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The battle for Gen X

Oct 12, 2004 4:10 AM

By Mark Mayer

Hard Rock Hotel President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Kelley held nothing back in proclaiming his hip gaming and entertainment venue "champion of the generations X and Y gaming explosion."

"We were the first and we’re still leading the way," Kelley told a standing-room-only crowd during a "bells and whistles" presentation at G2E that included the Miss Palms twins, an upbeat but computer flawed video presentation and miniature state of the art lighting effects.

"We’re all about attracting the age 21-49 crowd because that’s where we feel the future of gaming lies," Kelley said. "Kids like the fast life and to be entertained, and that’s exactly what we have provided."

Kelley cited projects such as The Joint, the Sunday night "Rehab" and the ability to secure the top celebrities into its nightclub as examples of how owner Peter Morton has been able to "change the face of gaming."

"The Rio was successful in the early 90s, but it’s now attracting an older type of audience," Kelley said. "We are leading the future of gambling." Glenn Buxton, marketing consultant to some of music’s top rock and roll talents, said that the Hard Rock has been the best place to work with in terms of promoting both gaming and entertainment.

"You don’t see the Rolling Stones or The Who or Rod Stewart perform in a 1,500 seat venue like The Joint," he said. "Those concerts are events. Fans never get the chance to see these megastars play in small venues. Hard Rock has worldwide recognition and appeal."

Buxton praised the Palms for its recent deal with Playboy and for "doing a great job in taking giant steps to catch up in securing the Gen X and Y crowd.

"Hip hop is not quite my style of music, though," he said.

Kelley said the hotel would continue its "bad boy image" of self promotion, which recently came under severe criticism for its racy billboards.

"We were pleased with the response of the ads and our policy is not going to change," Kelley said. "We’re always going to take the opposite position, because that’s what we like to do. And, our customers like that too."

Kelley said that by bringing young people into his hotel, the amount of play in table games has increased dramatically.

"Young people like fast games and action," he said. "High stakes excitement and celebrities bring the beautiful people into our venues. Our crowd prefers table games to slots and that’s what we will focus on here."

Shuffle Master executive Brook Dunn, agreed with Kelley that the Gen X and Y crowds are heading for upgraded table games.

"Playing pai gow poker and eliminating the dealer will create much faster hands and a more interesting game," he said. "Certainly the rise of poker on television has had a huge affect on the popularity of table games.

"We like being called a company that caters to the younger generation," Dunn said. "It’s an exciting time in the industry."