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Trends to watch in ’08

Dec 31, 2007 5:33 AM

On the threshold of a new year, the gaming industry is poised for growth and innovation, on a global scale as well as in Southern Nevada.

As in other industries, technology will play a major role in gaming trends, but how companies operate will also be a topic to monitor in 2008.

Listed below are the top casino industry trends for 2008, as compiled by New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group, an independent research and professional services firm.

For the fourth year, Spectrum has compiled this list that addresses ongoing changes in technology, demographics, politics and regulation to determine the most significant trends.

New additions this year include the potential for expansion of gaming into urban markets, the likelihood of additional joint ventures between casino operators and international investors, as well as the monetization of non-gaming assets.

”¡ Introducing more electronic table games to slots-only markets, taking advantage of new generation of electronic games.

”¡ More joint ventures between casino companies and international investors, including divisions of governments, which will be a major source of capital for the industry.

”¡ Adoption of select new slot technologies that were originally designed for server-based gaming, including WMS’s episodic "Adaptive Gaming," which allows players to interrupt, and resume play at a later date.

”¡ Continued conversion of racetracks to racinos, as well as non-gaming expansions to existing racinos.

”¡ Development of "hybrid hubs" in which states opt for more reasonable tax rates, limited licenses in the hope of developing destination resorts.

”¡ Evolution of "hub-and-spoke" business models, as properties in high-tax markets develop alliances, and mergers with destination properties occur in low-tax markets.

”¡ Evolution of gaming companies into entertainment providers.

”¡ Expansion of communal gaming, in which multiple players can play in the same bonus round, with a new generation of games that have smaller footprints.

”¡ Expansion of gaming into urban markets, with the prospect of added convention business as the chief catalyst.

”¡ Gaming destinations targeting gamblers, others priced out of higher-end Las Vegas properties.

”¡ Growing partnership between gaming, high-end retail — and the marriage between retailing and casino loyalty programs.

”¡ Growth of conventions in destination, hub markets such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Mississippi, as these markets become more aware of this segment’s value.

”¡ Hotel-room growth, use as marketing tool in both hub and spoke locations.

”¡ Increasing alliance between commercial gaming operators and outside investors, as well as between commercial and tribal operators.

”¡ Increasing pressure for openings, expansions of Asian markets, and growing cross-market play between Asian and Las Vegas casinos.

”¡ Monetization of non-gaming assets, including on-site retail, dining and entertainment.

”¡ Next generation of Las Vegas casinos, creating full-service metropolitan centers, with multiple brands at multiple price points at one location.

”¡ Networking of slot systems at new casinos, with continued resistance to widespread server-based gaming at existing properties, based on pricing, other concerns.

”¡ Renewed focus on stepper slots, simpler bonus rounds in a new generation of slot machines.

”¡ Significant expansion of gaming in central and eastern Europe, at selected resort destinations that would serve as tourism hubs, which — along with continued expansion in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere — will put added pressure on U.S. regulators to ensure that international licensing standards are adequate.

”¡ Tribal gaming’s expansion into commercial casino markets, and management contracts with other tribal casinos.