G2E: Strip executives bullish, regional operator more cautious on gaming through second quarter 2022

G2E: Strip executives bullish, regional operator more cautious on gaming through second quarter 2022

  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
October 7, 2021 10:30 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Two Strip resort operators told gaming executives Wednesday they’re bullish for the rest of 2021 and into 2022, while a regional operator outside of Las Vegas said they’re “doing well,” but he’s already starting to see a cooling off from younger visitors as federal stimulus payments have wound down.

The off-Strip operator, Jim Allen, chairman of the Florida-based Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming, said despite his concerns, growth has been in the double digits and as he looks ahead 12-18 months, he remains optimistic for the industry.

However, while revenues have been strong, Allen said that since the end of August, they’ve been seeing softer spending from the 21- to 35-year-old segment of the market and cited ending of stimulus payments as the reason.

“We’re seeing a lot more visits from people who are 25 to 35 and hope that those 50, 60, and 70 will be comfortable coming back with the environment of COVID subsiding,” Allen said. “The question is whether that discretionary income is sustainable long term.”

Hard Rock’s casino business has grown beyond Florida, where Seminole Gaming operates six of the state’s seven tribal casino properties, including Hard Rock Tampa and Hard Rock Hollywood near Fort Lauderdale. In 2019, Hard Rock opened the $1.15 billion Guitar Hotel expansion at the Hollywood resort. Hard Rock lists 14 casino properties in the U.S., Canada, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Speculation continues over Hard Rock International and the Seminole Tribe becoming part of the Las Vegas landscape after shopping for locales on the Strip. Caesars Entertainment has talked about selling a Las Vegas property.

Hard Rock lent its name to the ownership of the off-Strip former Hard Rock Las Vegas, which is open today as a Virgin Hotel under the operation of Mohegan Sun tribe of Connecticut.

Later at a press conference, Allen wouldn’t discuss whether he has met with executives from Caesars or other companies. “If the right opportunity comes up for us, we recognize that Las Vegas is the capital of gaming in the United States.”

However, at the press conference, Allen also repeated his outlook. “We’re incredibly bullish long term — a year to 18 months and beyond.” It’s just that the company has a “more negative mindset” for this year’s fourth quarter and the first two quarters of 2022. “We’re just being cautious,” Allen said. “Let’s be fair. We’re privately held.”

Allen’s take differs from those of Matt Maddox, CEO of Wynn Resorts, and Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resorts International. They told the audience of several hundred people how optimistic they are about Las Vegas during a panel discussion with CEOs hosted by CNBC reporter Contessa Brewer. They’re especially excited about Millennials.

“I have never been more excited about the future of Las Vegas,” Maddox said. “Our demographics are shifting so much. We’ve seen so much growth of (younger) people coming to our properties and actually gambling. Remember in the old days, people said Millennials don’t gamble. That’s not true. We’re seeing people have realized that the experiences they get in Las Vegas they can only get here. You can get Drake only at a nightclub at the Wynn. This weekend, Justin Bieber is going to pop up at four different restaurants. Now you can go to a football game or UFC fight and hockey game all on the same weekend. When you think about what this town has to offer, it’s just getting started.”

As for MGM Resorts, Hornbuckle said he’s enthusiastic about Millennials’ strong slot play.

“A lot of our 65-plus customers haven’t come back yet, because of COVID concerns,” Hornbuckle said. “As we stabilize, I’m really excited about the future. The meeting and convention business is down, but it’s coming back, and we’re looking for it to be much brighter in that space. We’re really optimistic. There’s a lot going on in the community with sports and other activities and to Matt’s point, you can’t find that in any other place in the world.”