Can Vegas stay relevant?

Aug 21, 2018 3:00 AM

It is an interesting time in Las Vegas. In the midst of an extended economic resurgence in our country, the largest operators in Las Vegas have made public statements that they expect softness in their third quarter occupancy and room rates. They further suggested this softness is coming from the lack of events and conventions as when compared to last year.

In hearing these comments, I could not help but think back to what the various owners and boards of directors would have said to me if I had made such comments back in my days of running gaming resorts. I know one of my former owners, in particular, would have directly and with generous use of expletives asked what he had me for if I was relying on my competitors to feed my property business. I was expected to create business, take a few calculated risks, see the future and solve problems before they could become problems.

Times then were different though. Gaming was not available in some form or another just about everywhere in the country and the properties in Las Vegas had more distinctive differences between each other than what exist today. I am not trying to extoll that things were better then but prompt the question of what are the properties doing to stimulate new traffic and interest that will give the players a unique memory they will relish and share with others.

Casino resorts are in many ways not very different than traveling carnivals. Both are designed to provide unique experiences, thrills and excitement to their customers. When the customers are done, if they made great memories, had fun, got their endorphins going or left with a fun story to tell, then they really did not care how much money they spent on their adventure.

Also, if they had a really great time they generally can not wait to go back again and, as important, tell their friends and family about their adventure. Word of mouth even in today’s social media centric society is still the best marketing a business can have.

It would be easy to snipe and question why some of the larger gaming companies could not – with all their resources, marketing data bases and ability to move people – do a better job; or even question where was the tax-subsidized Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which was established to help drive business to the city.

But in my opinion the real questions are: What is the new evolution in Las Vegas going to be that stimulates the excitement and interest to compel new and return visitations? Will the new evolution be such that other competing gaming jurisdictions cannot easily copy the new formulae?

While I do not know what the new evolution will be, I do know that by and large the public will want an immersive adventure that lends itself to selfies, 360 videos or adventures they can brag to their friends about. I also know if the property has not changed its shows, restaurants or something else defining its image and maintaining its stature with its targeted demographic, no different than a carnival ride ridden by a customer too many times, it will lose its thrill.

CGT still has black cloud

Last week, the company that probably did more for the cause of advancing sports wagering throughout the country, and if not was certainly among the loudest in creating the tipping point that turned public opinion into nation wide acceptance of sports wagering, CG Technology, settled yet another matter with the Nevada Gaming Control Board over issues with their sports wagering software. While the settled amount of fine sounds large at $250,000, a little research shows, in comparison to the wealth of the majority controlling partner in the company, it would be about the same as $15 to a regular Joe like me.

While I did not find the fine of much interest, two things did catch my thoughts: 1. Will the black cloud that seems to have stalked CGT for the last several years ever go away? 2. What or where is the responsibility of the private labs and the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Testing Lab for approving the software the company was using?

The second question is one that has bothered me for a long time on this and similar other cases as I have always found it silly that when a gaming company comes up with some new or novel technology, it must put it through either the Nevada Gaming Lab or a private lab for an extended period of testing, then get the stamp saying good to go. But if for some reason it goes array, even for comparably nominal issues, they can be fined for it.

If there is no safe harbor for going through the testing, why bother with the testing in the first place? Just let the gaming companies go and if games or systems are not up to snuff then aggressively fine them. In this case, I wonder if the private lab(s) and or Nevada Gaming Lab that had to have blessed the particular systems before they were allowed to be used, were or will be held accountable as well.

Maybe it is time to fully do away with the pre-approving process of the Nevada Gaming Lab and just make them part of the audit and investigation function. It would certainly save time and money and put more new products on Nevada Gaming floors a heck of a lot faster.