G2E: Industry must begin offering customers a “total experience”, panel says

October 17, 2019 10:10 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
October 17, 2019 10:10 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

Casino customers are becoming more interested in a total experience than just gambling – and that extends beyond the coveted millennial generation, a panel of executives said Thursday at the Global Gaming Expo.

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While people of all ages revel in experiences shared with friends and family, 70 percent of an average current casino floor is devoted to the concept of one player per slot machine, said Matthew Kenagy, senior director of sports marketing for Caesars Entertainment.

Kenagy oversaw the redevelopment of the Linq’s sportsbook, known for its variety of attractions, including the option to rent a “living room” called a Fan Cave that features three massive TVs plus game consoles for big sports events. He said the team began the project with a focus on attracting millennials, but soon concentrated on identifying behavior patterns that cross generations.

Kenagy spoke Thursday as part of a panel discussion on “Exploring New, Non-Traditional Methods to Monetize Your Gaming Floor.” Also on the panel were Michael Darley, CEO of Next Gaming; Gavin Isaacs, chairman of SBTech; and Oliver Lovat, CEO and managing director of Denstone REA Consultants of Las Vegas, which specializes in land-based casino development. GameCo Chairman Robert Montgomery moderated.

Lovat said a casino must have a laser-sharp understanding of their customers’ needs, whether that’s a nice restaurant or a good variety of slot machines.

“How do we get an emotional connection from our customer?” he asked. “You want to create a sense of belonging, a sense of identity, and a sense of enjoyment.”

Isaacs noted that when he started in the gaming industry about 20 years, the average age of a slot player was 46, about the same as today.

“We have to evolve,” he said, “and expand the universe of what we do.” The expansion of sports betting and the introduction of online gaming are ways of doing that.

People like choices, Darley said, and a casino should aim to ensure that those offerings complement each other.

“It’s not going to be everything for everybody. (But) if you really talk to your customers, they’ll tell you what they want.”

The panelists said that casino operators’ emphasis on quarterly profit, coupled with the industry’s traditionally slow-to-change culture, often prevent trying new projects that could pay off.

“You’re trying to get a new type of experience,” but bosses often focus too much what’s been tried and tested, Isaacs said.

“The way to put together a different experience is to invest in it,” he said. “Try to get incremental revenue – or even not. Try new experiences. That’s how things happen.”

He recalled the initial resistance to the introduction of ticket in/ticket out technology, which changed the slot industry.

Panelists cited other examples of successful non-traditional casino projects, including the Linq which is marketed as a “hotel + experience,” a European facility that has instituted cashless gaming, a Philadelphia casino that installed a 10,000-square-foot sportsbook, other casinos adding hotel towers and spas, and a London facility that capitalized on a nearby business with a “Magic Mike” show.

Kenagy said one attraction at the Linq is a series of digital artworks tied to the audio and motion of a nearby space.

“It’s generated an energy to keep the customer in the building, buy one more drink, play another dollar in the slot machine,” he said.

Darley complimented Caesars for taking a chance on the Linq project.

“We respect you for having the ability to not exactly know how clear that crystal ball is, but knowing you’ve got to look into it” he said, noting that regional casinos as well as Las Vegas destinations must do more for their patrons. “Talk to your customers and offer them an experience.”