Casino trends from the Southern Gaming Summit

Casino trends from the Southern Gaming Summit
Casino trends from the Southern Gaming Summit Any event that features over 30 sessions (when you include the companion Bingo World conference) and two high-profile keynotes is going to offer attendees something useful. Factor in the enduring popularity of the Summit, which attracts some of the most insightful and influential people in the business, and you have a recipe for success on the content side. Here’s a sampling: • Mixed signals on Asia from the Golden Nugget: When asked about exporting the Golden Nugget brand to Asia, owner Tilman Fertitta’s first thought was about jet lag; he hates it. “I have a bunch of restaurants in Asia; I’ve never seen one of them,” he said. “I really struggle with the time change.” Not enough to rule out Asia entirely though. “We do talk about [gaming opportunities] in Asia; we’re just looking for the right opportunity.”• Biloxi is still in rebuild mode:  “What’s happening in the Gulf is restoring capacity that was wiped out by Katrina,” said Frank Fantini, editor & publisher, Fantini’s Gaming Report. “The investments are really very modest. A $100 million [renovation of the Golden Nugget] is a lot of money for the Gulf Coast, but it’s not a lot when you look at what people are willing to spend to get into Massachusetts and Maryland. There are a number of projects that have been proposed here that just never happen because people can’t line up the financing. To have a game changer here, you will have to put up something Beau Rivage- or Hard Rock-like that will draw people to the market.” • “We have to think bigger.”: “If you come into the market and you bring only the normal amenities in the normal way, you’ll take from everyone else here,” said Thomas Hoskens, principal and director of strategic development, Cunningham Group Architecture. “What the Mississippi Gaming Commission wants us to do is bring amenities that are not here so we can draw from a larger region. People will go thousands of miles to find a new experience. In Vegas they end up going to the water shows, to theaters and to musical events. What this jurisdiction needs is to have more of these kinds of amenities that will draw people from further and further away. We have to think bigger; beyond the restaurants and rooms and the shape of the pool. We have to get to experiential events.” • Texas ain’t happening anytime soon: “As long as the energy industry is thriving [Texas] has no need for gaming as a source of tax revenue or job creation,” said Joel Simkins, senior gaming, lodging and leisure analyst, Credit Suisse. “For Louisiana, you’ve probably got a five-year runway, or longer, of no neighboring threats from Texas.” Additionally, according to Chris Jones, managing director, Telsey Advisory Group, Texas is not a market you can afford to lose if you’re trying to defend your position in Las Vegas. “That’s the thinking at Las Vegas Sands,” said Jones. “It’s an important draw; they’d rather keep the market the way it is.” Then there’s the political and cultural environment.  “Too many Baptists, as one of my clients there once said,” commented Fantini. • No relief for slot game sales: “It’s going to continue to be pretty tight-fisted,” said Simkins. “Operators are really rationalizing slot floors; either less machines or very careful about spending on new product. Until we get back to a 3 percent plus GDP growth environment, operators are not going to invest significant sums.” Added Fantini: “You see a lot fewer slot machines on the floor than you did a decade ago. Partly, because you don’t need ten slots for ten games anymore; one slot machine can offer ten games, and technology will accelerate that process.” • The games must change: If casinos are going to attract younger players to the slot floor, existing product will have to change. “The gaming devices, while there has been movement, really aren’t interactive enough,” said Vince Manfredi, president, Manfredi Consulting. “A 30-something is not going to watch sevens spin along randomly. Games like Candy Crush are a combination of luck and skill; it’s an experience that has a lot of variables. I think if we could start to think in those terms, we have an opportunity to capture the younger market.”  

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