The great thing about the annual Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas is that whether you’re looking for the latest in slot design, cash processing, mobile gaming, revenue management or player development, the most forward-looking companies are all there under one roof.
This year, a common refrain walking around the expo floor—among more than 27,000 attendees and nearly 400 suppliers—was: “What’s the coolest new thing you’ve seen?”
Bill Miller, attending his first G2E as President and CEO of the American Gaming Association, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that, “The future of gaming is here on the exhibition floor. You’ve got people that are continuing to innovate, and we’ve seen it on the floor all week.”
On the expo floor and in the educational sessions, the hot topic was, of course, the newness of sports betting and how it will affect total resort operations moving forward. There also was plenty of discussion around resort fees, online gaming, better engaging a new generation of players, and using data to make better operational decisions.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie opened the event with an impassioned update on the U.S. sports betting market, saying that while early critics thought sports betting would destroy land-based casinos, in fact the opposite occurred. Today, 13 states have sports betting.
He suggested casinos make it as easy as possible for people to gamble on sports, including an embrace of digital platforms and currencies.
As expected, sports betting devices took up a much larger chunk of the expo floor this year, including suppliers of desk-sized terminals with large touchscreen monitors to watch the games and place bets.
Bigger and Better Data
Casino are not only remaining cutting edge on the casino floor but are starting to truly value innovation in the back-of-house as well. Casinos operators driving the most revenue are the ones using data sharing to clearly evaluate which decisions, whether it’s staffing, marketing promotions, comp strategies, room rates, etc., are most successful.
More data allows casino operators to better evaluate their player segmentation and make sure they’re getting the right guests in the door.
“Based on the success they’ve had with rewards programs, you start to see casinos really interested in continuing the good work on the customer side and now using data better and applying analytics in other areas in the business,” said Kelly McGuire, principal at McRevenue hospitality consultancy, during G2E. “There's growing interest in pricing and revenue management, there's growing interest in operational efficiencies, and then that extends through how we improve the customer experience on the website.”
The Value of Ancillary Spend
Driven mostly by a new generation indifferent to slot machines, casinos continue to evolve and expand their amenities beyond gaming. This has led to a more complex discussion around the value of a guest through the different revenue touchpoints of a casino resort.
Until fairly recently, casinos’ main focus was to get a guest in the door to gamble, and that often meant comping them a room or a heavily discounted meal. Now operators are getting smarter about the value of a room, and the days of free buffets are all but gone.
Meanwhile, casinos are better understanding how their guests spend money across all touchpoints and “valuing” that guest, or determining the right amount of reinvestment in terms of comp or discount, based on total guest spend.
“The more information we have, the better decision we can make, of course,” said John Bernard, associate director of customer success at Duetto, during G2E. “In some situations, we can look at folio data, which breaks down what each gaming segment is spending. This ancillary spend gives us a more holistic view.”
The elephant in the room, just days after Caesars Entertainment announced it would raise its resort fees to more than $50, was how the strategy around this revenue driver will evolve.
Scott Stratten, billed as a “top marketing influencer” and president of UnMarketing, took his keynote opportunity to bash resort fees, particularly those not disclosed up front. “You’re just delaying the outrage and passing it along to your frontline,” he said.
On one hand, resort fees are a revenue source free of third-party commissions and in some cases allow casino to charge lower rates. On the other hand, they can be deceptive to guests if not disclosed properly up front and included when guests are comparison shopping.