Operations

Windy City Gaming: Chicago will finally plant its flag for a casino development

Casinos in urban environments, not always the norm, have offered challenges in certain jurisdictions.

Major markets such as Philadelphia have had casinos near downtown for years. Pittsburgh and Detroit also feature casino gaming in downtown settings. The Washington, D.C. market, with MGM National Harbor, has also made an impact. But in recent years, more developers have embraced urban environments to meld properties into the fabric of the greater communities they serve. Two of the more recent examples were in Massachusetts, with MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor.

Some of the greatest opportunities for gaming expansion in the United States remain in urban settings. For years, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and Houston have been seen as potential expansion sites. But the most immediate opportunity exists in Chicago, which will locate a gaming development within the city itself.

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Strip Reset: COVID-19 is definitely challenging, but does the crisis present opportunities for a Vegas makeover?

Las Vegas soared until recent years, but we’ve reached the tipping point, where it’s necessary for the Strip to redefine itself again. Las Vegas is like no other place in the world. It’s the entertainment and sports capital of the world. It has the most amazing resorts. It just needs to remember our industry’s roots, redeliver on customer service, and provide value.

Covid-19 has devastated the industry and the greater Las Vegas economy. With the resulting industry shutdown, the city must take the opportunity to develop a strategy to reopen, reinvigorate and recapture its guests.

For the first time in well over a decade, both Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, which between them operate 18 Las Vegas Strip resorts, have new leadership teams. These teams are comprised of seasoned casino industry professionals—not outsiders from professions other than hospitality—who have the ability to make these changes.

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Research Brief: Understanding Casino Operations

Given the uncertainties of coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”), investors are looking to understand the general operating parameters of a given casino operation and fixed versus variable expenses. This document provides detail on the intricacies of casino operations from a revenue and expense standpoint, including gaming revenues, operating expenses, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (“EBITDA”). The goal of this exercise is to provide an understanding of how these items may fluctuate between operators, as well as between jurisdictions. Additionally, this document will provide readers with an understanding of fixed versus variable expenses (for facilities that are open), allowing investors to more accurately project the performance of target properties under a variety of recovery scenarios.

The following discussion is based on Global Market Advisors’ (“GMA”) experience of reviewing hundreds of income statements from casino properties across the world. For the purposes of this analysis, GMA focused its evaluation on regional gaming operations in the United States, representing casino operations that have generated between $50 and $700 million in annual gaming revenue. Often, the only access that investors may have to operating income statements would be from those published from Nevada and New Jersey. As will be seen within this document, many departmental and overall margins vary greatly from casinos between these and other states. While many operations may have expenses that lie outside of the ranges presented in this report, the overwhelming majority of regional casinos across the United States likely fall within these ranges.

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Rethinking Food & Beverage

Of all the issues facing casino leadership, there is no greater quandary than solving the food & beverage equation. Restaurants in particular, present a host of issues. They are notoriously expensive to operate, consuming copious amounts of labor and product costs. Rarely do individual outlets post a profit and departmental profit is often dependent on beverage sales. High levels of customer satisfaction can be difficult to achieve, given that many players visit the same restaurant outlets on each visit, and in turn get bored with the menu selection. Perhaps the hardest aspect is balancing the needs of very frequent players while using food & beverage as a tool to attract new customers. Given all this, it may be time for casino operators to rethink their food & beverage programs.

Both commercial casinos in regional markets and Indian casino operators have historically adopted the same basic restaurant strategies, offering a buffet, three-meal room, quick-serve outlet and perhaps a more upscale steakhouse/ special occasion restaurant. Before undertaking a wholesale redesign of food & beverage outlets, it is important to understand how this basic suite of restaurant products came to be and then ask if those products meet the needs of the business and the preferences of today’s customers.

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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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An Introduction to Sports Betting Operations

With the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), Indian casinos, commercial casinos, state governments, lotteries, and racetracks are all examining the feasibility of offering sports betting in their jurisdictions and creating legislative paths to bring sports betting to fruition. Sports leagues are also taking an active role, lobbying state legislators and even trying to get Congress to pass legislation that would federally mandate that they receive a cut of total wagering handle.

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Deep Dive: The Future of Sports Betting in the United States

As the nation awaits the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in Christie v. NCAA, various stakeholders are evaluating their next steps, and how to maximize the revenue potential from legalized sports betting.

Today, a federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) limits most legal sports betting to Nevada and three other states. This article examines the critical success factors for sports wagering in the United States and the operators that will be best positioned to provide the products and services that sports wagering customers will seek.

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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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An Examination of sports betting in America

On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) will hear New Jersey’s case to have the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”) overturned. This review of PASPA, which effectively limits legal sports betting to only the state of Nevada, and to a lesser extent Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, has the potential to be a landmark states’ rights decision. To the gaming and hospitality industry, it has the potential to allow for another source of gaming entertainment and improve profit levels for operators. To government authorities, it has the potential to reduce illegal gaming activities and increase tax revenues.

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Expanding Hospitality

In this, our second in a series of discussions about the role of non-gaming amenities in both destination and regional gaming markets, we focus on the extraordinary and ongoing evolution of hotels, and how to assess, strategize and implement change.

The “lens” we use is comprised of five attributes that, when integrated, provide operators with a framework to create a comprehensive strategy for developing a new hotel or rebranding and refurbishing an existing one: the strategic assessment lens. This approach has helped several operators create new development and rebranding strategies for successful restaurants, bars, nightlife, entertainment and retail venues, casinos and hotels.

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