Casino

Lessons from the Casino Industry

The casino gaming industry has long been perceived as a competitor to state lotteries. While it can be argued that the country’s adult population has a limited budget for all kinds of wagering, lotteries and casinos have, in fact, long operated in harmony. Casino expansion across the United States has not impeded growth of lotteries and lotteries did not affect the growth of casino gaming. The reality is that lotteries and casinos do not so much compete as share gamers. People buy scratch cards and draw tickets from budgets that are exclusive of casino gaming budgets. This is most evident during periodic events of lottery frenzy, when mega-jackpots attract widespread consumer and media interest. In those states that offer both casino gaming and lotteries, casino gambling does not decline during mega-jackpot events.

Both industries have grown but for different reasons. State and provincial lotteries continue to introduce new games and improve merchandising at the point of purchase. Lotteries also continue to expand their channels of distribution, signing up new retailers, and increasing the number of vending machine locations. Casino operators also continue to introduce new games, primarily electronic, and enhance their gaming environments. They also employ a variety of marketing strategies that are mostly unavailable to, or have never been considered by, state lotteries. Nonetheless, there are valuable lessons that lottery operators can learn from the casino gaming industry – in particular, customer engagement and customer relationship management.

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New York State of Mind: What happened to the state’s casinos?

For decades, casino operators viewed the potential for casinos in the Catskills region of New York as the mother lode of gaming development.

The region’s proximity to the New York City metropolitan area and its history as a vacation destination made it a near ideal location for casino development. State legislators also saw casinos in upstate New York, a region that has had difficulty recovering from the loss of a host of manufacturing industries, not only as a tool for economic development, but tax revenue.

In 2013, the New York state legislature passed the Upstate New York Economic Development Act, which provided the legal framework for commercial casinos in the state. The act went into effect on January 1, 2014. When signing the bill, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated, “This new law will bring the state one step closer to establishing world-class destination gaming resorts that will attract tourists to upstate New York and support thousands of good-paying jobs as well as new revenue for local businesses. For too many years, gaming revenue has left New York for our neighboring states.”

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Vietnam’s Strip: The central coast of Vietnam is likely to become the next region with multiple destination casinos and integrated resorts

The Strip” has long been a popular term in the casino industry. Originally used to describe Las Vegas Boulevard from Sahara Avenue south to Russell Road, the term was adopted to describe clusters of casinos and hotels in other jurisdictions including the Cotai Strip in Macau and, most recently, for a proposed multi-property development called the Osaka Strip in Osaka, Japan.

While the latter development remains a possibility, a new strip of hotels, resorts and casinos is quickly emerging on the central coast of Vietnam, in and around Da Nang: the Central Coast Strip, stretching from Hoi An to Hue.

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Cambodia Rising

Major casino operators have long perceived Cambodia as a tertiary gaming market – a collective mix of border casinos that catered to residents of adjacent countries seeking a convenient place to gamble. The absence of robust gaming regulations further discouraged larger operators from considering acquisitions or developments in the Kingdom. That perception is changing.

Anticipated changes in the regulatory environment coupled with dramatic growth in casino markets throughout the country has caused casino developers to take a closer look at Cambodia.

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Sleeping Giant: Brazil is one of the few strong opportunities for IR development

While most of the gaming world is focused on Japan as the next emerging market, a battle continues south of the Equator to legalize gaming in Brazil. This untapped market could serve as the cornerstone for gaming development in the region if it were to become a fully regulated market. With the world’s fifth largest population, Brazil serves as one of the few strong opportunities left as an emerging jurisdiction for integrated resorts.

Brazil is one of the few large countries that does not have legalized gaming, and local stakeholders have come to believe that it puts them at a disadvantage to compete as a tourism destination at the international level. Like many potential gaming jurisdictions, local politicians see the case for integrated resorts as a way to generate tourism and economic development.
One of the best cases of this that is still used in jurisdictions like Japan and Brazil is the growth that Singapore saw with the addition of Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa in 2010. Brazil, which is coming off of hosting the Olympics two years ago, looks to continue to build its tourism with IRs serving as a base to attract individuals to the region.

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The Quiet Casino Boomtown

As the gaming industry’s collective attention is focused on what casino development might look like in Japan, a small seaside resort town on the coast of Cambodia is quietly emerging as the
world’s fastest-growing gaming jurisdiction. The town is called Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville is a port city and down-market vacation destination on the Gulf of Thailand in southwest Cambodia. It has long appealed to backpackers
for its pristine beaches and low-priced accommodations. It also has served as a gambling and vacation destination for Thais and Chinese.

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Responsible Gaming in Japan – Bill to be key to Japan’s Gaming Market

As Japan continues to look at the development of integrated resorts (IR), many people engaged and following the market are focused on the IR Implementation Bill. While it is important to know the regulatory framework, it is just as important for operators and interested parties to understand the importance of responsible gaming measures. This second bill that has sometimes been overlooked in recent months focuses on this topic.

Japan has the fortunate position of being able to use the Republic of Singapore, which launched its quest for IRs roughly 15 years ago, as a guide. Not only do they have Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority as a model for the regulatory body, they also have the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) as a reference point as they develop an atmosphere of responsible gaming.

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Home Stretch in Japan

For nearly 20 years, Japan has gone through several false starts and iterations in its attempt to legalize integrated resorts. In December 2016, Japan took its first official first step toward legalization with the passing of the IR Promotion Bill. Later this spring, Japan is poised to take the final step in this process with the introduction of two bills that will help solidify the initial act: the IR Implementation Bill and the Basics Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures.

The government of Japan has been contemplating what items to include within these bills in its quest to create an environment that maximizes the potential benefit realized by the country in terms of investment and tourism as well as to attract quality operators to the market.

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Cash Back to Free Play

Non-negotiable slot credits, or what is more commonly known as “free play,” has emerged as the most often-used tool in the casino marketing arsenal. It has supplanted cash prizes, complimentary dining and invitations to special events as the primary incentive for rewarding player loyalty.

Its use, along with its occasional over-use, has had a profound effect on the slot-machine gaming experience, and while free play certainly has a wealth of benefits, both to casino operators and players, its prolific use has had unintended and often deleterious effects on both parties.

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The Millennial Is Not Your Customer

Millennial has become the new buzzword and focus of the gaming industry and commerce as a whole.

What do millennials like? How do we design our product to attract millennials? Should we serve only organic food in our restaurants and provide beard trimmers in our bathrooms?
Some casinos believe that millennials prefer table games over slots. Or, for slots, millennials will like skill-based games, so money should be invested in skill-based pits. Despite many casinos trying to attract millennials, not one casino has succeeded in a meaningful way.

The reason is that millennials will not be valuable casino customers for another 20 years

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