Research Library

Casinos and the City – A White Paper

Casinos and the places where they can be found have increased dramatically over the last twenty five years. Where at one time there were only a few places on the planet where one could go to participate in legal gambling activities, today casinos are a fairly common enterprise. In the United States alone, there are over 900 commercial and Indian gaming establishments. Casinos can be found not only in North America but also throughout Europe, Central and South America, Oceana and Asia.

Since the passage of the Casino Control Act in 1976, legalizing casino gaming in Atlantic City, NJ, casinos have been narrowly viewed as a tool for urban redevelopment, providing tax revenues to state and local governments and jobs to its citizens. Their success in providing those benefits cannot be disputed. Collectively, the casinos in Atlantic City, the riverboat and barge casinos in the Midwest and southeast United States, Indian casinos, and the land-based commercial casinos in a number of US cities as well as those on the Macau Peninsula and Singapore have contributed billions of dollars to government coffers and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. However, their success as a tool for stimulating commercial activity within the neighborhoods that they are located in has produced less dramatic results.

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New Kid in Town: Can Vietnam emerge as an international gaming-resort destination?

Despite the recent downturn in gaming revenue in Macau, Asia remains the region of the world with the greatest opportunities for casino development. While Japan and Taiwan remain the most enticing markets, if only enabling legislation were to be passed, other markets are attracting the interest of casino developers. Unfortunately, most of those opportunities are in markets that are loosely regulated, difficult to get to, surrounded by poor infrastructure or require border crossings that can best be described as challenging.

One market that continues to interest investors is Vietnam. With 92 million citizens, a burgeoning middle class, good airport infrastructure and airlift to a number of nearby countries, Vietnam appears poised to emerge as a regional gaming market that is capable of producing a prodigious amount of gaming revenue. Nevertheless, a number of issues must be resolved before the country can live up to its potential.

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The Tipping Point: Rising slot hold percentages are driving players away, and revenue down

Gaming revenues, and in particular slot revenues, continue to decline in most U.S. gaming jurisdictions. This pattern of decline began at the onset of the recession and has continued even as the economy improved.

Casino operators often cite increases in gaming supply in adjacent states and a slow economic recovery in their markets as reasons for this decline. While the recession certainly affected discretionary spending during the height of the recession, hitting casino gambling hard, the U.S. economy has largely recovered. Gaming revenues, though, have not.

Key macro-economic indexes have returned to pre-recession levels. Two indexes, employment and consumer confidence, have long served as bellwethers for gaming revenue forecasts. In August 2013 the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.5 percent, down from 8.2 percent for the prior-year period. By August 2014, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.4 percent. In August 2013, the consumer confidence index stood at 80.3, up from 75.3 in 2012. By August 2014 it rose to 82.0.

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Killing the Gaming Experience

Regional U.S. gaming markets continue to see month-over-month declines in gaming revenues. Analysts tend to blame the weather, the economy, market saturation, increased competition in neighboring states, and of course, Obama for this decline.

What has yet to be cited is that the gaming entertainment experience has fundamentally changed over the past few years, and many casinos no longer deliver the experiences that players have been used to historically.

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So, Have You Been to Poipet?

When examining the major casino markets of Asia, Macau and Singapore most often come to mind. Most gaming executives are familiar with these markets, and their prodigious gaming revenue performance continues to attract the interest of the media and financial analysts.

The extraordinary performance of these markets has caused casino developers to look more closely at other regional Asia markets such as South Korea, Vietnam and Japan as they look for that next great opportunity.

What are often overlooked are other regional Asian markets that are already established yet are somewhat removed from major Asian cities. These gaming markets generate prodigious amounts of gaming revenue and serve as convenience-based gaming destinations to regional populations.

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Marketing Strategies That Get Results

The effects of the recession continue to linger. While some gaming operators have begun to enjoy a modest amount of gaming revenue growth, for most that growth has been tepid. To grow market share many operators have resorted to the same tactics that have been used for years in the gaming industry: drawing drum promotions, hot seat promotions, point multipliers and increases in the amounts of free play that players receive as part of their monthly mailers. While many casinos have employed new technologies such as kiosks and electronic drawing drums to better manage these promotions, they essentially use the same tactics that previous generations of casino marketers have done to get bodies in the door.

What the recession has taught casino operators is that tactical offers that are created without sound strategies are rarely effective. They may increase traffic, shift play from one time
period to another but they rarely have an impact on profitability. The following are some of the best marketing strategies of 2013 that astute gaming operators have implemented..

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Seven Keys to Casino Success

The success of Singapore’s recently established casino industry, along with the unprecedented growth in gaming revenues in Macau, has attracted the interest of governments throughout Asia. Several are considering instituting new policies that will permit the expansion of casino gaming in their countries in the form of so-called integrated resorts, as a means to boost
economic and tourism growth and generate tax revenues.

The examples of Macau and Singapore, together with those of other Asian countries that did not manage to enjoy quite as much success with their casino initiatives, have helped identify seven factors that are critical to the success of any new gaming venue in the region.

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Legislative Dynamite: State failures the exception to the rule

As state budget crises continue to sweep across the nation due to the effects of the Great Recession, more and more states are making foolhardy decisions in an attempt to plug part of a budget deficit that may benefit them in the short term but will ultimately hurt them in the long run. Many investors in the gaming world have historically been gun-shy of investing in many international destinations due to legislative risk, viewing the United States as a stable jurisdiction in which the future is predictable. However, events of recent years have shown this premise of legislative stability in the United States as false.

New Jersey, feeling the pressure to expand gaming outside of Atlantic City to help reduce its deficit, has an opportunity to do it the right way that will benefit all stakeholders. Hopefully, they follow sage advice and set the example to how to responsibly expand gaming while simultaneously benefiting companies that have invested billions in their state.

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Russian Roulette: Is Vladivostok Russia the Next Important Gaming Destination in Asia?

Vladivostok, Russia, a city much closer to Beijing than Macau and bordering northern China; a city in which President Vladimir Putin has spent over $18 billion over the past four years improving and building; the incredibly strategic southernmost port city in Russia, has opened its doors to the world to develop the integrated entertainment destined to be a world-class casino-resort destination serving northeastern Asia, and in particular, northern China.

All you have to do to understand its potential is look on a map. However, there is no buzz in the industry, and operators are quickly missing the next new gaming destination in Asia.

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Asia: Seven Steps to Success

Call it the Macau/Singapore effect.

The initial success of integrated casino resorts in Singapore, coupled with the unprecedented growth in gaming revenues in Macau, has attracted the interest of government policy-makers in
countries throughout Asia. Several are now considering instituting new policies that will permit the expansion of casino gaming in their countries in the form of what is now being referred to as integrated casino resorts, and with it, both economic and tourism growth.

The success of Asian resorts has helped identify those factors that are critical to the success of any new gaming venue. Here are seven factors that are critical to creating a successful gaming policy that grows tourism, enhances tax revenues and acts as an engine for economic growth.

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