Friday, March 9, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Smartphone applications powered by a local manufacturer are changing the way people interact with casinos, restaurants, shows and other attractions along the Las Vegas Strip.
MGM Resorts International says there have been about 800,000 downloads of more than a dozen iPhone and Android apps that people can use to explore Mandalay Bay, the Luxor, Monte Carlo, the Bellagio and other megaresorts.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Lou Ragg, vice president of Internet operations and marketing for MGM Resorts.
The apps allow resorts to target users by GPS signal, offering different deals depending on how close they are to their destinations.
“They allow you to see certain information you can only see at the properties, which is different from the information you can see if you’re at the airport,” said Aron Ezra, vice president of mobile technology for Bally, who led the team that worked to develop the MGM apps.
Ezra is the former CEO of MacroView.
A customer with the app on his or her Droid may be having dinner at the Cafe Vettro at the Aria and receive notice of a special in the casino. Someone in Tulsa, Okla., can use the Monte Carlo’s app to book rooms at the resort and make other travel reservations. A conventiongoer at Mandalay Bay can check conference schedules on customized features on that resort’s app. Other apps allow users to book a dinner reservation at MGM Grand or a nightclub table at the Bellagio.
“This provides us in-depth contact with our clients at any of our properties,” Ragg said.
Apps give a personal approach to staying in contact with visitors, Ragg said. That’s increasingly important as Vegas casinos compete to keep people on their sites longer.
Opportunities last only a few days. Of the more than 700,000 people who arrive in Vegas each week, most stay less than five days, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. While in town, the average tourist will visit more than six casinos and see three shows.
“Being able to reach consumers through smartphone applications is a huge opportunity for the industry,” said Randall Fine, a gaming consultant. “I’m a huge believer in the power of mobile.”
For an idea of how many consumers the technology can reach, consider that about 850,000 Android smartphones are being activated daily. That’s just a portion of the total number of activations, since there are mobile operating systems besides Android, which was developed by Google.
Some may wonder why they have to download separate apps for each property as opposed to one that would cover all casinos and resorts in Vegas. Ezra said a shared app would be cumbersome.
“You’re really limited in size, and these properties are huge,” he said. “The MGM Grand alone has hundreds of pages of content. Along the Strip, you’re talking about hundreds of restaurants, hundreds of nightclubs, hundreds of casinos and hundreds of activities. Building an app to cover all those would be unwieldy and difficult to navigate.”
The individual apps also allow each resort to target its clientele in ways a shared app would not, Ezra said.
“It’s all about being able to send the right information to the right person,” he said.
Functions on the apps are changing weekly.
“This week, the new iPad came out, and we’re having to go back and add those new features while making sure it all still works with older versions,” Ezra said. “It’s tough to get bored in this business.”