New casino is same
old-same old

Aug 8, 2006 3:07 AM

Why does Paul McCartney command and receive $150 for a nosebleed seat concert ticket? Because he can!

How many Sir Paul, ex-Beatles are there? One! He is a rarity. For the privilege of seeing him belt out some "yeah, yeah, yeah’s" for two hours, an individual is willing to trade the proceeds of 30 of their minimum wage working hours. By the time Ticket Master, the T-shirt hawker, and the concession stand has been paid tribute, the whole 40-hour minimum wage work week is gone. Worth it? You bet.

Would one pay the same amount to hear and see Huey Lewis and yesterday’s News find Viagra as their new drug? Not bloody likely. There are too many comparable or substitute experiences available.

Except for the premium performers — The Rolling Stones, Prince, Madonna, et al. — most acts are a performance commodity. Styx, Doobie Brothers, Lynerd Skinner, the Guess Who — they’re the same caliber of band, co-billed with puppet shows (a la Spinal Tap) at different state fairs.

Some casino gaming outlets have also become somewhat of a commodity. The ephemeral "friendliest staff" is not a differentiating variable nor is the difficult to justify claim of a casino being a "fun" place.

The field of gaming is within the hospitality realm. Therefore, by definition, the experience better be fun and friendly. Fun and friendly environments in a casino are as di rigeur as having slot machines and tables.

When a casino chooses not to make a mark with a proverbial volcano, pirate ship battle, or other element of wow, the property is reduced to its most basic elements. The newest addition to the Colorado gaming scene unfortunately represents a commodity locale.

Form follows function. This seems to be the design tenet of the new Century casino in Central City. On July 11 at a little after five in the evening, the Century was opened to the public. The soft opening occurred with relatively little fanfare. I had the honor of placing (and losing) the first bet on the blackjack table. As an afterthought, Paul, the dealer, handed me a stylized firework logo-ed and yet still non-descript coffee mug.

Approximately 10 days later, the grand opening occurred, but to play-off the Rolling Stones latest CD title without a bigger bang. Yes, someone won a cash drawing of $31,000 and a total of $50,000 was given away, but in comparison to the opening of the Red Rock casino in Las Vegas, where the value of a small country’s Gross National Product was spent on fireworks alone and the topper was a hiring of a little known performer named Sting (wink, wink), the Century opening did not deserve the prefix of "grand."

While I had hoped the casino would add more flair between the soft and grand openings, during a recent post grand opening visit, nothing had changed in terms of layout, décor, or customer amenities. From first impressions, I felt the casino was uniformly bland and generic in its architectural, interior, and operating design. My viewpoint has not swayed.

While the building retains the façade of an historic structure, truly the building is no more authentic than the big boxes found in Black Hawk. Except for a distinctive script utilized with minimal signage (e.g., currently, there is a piece of paper taped on the wall reading "blackjack" with an arrow pointing to the pit area), the casino is barren of any brand markings. The casino floor seems like it was assembled from a casino supplier’s catalog (e.g., cliché patterned carpet, flat screens here and there, cookie cutter gaming equipment).

Even the dining facilities are uninspired. The "Retro" deli is not retro at all. Maybe some 50s style neon signage or a juke box would earn the nomenclature, but all I could ascertain is a snack bar serving basic (and a bit overpriced) sandwiches and deep fried food; similar to what might be offered at a bowling alley. The downstairs sit-down restaurant served adequate Applebee / Bennigan’s quality food, but had no signature markings to entice a diner to return for another visit.

The parking garage has 500 covered spaces, but no market standard valet service. Also, there is an apparent complete absence of security / surveillance cameras; nor did I witness any security guards making, what should be requisite, rounds. When I park my car, I like to go inside the casino to gamble, not gamble on my personal or possession’s safety in the adjacent structure.

It would be negligent if I did not mention that there is a player loyalty club. Again, there did not seem to be any insight or innovation with the two tiered (e.g., gold and platinum) club. Instead of taking the opportunity to be a market leader in terms of cash back, comp opportunities, or cross-brand tie-ins, this "Gold Club" is not worthy of the high value precious metal for which it is named.

Finally, realizing the proximity to this facility to the Central City opera house, there was not one shred of evidence that the casino thought to entice this well-heeled and demographically appropriate group of potential patrons. Something as simple as a banner hung on the nights of the opera encouraging a visit with a Westward-Ho level rudimentary marketing trick such as a benign ice cream social would show some effort.

A few months ago, I wrote that the Century Casino had an awesome opportunity to begin operations tabula rosa. From all indications, the future success of this property in the increasingly competitive market is questionable due to the fact that the Century Gaming, with their Central City development, did not embrace the opportunity of being original (in any regard) or even meet the competitions’ levels of services and amenities.

Founded in 1996, Yarborough Planning, LLC partners with select clientele to better understand and address business process issues. Core competencies include providing reliable and valid research, strategic / analytic marketing, and accountable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and implementation. David Paster is accepting new clients and may be reached at (702) 813-5062 or [email protected]