Stirring the stimulus pot
While the U.S. casino industry has had to face record declines, many of the more innovative operators have stepped up their marketing and promotion efforts in order to shore up sinking revenues.
"It’s not that people aren’t coming, it’s that they are not playing as much," said Jack Breslin, senior vice president of marketing for GA Wright Casino marketing, a company that serves the casino industry. "Casinos are really scrutinizing their programs closely and offering things like midweek room deals, food offers and packages to keep people coming in to play in the casino, especially the top players who drive most of their revenue."
Indeed, the biggest casino operators including Harrah’s and MGM Mirage have cut their room rates and are offering all-inclusive packages to lure customers into their casinos and get them to gamble.
Casinos are also fashioning new promotions – slot tournaments, specialized entertainment, giveaways and the like – designed to pique customers’ interest.
At the Palms in Las Vegas, for example, the casino is staging a $400,000 Bad A$$ Blackjack Tournament next month for high-end players, and a huge Mini-Baccarat Tournament in April.
"The mini-baccarat tournament will be geared toward the locals market and it will be augmented by a promotion that will include commemorative gaming chips, custom bottles of Xo Cognac and unique entertainment in our Pearl theater venue," said Anthony Brandonisio, Palms executive vice president.
In downtown Las Vegas, Binion’s Gambling Hall last week launched a $20,000 Bailout Giveaway for players, who earn entries into a drawing to be held in April. Up for grabs is a $9,000 first place prize plus other cash and prizes.
In northern Nevada, the Silver Legacy in Reno recently kicked off a new promotion for 2009, the "All-New Million Dollar Weekends of Winners (WOW)," which awards a grand prize of $20,000 per weekend.
"It’s added value for the players to play," said Glenn Carano, executive director of marketing at Silver Legacy Casino. "The more they invest in their play, the more they have a chance to win, either cash prizes, machine play credit, food credit, resort stays, entertainment and so on."
The promotion debuted last week and the opening weekend featured a $40,000 giveaway.
The Mohegan Sun, a Connecticut-based tribal casino, has tapped into the government’s stimulus package with a "Stimulus, Recovery and Rebound" message of its own.
The promotion focuses on the hotel’s package deals, earning or spending points for hotel stays and other rewards, and a new around-the-clock $5 blackjack table for players.
While many casinos tie their promotions to slot club play and the earning of points or entries into a drawing, not all players view the results as just rewards.
Some players interviewed in Las Vegas casinos said they would prefer to have their name thrown into a hat for a drawing, rather than forced to play "hour after hour" in hopes of "winning a lottery ticket that will never be drawn," according to one Las Vegas player, who asked for anonymity.
"It’s not much of a stimulus package when you push hundreds of dollars through a machine, just to rack up electronic entries into a contest that you’ll likely never win," said the player. "I don’t think President Obama’s initiative would work if the companies earmarked for bailout money had to swipe their card and pray that they’re chosen from a list of two million names."
Maybe not, but the casinos don’t have taxpayer money to rely upon either.