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September 14, 2014

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2011 Forecast: The Economy:

Las Vegas Strip looks to adapt to a changing market

Las Vegas must reinvent the wheel to emerge from recession, appeal to changing audience

Image

Leila Navidi

The Strip, with more rooms to fill and recession-weary customers spending less, is finding ways to lure in younger people, who will be casinos’ new customer base as Baby Boomers retire.

Click to enlarge photo

Tourists, in surveys by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, say they want value, variety and transparency when they come to Las Vegas. And they abhor hidden resort fees.

It’s easy to fret that the glory days are over for the Strip — the wellspring of our economy and icon of our global identity.

After all, so much is going wrong. The slow, semistagnant recovery from the recession. Intense competition in the U.S. and abroad for gambling dollars. Aging Baby Boomers spending less. People seeking gaming venues closer to home. And, if only symbolically, the likelihood no casinos will be built for years.

Still, there are the optimists who believe the Strip’s irrepressible entrepreneurship and ability to dazzle and draw will surmount all obstacles and challenges.

In these dismal days, there is much introspection — backed by the beginnings of action — to guarantee the Strip does far more in the future than merely survive.

“Newness, which has long driven Las Vegas growth, will not be part of the immediate future,” said Bill Eadington, director of UNR’s Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming. “Las Vegas may become yesterday’s news unless it can figure out a new way to reinvent itself.”

Many Strip watchers think it has enough new attractions to lure visitors for years to come. Other experts think casino operators aren’t innovating enough to attract customers.

“There seems to be an attitude in Las Vegas that the business will return once the economy comes back,” said Patrick Bosworth, an industry consultant and former business strategist at Wynn Las Vegas. And yet, the Baby Boomers who have primarily fueled Strip profits for the past 20 years are exiting their peak-spending years and retiring, in many cases, with less money to spend, he said.

“Demographic trends worked in our favor for so long,” Bosworth said. “Now they are working against us. It’s a serious problem ... and a bigger marketing challenge to figure out how to get people with less money to spend it in Las Vegas.”

Although Las Vegas can expect a modest rebound as the economy improves, casino operators will be forced to compete more aggressively for business by fine-tuning marketing campaigns for specific audiences, said Randy Fine, another casino marketer-turned-industry consultant, formerly of Caesars Entertainment.

“This is a capital-addicted industry that has looked to money from Wall Street to solve its problems,” Fine said. “There’s anxiety because there’s no more of that money.”

Although savvy marketing can help, “it’s unclear we’ll ever get back to our best year because that was based on a bubble economy” and before the addition of more than 20,000 luxury hotel rooms to Las Vegas, Fine said. “This is a long-term problem.”

Even the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority — which projects confidence about surviving the recession while area hotels maintain a high occupancy rate — recognizes that the city’s long-running “What happens here, stays here” marketing campaign needs tweaking for a post-recession audience.

Surveying visitors

The authority just wrapped up one of its biggest and most ambitious research projects: Seven months of phone surveys, focus groups and interviews with Las Vegas visitors before, during and after their trips here — even arming some visitors with video cameras to report on their experiences.

The conclusion, said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing: “People want transparency, value and variety.”

Travelers want value packages that allow them to pick and choose what to do and where, Tull said. One example is an all-day restaurant pass that can be used at various resorts owned by the same company. And visitors abhor hidden costs such as resort fees that aren’t fully disclosed upfront.

Research indicated Las Vegas should focus its scarce marketing dollars on people who need an excuse to travel here and those interested in the city who don’t know much about it and need more details to be persuaded, Tull said.

New ads will show specific examples of what visitors can do here, rather than a generic place such as the back of a limo or a hotel room, to evoke a feeling of anticipation, she said.

One recent TV spot follows women in town for a bachelorette party as they eat in a restaurant, take in Matt Goss’ show, descend an escalator at the Forum Shops at Caesars and go to a nightclub, for example.

“There are 41 million people who are not opposed to Vegas and have money to travel, but lack an understanding of what Vegas has to offer,” said Tull, using a figure extrapolated from the authority’s research. “They know we have shows, but couldn’t name them. And they don’t know which chefs are here.”

Still, Tull and other industry executives think the Strip — by changing enough shows and restaurants so that fans return — will be able to rebound from the recession.

Some experts say the Strip might get a bigger boost next year from tourists with a pent-up desire to travel who cut back the past couple of years and companies loosening the purse strings on corporate trips.

“Corporations cut back on travel too much and have realized that to grow business, they have to put people on the road and send them out to shows,” said Jan Freitag, a vice president with Smith Travel Research. Competition is stiff for the nation’s top convention destination, however, as other cities add and upgrade convention facilities, he added.

According to American Express Business Travel, in the third quarter Las Vegas experienced the fourth highest year-over-year increase in hotel rates nationwide after New York, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Those rates rose 4 percent to an average of $124 per room per night. Overall, businesses increased spending more than consumers in general and across all travel sectors, including hotels, cruises and auto rentals, American Express said.

Betting on Las Vegas

Click to enlarge photo

Phil Ruffin, owner of the New Frontier, speaks during an interview on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003.

Phil Ruffin, who bought Treasure Island for the discounted price of $750 million in 2009, is among those wagering on a Las Vegas comeback.

That bet is paying off as earnings at his privately owned casino are expected to increase in the first quarter of 2011, he said.

Although casinos are proliferating outside of Las Vegas, the city will attract visitors because of its numerous amenities that can’t be found elsewhere, Ruffin said.

“We have more to offer and at cheaper rates.”

Ruffin seems well situated to weather the next decade: Most of his customers are 40 and younger, have yet to hit their peak spending years and have time to build a retirement nest egg.

Revamping hotel rooms, restaurants and nightclubs may not be enough for Las Vegas — already second to Macau in gambling revenue — to grow as it once did, however.

“In the short term you get more people wanting to come to Las Vegas,” said I. Nelson Rose, a gaming industry consultant and professor of gambling law at Whittier Law School in California. Long term, people will take advantage of more convenient gambling outposts.

Thirty-seven states have some form of casino gambling, and others are pressing for casinos or expanded gambling to grab tax dollars.

Intensifying competition “can only further erode demand for Nevada gaming,” Eadington added.

Slowed growth in the United States has left Nevada’s largest casino companies seeking profits abroad. The stupendous growth of gambling revenue in Macau and Singapore is inspiring other countries, such as Japan, Thailand and India, to consider Las Vegas-style megaresorts. Casino companies are increasingly shuttling customers to Las Vegas from sister casinos in Macau, where taxes are higher and revenue is split with third-party managers. Yet the spread of casinos means more places for Asian high rollers to gamble outside Nevada.

Competing for younger customers

The Strip — and gambling as a whole — face increasing competition from video games and other forms of cheap home entertainment.

A new generation of potential gamblers, now hitting their 40s, grew up with video games and are still playing them for hours on end.

“We haven’t really put them down. Video game developers recognize that and are trying to retain that market with games that appeal more to adults than children,” said Dan Birlew, a Las Vegas resident who has written dozens of strategy books on video games.

Americans spend more on video games, consoles and related equipment than on all casino gambling combined, according to industry sources. And yet, analysts say video games and portable gaming on iPhones and similar devices are capturing time and money that younger generations might otherwise spend at casinos and other entertainment outlets.

“When you play as many video games as I do, it’s nice to get away from a screen and have a real life experience” at a restaurant or show, said Birlew, who gambles infrequently. Still, “if it’s ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ versus going to a casino, someone of my generation may have more fun playing a video game all night.”

Casinos have diversified in recent years with elaborate nightclubs and pool parties that attract younger customers who don’t necessarily gamble. They are jumping into social media, with discounts and events promoted via Facebook and Twitter — although marketers say hotels have yet to merge these new media with the rest of their marketing efforts or personalize them enough for individual customers.

Catching up

Because Strip casinos were so profitable for so long, they didn’t have to spend money on technological innovations, Bosworth said. The recession caught casinos off guard and is forcing them to catch up with retailers and other industries that do a better job tracking customer purchases and preferences, he said.

Despite cutbacks elsewhere, MGM Resorts International is investing millions in a customer tracking program to reward visitors for spending money on hotel rooms, meals and other nongambling amenities. Caesars Entertainment has upgraded its system to incorporate nongambling spending and expand beyond its traditional customer base of frequent gamblers, although it rewards more points for gambling, making it difficult for nongamblers to build up points.

The city’s newest resort, Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, gives nongamblers or occasional gamblers the same access to hosts that gamblers have via a loyalty card that can be swiped at restaurants, shops and the front desk. Customers can also earn other perks such as free hotel stays, much like those offered by nongambling hotels, for staying at the Cosmopolitan.

Click to enlarge photo

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Monday, December 13, 2010.

Some companies are spending money on elaborate hotel pricing systems and gambling technology — all designed to painlessly squeeze more profit out of recession-weary consumers.

Mostly, though, casinos are negotiating lower debt payments, paying off loans and cutting back on frills. Many also are slashing staples, defined as the “maintenance capital” and used for things such as replacing casino carpeting and table felts that quickly wear out.

Even Ruffin, who thinks the Strip has seen the worst of the recession, harbors some concerns about debt-ridden neighbors.

“You have to upgrade your hotel continually. But a lot of these guys are strapped, so some rooms might be getting a little shopworn.”

Catering to the customer

There’s also customer service to consider.

“There’s a natural inclination in many organizations post-downsizing, for employees to duck taking a risk at precisely the time that innovation, creativity and prudent risk-taking are a priority,” said James Berkeley, a London-based consultant who has worked for hotel and gaming companies.

“I question the focus (on customer service) because my recent observations are that outstanding customer experiences, whether it’s an outstanding concierge, croupier, restaurant manager and so on in Las Vegas, has more to do with smart employees doing things through their own volition and personal gratification than identifiable organizational change,” said Berkeley, director of Berkeley Burke International. “I hear more comments that those changes are making life tougher, not easier for those people.”

Although Asia’s world-class hotels benefit from a culture where employees genuinely love what they do regardless of pay, their Las Vegas counterparts can do more with what they have by offering financial incentives to exceptional employees, Berkeley said. Employers should review career goals with underlings and honor workers who not only performed well but “who displayed the right behavior, irrespective of the outcome.”

Fine, the industry consultant, says he has a silver-bullet solution for the Strip’s business woes: “If we could transform the town into a place like Hawaii and Orlando where people go for seven nights, we could fill up all our rooms without adding a single car trip, plane flight or additional customer. Seven-night visits would solve all our problems.”

By marketing Las Vegas as a relaxing retreat rather than a hyperactive party town, the Strip could boost business among visitors who come here in large numbers, he said.

Some experts say that won’t fly and that Las Vegas’ longer-term growth will be hampered by the image that made it a success in good times. Las Vegas is viewed as a fun yet exhausting experience that can’t be sustained for more than a few days, they say.

After flirting with family-friendly attractions in the 1990s, Las Vegas embraced its roots as an adult playground, cementing its image as a brief, whirlwind escape for adults rather than a place to spend a leisurely week with the family.

Despite its many amenities, Las Vegas will have difficulty broadening its appeal much further, said Adam Hanft, an author and marketing expert who has consulted for media giants such as Viacom, AOL and Reuters.

“Perceptually, Las Vegas is one-dimensional. It’s flashy, loud, new and big. If you put people under an MRI, certain segments of their brains would light up when you talk about Las Vegas. You’re never going to expunge that.”

Rather than give Las Vegas a try, Hanft thinks visitors seeking more intimate, personal and less overwhelming environments will likely go elsewhere.

Temptations to spend, crowds and sensory overload make for an exhausting, expensive experience that doesn’t lend itself to a lengthier stay, said David Horne, president of VIP Travel Services, a New York travel agency catering to wealthy clients including celebrities, athletes and Wall Street executives.

“The Vegas experience is being out all night, boozing, gambling and entertainment. I’m 34 and after my third day I’m ready to go home,” Horne said.

Wowing the crowds

Weekends will always be the main draw as they attract a wealthier, more hip crowd “that doesn’t want to be in Vegas on a Tuesday night,” Horne said.

Although the rich seek deals to keep more of their wealth intact, travel experts say the middle class is getting sticker shock as some amenities such as cocktails and night life are “out of whack” relative to the cheap cost of a hotel room.

“Vegas is not a cheap town. If you spend a lot of time on dining and entertainment and night life, tipping this guy and that guy and buying a four-bottle minimum, you’re done after a few days,” Horne said. “And it’s too easy to lose money in the casino.”

Still, Horne doubts that Las Vegas, despite its coming dry spell for new resorts, will lose any of the “wow” factor that attracts both Middle America and the rich and famous.

Some experts think a sports arena could boost tourism by attracting a major league team and other high-profile entertainment acts that could be packaged in a showy way. Critics say it won’t do enough to boost volume. Nor should an arena happen at all if taxpayers are asked to subsidize it given the uncertain payoff of publicly financed stadiums, they say.

When its NFL team isn’t playing there, Dallas’ new Cowboys Stadium has hosted corporate events, religious ceremonies and concerts drawn to its high-tech features and ability to seat 80,000 people. These big events could be held in Las Vegas, with its unique ability to host large overnight groups, Bosworth said.

Competitors opposing Caesars Entertainment’s stadium plans are pursuing “parochial” interests rather than cooperating for the overall benefit of Las Vegas, Horne said.

Having a plan

All is not lost, however. At a time of cutthroat competition, Las Vegas hotel operators are working together on a plan to jump-start business.

One result of the LVCVA’s research has been meetings among the big hotels to discuss the results and develop more citywide events, like the National Finals Rodeo, that end up benefiting hospitality businesses across the valley.

Click to enlarge photo

Saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer rides Starburst during the last night of the National Finals Rodeo Saturday, December 11, 2010 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“We’re going to identify three or four events we can embrace as a citywide experience,” said Tull of the LVCVA. “If it’s a Halloween event, we’re going to say, ‘Vegas owns Halloween’ and make sure resorts are offering services and an atmosphere geared toward Halloween.

“And we’re going to talk more about being a destination where we can have major events like NFR, the marathon and NASCAR Champion’s Weekend happening simultaneously.”

It’s all about giving people more reasons to travel in tough times, said Tull, who has overseen frequent changes to the city’s marketing campaign in an attempt to strike the right tone with consumers.

“Before the recession, people spent freely and didn’t need a plan. They were willing to come here and fly by the seat of their pants.”

It’s a new world in Las Vegas, with new rules, Tull said.

“Spending is off and spending will continue to be off. This is a new customer.”

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  1. It's no secret patrons coming to Las Vegas expect value, quality and a better selection of products and services. Las Vegas never had to compete for business. Now, the customers are telling us what they expect. How they are telling us is by not spending freely, but instead spending selectively.

    The new buzz words for the Las Vegas visitors; Value, Quality, and Selection. The new focus for the casino operators; Honest Marketing, Availability, and Presentation.

  2. The only good points I got out of this long article were the survey results stating that tourists hate resort fees and other hidden costs, and Mr. Ruffin's comment that hotel owners must continually upgrade their rooms but that is difficult for cash-strapped owners.
    The rest of the article seems to be just fluff, with people throwing around buzzwords and other nebulous phrases that probably mean nothing.
    My own opinion is that Las Vegas will fully recover: 1. over the longer term if the American economy ever does become strong again. (or)
    2. in the short term if owners with deep pockets purchase the debt-strapped casino giants.

    Don Desaulniers (Belleville, Ontario)

  3. I only hope that just one of the corporate morons will read what us readers thinks about how they run their casinos!

    My wife's nephew in town this past week staying at Caesars, he and is wife come from Colorado, he is a high school principal, she is a teacher in there 40's. They stopped to play craps on a $25 table, only because that was the only tables they could find open, and said that the dealers were rude, and that they were harassing the player that had the dice, they never saw anything like that in Colorado .! When they asked me about how they were treated, all I could say was welcome to Vegas, and corporate greed!

    When asked where they should go and play, my answer was get off the strip, there are no decent games you can play there, the slots do not pay out anything, and the table games are now carnival games.
    The food is all over priced, and so are the shows!

    Do you think they will be coming back to Vegas, the answer is "NO', they can stay in Colorado, and go to Black Hawk where they are treated the way all players should be treated, with respect!

    Until players feel that they are getting something for their dollar, they might come here one time, then get run off by the corporate greed!

    What do you think will happen when they get back home, and are asked about their trip to Vegas, just how many players did they just stop from coming to Vegas, when they tell their story?

    Then of course you have the resort fees that everybody is now charging, just one more nail in Vegas coffin! Also the bad service with all the cut backs, isn't Vegas a great place to come?

    Where at one time you had casinos that were competing for your business, now you have corporations that don't care, they own how many casinos around the world? If they are not making money here, they are making it over seas, just look at where Steve Wynn is going, and it's not here!

    Stop spending money on research, and give the players a break, and you will have players coming back...!

  4. The reason people came to Vegas in it's early days is still valid today. People want the thrill they just can't get in Billings or Springfield or Anytown USA. They want to see the Las Vegas Strip, the lights, the glitter, the shows and the whole "Party-like-there's-no-tomorrow" attitude.

    Then reality rears it's ugly head. "How much is the room, how much are meals, how much is even a crappy show and how much am I going to lose in the casinos?"

    The reason Las Vegas is in a slump in this economy and Disneyland is still doing ok is in the value of the experience. When people go to Disneyland they just forget how much they spend once they're in the front gate and when they leave they think "Yeah, we spent a bunch, but we had fun!" The good memories continue all the time they're paying off their credit cards.

    Once Las Vegas returns to giving people a good return on the value of their experience things will turn around. And the best part is it's not complicated. It really is as simple as the old 99 cent buffets and a good show for a two drink minimum. People will spend more money once the casinos stop constantly reminding people just how much they're spending.

    Bring back the celebrity greeters to welcome people at the door of a casino, sign autographs and get their picture taken with guests, not this nonsense of paying a Paris Hilton type tons of cash to attend a party just long enough for a photo-op.

    Disneyland has had basically the same business model since they opened. Their last major change was dropping the ride tickets in favor of an all-day pass, and that was over 40 years ago.

    Las Vegas needs to go back to what it was originally, "Disneyland for Adults".

  5. The BIGGEST loss of visitors came from one dumb idea. As a convenience to the casinos they eliminated coins. True they saved man hours this way but at the same time they got rid of employees and changed how/where gamblers played. The BEST experience a winner feels is the sight & sounds of what seems to be an unending cascade of coins falling out of the machine, whether it is pennies or dollars. Not a printed ticket with FAKE noises & the hidden knowledge that THE CASINO still has YOUR MONEY HOSTAGE! ! ! ! Big deal the coins give of grime/ dirt. It makes you feel like old Vegas times, a mobster & his DIRTY money

  6. I run a Las Vegas travel site. I constantly get the same complaints with number one being the "resort fee" that are sprung on them when they arrive. Second is the cost of food. Third is the fact that the value priced properties are gone or shrinking.

    Even though resort fees are legal, they are too sneeky and not worth it. To charge for a bottle of water, that they can buy at the Walgreens or CVS or one even includes free show shine service. That is a great deal for a city that wearing tennis shoes or sandals is the norm. Internet access is necessary for business people not vacationers. They can use their cell phones for email access. Phone service included is a laugh in this day and age of the cell phones. They are forcably charging for thing the regular visitor will never need or use.

    When I contacted a few management teams I was told that they have very few complaints about the fees. Not sure if they are ignoring the front desk or just dont' care. Married couples will complain but guys checking in with a girl and not wanting to look like a cheapo will suck it up and just pay it.

    Same with food. Way overpriced especially on the strip. Even the lower priced hotels charge and arm and a leg for food. People remember or heard of the cheap all you can eat 24 hr buffets that no longer exist. Not a giant loss but still if you spend all your money gambling you need something cheap just to survive. Starving gamblers remember the Boardwalk buffet. Yuck but at three in the morning and hungry as can be it still served the purpose.

    All new casinos are bigger, better and the most expensive to book. That is ok as long as there is a supply of cheaper rooms available. Logic is they just need a place to sleep for a few hours a night. They don't have to be impressed. Sure the older properties are becoming the lower priced but the prices still don't compare to the Westward Ho, Stardust or New Frontier when they were around.

    One of the ways for Vegas to survive is to change the gambling age to 19 like it is in other countries. A lot of young couples come here to get married with the groom just turning 21 yet his bride is 19 or 20. He can gamble but she can't even stand or sit with him. This has to change to allow for the ones coming to celebrate their right of passage becoming 21 yet many of their friends are under the age. Drinking isn't as much an issue as just the right to hang around the casino. Look at the Indian Casinos, 18+.

    Sure Vegas has to change to survive but you have to let the people have the money to gamble once they are here. Everyone wants to know how to do Vegas on the cheap.

  7. I agree with those stating thar "value" and "service" need to be a priority. While it is true that certain levels of service are only available to those willing to pay the price (Wynn, Bellagio, Venetian, etc) where you pay a high rate but are treated somewhat like royalty, those of us who do stay in the low to mid priced places expect prompt service, a clean room, NO RESORT FEES, and simple friendliness. We like Luxor, but resort fees have kept us out. IP is our favorite, low priced, no frills, but the rooms are clean and they are friendly. Might try TI sometime (do they have resort fees?). We don't worry about the overpriced restaurants on the strip all serving the same thing. We bring our car, and have several favorite "off strip" restaurants that the average tourist doesn't even know about (no long lines!). The buffets are all way overpriced now. We will go to one once in awhile, usually as a "comp" on a room deal.
    The casinos in other states still serve one important purpose for L.V. They get new gaming customers in the door, and a lot of them will get the desire to step up to Las Vegas because Las Vegas is still the ultimate. Just like a minor league baseball fan has the desire to go to a big league game, or a midwest Six Flags customer desires to go to Disneyland.
    I seriously doubt that those calling for legalization of pot, etc. will bring any significant new business to town, it might just run off more of us old timers. While it will likely be legalized in my lifetime, by the time it is, it will also be legal in other states like California, so it will not offer a "reason" for anyone to go to Nevada. A lower drinking age will only add to the number of drunks on the street.

  8. I had to get all the way to the last post to hear an intelligent assessment.

    Congratulations,JLouise!!!

    There is no "going back." "Back" is gone.

    Indians casinos, Internet gambling and Macao...

    ...not to mention the new Las Vegas attitude from employees, who have been reduced to slaves, threatened daily with being fired for some contrived reason and also being thrown out of their (horribly devalued) homes by the truckload...

    Employees with hostile and complacent attitudes...what a mystery!

    Las Vegas can either de-populate, find something new ...REALLY NEW or be retrieved by the desert.

    What?...I'm wrong?...then bring in the clowns for the final act!

  9. Las Vegas is what it is. Most people I know love it the way it is. Everyone who works at any of the casinos are friendly and go out of their way to help the visitors. Remember if you change what you are to be more like someplace else, then you become just another generic town. We come there because of the small things, like being able to smoke a cigar while playing a slot machine. Try that in California and you could get arrested, or at least your stay will be unpleasant. Believe it or not, Las Vegas is a great place to relax just the way it is. You might have to visit there a few times to find out that secret, but it's worth it. God Bless you all and my wife and I will see you in the spring..
    Sgt. Mike.

  10. No bait and switch resort fees. Iwill be loyal to the palazzo 4 to 5 times a year
    Ace 's

  11. I agree--there is "no place like Vegas" to give an ametuer gambler like me a buzz just thinking about it. Las Vegas is a supermall of games of chance, and conditioned reflexes are slow to extinguish. But the high price of buffets and the tightness of the slots, is taking their toll on my Vegas buzz level these days.

    For example, the buffet at Bellagio is excellent, but not worth $35 a plate. Dinner for two with a decent tip left teeth marks in my wallet that $90 wouldn't fill. (That would cover several months' worth of Angus Burgers at Mickey D's!)

    A Hidden Resort Fee is sneaky!
    Just be up front with your room charges , guys. "Your comped room will cost you $16 per night, Sir."
    Okay! Not free, but very cheap for a deluxe room.

    Coin slots vs printed tickets
    I used to feel that the absence of hot coins drippng through my fingers would crimp my ganas for playing the slots--I'm a tactile person who talks with his hands and generally experiences the world through its "feel". But slot tickets turned out to be cool-- when you get a big jackpot, those numbers jump pretty high off the paper, something really nice to show the wife. With a bucket of quarters or dollar tokens, there was always a feeling of "Jeez, exactly what does all that amount to?" and waiting for the drama of the change person to refill a slot was ...(insert your favorite phrase here)

    The Big Slot Hold Percentage Mystery.
    "Which machines are the loose one, eh? Ask Louie back of the bar. He'll tell you if you slip a fiver in his pocet."

    How about this? ALL SLOTS ARE SET AT 100% PAYBACK!

    You pay a small cover charge based on the number of pulls. No mystery. No tight/loose chip rumors.
    No paranoia. Straight up! Pay up or shut up!

    See ya in Vegas in about a year, if I can get my credit card buffet charges paid off and figure out which casinos have the loosest slots.

  12. Las Vegas is and always has been a boomtown. With the boom comes the bust. Anybody wringing their hands over that probably shouldn't be in the game.

    Want to get back to a more livable, profitable Las Vegas? Let's shrink to 1,000,000 residents and 25 million annual visitors -- all of whom actually WANT to be here!

  13. Great article! All the suits want to spend money doing surveys that will validate corporate themes, but they won't listen to actual -- and, increasingly, former -- customers tell them straight out why they aren't coming. And, until they do listen and change, downhill

  14. I just believe they built casinos like there is no limit, not even the sky seemed to be the limit for their efforts of generating more and more profits.

    But it's nothing but simple math: What somebody wants to win, somebody else has to lose. And the more casinos of sizes such as the Venetian, MGM , etc are being built, the more gamblers are needed to feed the greed. If these mamuth builings are built on debt mainly, then it's like walking on dire straits. If you don't reach your benchmark targets, you will lose, even if the players lose, too.
    Simply by opening another and another and another new resort it doesn't mean more gamblers are being born and willing to bring their hard earned dollars to these casinos. Wynn and Venetian figured this out a long time ago, so they decided to go to the players (Macau) and not have the players come to them (Vegas). It's only logical. But this is not the end yet. Other countries also want a piece of this cake called "easy money". Vietnam is working on legistation, Japan is also working on legalizing gaming, and Thailand is in the waiting-pipeline, too. Oriental gamblers are the bread-and-butter of the high limit pits, and if they don't make it to Vegas, Vegas has to find alternative solutions. Creating 6:5 b-j or raising higher resort fees will definetely not do the job, dudes.

    From Switzerland

  15. my tip: get rid of these mexicanos handing out stupid entertainer fliers, and get rid of the vendors on the street. bring back the true good gaming value and the players will appreciate it. a real gambler doesn't want high deluxe suites and 5star meals, he wants value quality food and a clean room to sleep. And no shoe shine service or a daily newspaper on his door in the morning.

  16. In the Sacramento area, there are
    a number of casinos with dedicated non-smoking salons set up so that smoke from the smoking areas does not enter. Both smoking and non-smoking areas are equally busy.

    A non-smoking casino facility with a full variety of machines would bring me back to Vegas in a heartbeat. Smoky air combined with dry desert air makes my nose bleed. Not fun when you blow your nose the next morning and the tissue turns red. Overtime, my lungs would get sick, if I were to be around smoke daily.

    I promise you, a non-smoking casino would bring people. What can you lose by trying?

  17. Friendly Customer Service at a Las Vegas Strip resort? Now that's funny. A nice thought., but funny if you expect to find that.

    When the strip is owned by only two, deep in debt organizations and haven't a clue on how to pay for it, we are cooked.

    There is enough here to keep a guest busy for days and never touch a slot machine. but the resorts don't like to let the guests know that. (shows, tours, canyons, hikes, trains, etc...)

  18. OK. It is now crunch time. It is now or never. Either the casinos react to all of the comments noted above, NOW, or they go down the tubes. It is that simple.

  19. The new younger crowd 18 to 40. Yes, I said 18 the Ca
    Ifornia Indian casinos are allowing them as we speak. They want bars, dance floors,loud music and girls. The only table games that are of interest is blackjack. This will be a large portion of tomorrows Vegas crowd. Weed will be dispensed by vending machines. Kids are driving 80 miles one way out of los Angeles to get to palm springs area indian casinos. The days of a beach party are gone in sunny california

  20. Great comments, everyone! And yes, the people in charge ought to READ and UNDERSTAND what everyone is saying and build on that.

    But do you think they will? It all has to start ASAP not sometime down the road in the hopes that "maybe" Vegas will come back to it's former self.

    The country has changed and most likely will never be back to the way it was 3-4 years ago. Sure, we'll get better again, hopefully sooner than later, but it won't be the same; people have changed. Gone are the days where spending money foolishly was the norm. People will still come to Vegas, but they want what everyone has said - a decent hotel room for a decent price, reasonable costs for a good meal and no more $15 drinks!! (No wonder people bring their own coolers! If you can save money somehow so you have money to gamble with and to go see a show and have a nice dinner - go for it!! Bring the damn cooler!)

    Vegas has to change along with the rest of the country or it will not survive. One thing - it has to become affordable again.

  21. These vending machines on each floor in the hotels selling coke cans for 2.50 or so. Plus then there are these "ice dispensers" of which my parents warned me about many years ago. I wonder how many times these machines are being cleaned or desinfected. Perhaps 1x in 5 years or so, more seldom in the offstrip hotels that are more than 30 years old, probably. They would have to re-new the maintenance contract with the manufacturers, which they of course don't do. So here's my advise: Use this ice just for cooling down your soda bottles, but don't ever put it inside of your drinks....

    Well, fortunately the US FED keeps printing dollars and new dollars and some more dollars, so the exchange rate for 1 dollar compared to 1 Euro or 1 Swiss Franc has dropped so much that visiting Vegas now has become a real bargain. Even shopping has become fairly inexpensive for overseas travelers, but these airline agents have no sorry when they check on the luggage, so buying much stuff is not recommended unless you come in town with 2 almost empty bags. Which I usually do :)

    Why I am mentioning this all? It's simple, but obviously many US Casinos still underestimate the true value of the situation. They still don't really appreciate these overseas travellers. Instead of starting aggressive marketing in Europe, I hardly see anything alike in the newspapers. But this could be a true opportunity to pump up business in Las Vegas, my friends. Perhaps you don't want money from Europeans. I just thought from reading all these articles that each and everyone is looking for alternatives. I would be more than happy in assisting anybody who's got a good business model in running an overeas office to bring Europeans to Las Vegas. But, as we see once again, they're rather trying to take out the in-debt-Americans than taking chances on the easier targets. That's pretty sad.

    From Switzerland