tournaments.
Only this time it will be bigger than ever with 126 games scheduled over two days with payouts totaling $150,000.
Most of the games are going to pay $1,000 to the winners compared to $2,000 when there were fewer games on tap. More games, however, mean more winners. They’re spreading the prize money around a little more this way.
“I’ve seen it done one day,” veteran bingo manager Weldon Russell said of playing 63 games during a session, “but not back-to-back days.”
While numerous casinos in walking distance offer similar options in slots and table games, Jossel wanted something to set the Plaza apart from the others.
He takes great pride that they’ve got the only bingo hall in downtown.
“We’re known for it,” Jossel said. “We wanted to really focus on something that differentiated us. Bingo was that. It adds a different dimension to our property. We’re the only game downtown. At least a couple of (other downtown casinos) have tried, and it didn’t work out. People try things and they don’t commit to them. For things to work, you’ve got to stick the course. Sometimes it doesn’t always make money right away.”
Not only does the Plaza put on these marathon-like events six times a year, it also boasts of having the “highest payouts” for bingo in the Las Vegas valley on a daily basis inside a regular bingo room that seats 260 people.
For the Super Bingo tournaments, they move into a larger ballroom that can accommodate a crowd of more than 800. An estimated 85 percent of the entrants will be from out of town.
“It’s our best event by far,” Jossel said. “We’ve got 500, 600 (or more) people coming to downtown for three, four days, buying hotel rooms, buying food and beverage, buying bingo things, playing slots, seeing a show. That’s what you want.”
Russell, who previously worked for Station Casinos for 18 years, said many casinos target bingo players because they are often big slot players, too.
Some casinos, including Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock, are reinventing bingo with a party-like atmosphere a couple nights a month. Jossel said he’s surprised more casinos haven’t gone in that direction with different variations of the game. However, he added that such an approach isn’t necessary at the Plaza.
“For us, it’s not about that because our customers like the traditional game,” he said.
Jossel scoffs at the notion games like bingo and even slots could be in danger in the future because they aren’t appealing enough to the millennial generation.
“I don’t think like that,” he said. “I think that peoples’ tastes develop over time. Someone who’s 25 today, when they’re 40, isn’t going to enjoy doing necessarily the same things. They might become bingo players down the road. That’s what happens. Your tastes evolve. Bingo’s not going away. I think our numbers prove that.”
Not only did the Plaza hire Russell, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the bingo business, it also added a young “bingo ambassador” – 24-year-old Reynz Ungos – whose job is to meet and greet every player and set the mood for the room.
The Plaza is so committed to the Super Bingo tournaments the dates for 2017 already have been released. They will take place every other month – Feb. 12-14, April 9-11, June 4-6, Aug. 6-8, Oct. 8-10 and Dec. 3-5. The most popular ones are in February and October.
The entry fee is $130 for bingo only, but there are also special bingo/hotel room packages for a total of $239, which includes three nights at the Plaza. For more information, go to PlazaHotelCasino.com/bingo or call 866-768-7032.