Guest writer Stevie Seidenstein explains how the Las Vegas boardrooms have the customer all wrong.
There has been plenty of articles written looking back on Las Vegas and the way things “used to be”, but its time to take a step back and look at the issues facing today’s Las Vegas from the regular Las Vegas customer. Its important first off to explain that I am in no way an economist, accountant, or even have a college degree, but I do have something that seems to be missing these days…Logic.
First off let’s take a minute to picture ourselves walking down the strip in Las Vegas today. Besides the grand beauty of the resorts themselves, we have seen the transformation from the target customer being the average “Joe”, to an upscale yuppie who enjoys a 35 dollar cheeseburger. To make the point clearer lets jump back in time to a place that will make this point clear.
The time is the early 2000s and I am walking down the strip where I am all of a sudden pulled to look at a group of people standing and sitting at a blackjack table while shouting out loud what seems to be right on the sidewalk. As I step a little farther under the overhang I am met with the smell of cheap alcohol and fried food. As I step inside of this large dark opening I see what appears to be a funny looking Elvis knock-off playing a lounge show to a crowd that has a mixture of young people and a few pulling oxygen tanks to their seats. As I look further down the faded carpeted aisle I see tables full of yelling gamblers all being dimly lit by elegant looking brass chandeliers that my Aunt Diana had over her dining room table in the 80s. As I walk a little further I come to an open area packed with college students throwing ping pong balls into red beer cups right next to a food court frying up the source of the aroma in the Air. Where am I?… O’sheas. The least Bastian of the way Vegas used to be vs. the corporate monster that robs us of our money and our dignity.
Why I brought you to this time is simple. This was the Las Vegas which figured out long ago the formula to make the Las Vegas visitor want to go to their property and stay on their property. Its the old argument over quality vs. quantity and as the suits in the corporate boardrooms are finding, their battle is being lost in their decisions. The constant conversation with today’s pitch for “skill-based gaming” and hangout areas that offer ping pong and giant checkerboards results in their overwhelming attempt to gain the “millennial” to spend money. The reality of these pathetic attempts is that younger (and middle-aged) gamblers will spend more time and money on their properties if the Casinos revert back to giving us what we really want…cheaper booze, more comps, and free parking.
Now for the logical look at how none of this makes sense to me. Let just for a minute think about all the casinos do these days in their attempt to make their properties appealing to the customer. As we look at recent changes to the hotels we see celebrity chefs getting palaces built into the properties requiring demolition and construction to the point where the overall facades of the buildings are being stripped down to the beams. If a property takes into account what it’s costing them to build these yuppie havens into their properties, it clearly must be in the millions of dollars per project. If any Vegas executive in a boardroom decided to forgo just one million dollar project to build another “Bobby Flays”, and puts that money towards free booze or more comps for the average gambler, that one decision would probably yield them more money and business than all of the 45 dollar steak burgers in the world.
We see this wrong model going on all over the strip with inviting a corporate chain store to cover up a historic fountain at Caesars. Wouldn’t anyone with a brain think that if tens of thousands of people are taking a photo op in front of that fountain, that capturing a small percentage of that number would still give more profit than they are getting off the Samsung fountain rent? Imagine if the same brainiacs in the corporate boardroom kept the fountain in place, decided not to build the million dollar celebrity chef burger joint, and then had people offering the free booze and comps offers in front of that fountain to lure in the customer? Like I say, I’m not an accountant, but logic would tell you that quantity would win over quality.
So where does this leave us? It leaves us in an environment where the consumer has to make the conscious effort to do their homework before boarding that plane. Until someone like you or me gets hired to make decisions behind those corporate walls, it seems like the Harvard grad who cant hold his booze will keep deciding the future of Vegas based on his excel spreadsheet. We all know that ACE Rothstein from the movie “Casino” was right when he said “the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all”. We all know this to be the truth when it comes to going to a Vegas Casino, but the only way today’s Las Vegas properties will get their money from us is to get through the doors of their properties, to begin with. What I have to say is good luck!
[Photo Cred. LasVegasJunkie & Greg C.]