Borgata: prototype of future casinos?

Jun 1, 2004 5:20 AM

By any yardstick, the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City is big business. It cost $1.1 billion to build, according to its CEO, Bob Boughner, who, as a keynote luncheon speaker at last week’s Gaming Technology Summit, pointed out how the Borgata changed the face of gaming in New Jersey.

The hotel has 2,000 rooms, nearly 3,600 slot machines and a 50,000 square foot European spa and pool. The Borgata, a joint venture between Boyd Gaming and MGM Mirage, has 7,100 parking spaces, 11 restaurants and a casino floor that covers over 135,000 square feet.

It also has all manner of technological marvels that have done everything from speeding up the valet parking process to keeping track of employees’ uniforms. The technology at the Borgata came at a cost that Boughner put at $52 million and in many instances it appears to be state of the art.

For instance, the technology gives the hotel a license plate recognition program that enables the hotel to keep track of the number of times its visitors return. There are also technological advances involved in the hotel’s music zones system, food and beverage touch screens, and exterior sprinkler system.

Boughner said he used technology to address one of the most frequently heard complaints of visitors to Atlantic City’s casinos, which was that the air inside the hotels smelled. The Borgata boasts of a 100 percent fresh air exchange system.

But for all the gee-whiz gadgetry, Boughner said he became exasperated by one of the oldest and most basic of all businesses tools — the telephone. The hotel was losing a substantial amount of business when it first opened last July simply because callers were being put on hold for a longer period than they were willing to wait.

In keeping with the business philosophy of "if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed," Boughner said the hotel did a study of how long it took the PBX operators to answer a call with a goal of having 90 percent of all calls answered in less than 10 seconds. It took five or six frustration-filled weeks for the hotel to respond successfully to what he called the "single biggest challenge we faced" but the goal was finally reached.

Judging by the hotel’s operating results, its biggest challenge these days is keeping track of the profits that are rolling in from a variety of sources. According to charts readied for Bougner’s presentation, the Borgata has increased the portion of revenue its tables and slots share from 11.10 percent in August of last year to 13.20 percent this April. Total revenue, which includes both gaming and non-gaming revenues, has never been less than the $53 million posted in December with the peak month so far being last August, when the hotel reached the $70 million mark.

The charts also showed Borgata running in either first or second place in almost all measurable areas of financial success in the areas of slot play and table games with Bally’s being its principle competitor. Speaking of the technology employed by the hotel, Bougner said "Without the tools, this would not have happened."

One of the most eye-catching statistics produced during the presentation was the number of workers who applied for jobs at the Borgata. He said the hotel received 65,000 applications for 4,800 positions. He said 41 percent of all the casino workers who had jobs in Atlantic City applied for positions at his hotel.