Blueprint for Las Vegas: Researchers and consultants chart a post-COVID recovery Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · November 11, 2020 at 8:00 am A group of gaming industry researchers and consultants said 2021 will be “an inflection point” for the future of Las Vegas in charting a potential blueprint for the economic recovery of the nation’s largest casino market, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge resort operators. In a new study released Wednesday, “Las Vegas: A Post-COVID Landscape,” the group examined how Las Vegas overcame past crises, including the recession; challenges from new gaming jurisdictions; and tragedies, namely the fires in the 1980s at the MGM Grand and Las Vegas Hilton and the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. However, COVID-19, which caused an unprecedented 78-day shutdown of all gaming in Nevada and has devastated gaming and tourism, presents a unique challenge to the future of the city. “Las Vegas is facing a historic crisis, and its response over the next few months will determine the trajectory of the city for years, if not decades,” said UNLV provost and historian David G. Schwartz, one of the report’s authors. The group surveyed gaming executives and polled more than 1,000 Las Vegas customers to determine their behaviors and attitudes relating to Las Vegas in both the COVID and post-COVID environment. The researchers said there is a strong map to recovery. The information was compiled before Monday’s announcement by Pfizer that early data on its coronavirus vaccine candidate suggest the shots might be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. “After every crisis, there have been winners and losers, and this time is no different,” the report stated. “History and analysis instruct us that there is a clear pathway for business success – and a well-worn road to decline.” The team – Schwartz; Oliver Lovat, CEO of the Denstone Group; CBRE Global Gaming Group Director of Consulting Brent Pirosch; Chris White, CEO of Blanc Canvass Consulting; and Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization – said industry leaders must pivot to meet customer needs. Otherwise, some resorts may fail to recover. “Industry respondents note that this is a crisis like no other,” researchers noted in the executive summary. “There has been a collapse in customer demand, particularly mid-week, due to the inability of many visitors to access the market, and few ways of stimulating demand. Compounding this problem is that there is no horizon to recovery, which limits future planning.” Lovat said the information helped form a pathway to accelerate recovery and avoid mistakes made in previous decades. “The challenges facing Las Vegas are great, and the current responses are varied,” Lovat said. “For success, we need to be strategic, rather than tactical. For this report, some of the leading researchers and consultants in gaming and hospitality spent several months assembling primary research and industry insights.” Among the findings, the researchers found that: 64% of those sampled plan on returning to Las Vegas within 12 months 54% are comfortable flying to Las Vegas within 12 months 52% believe Las Vegas resorts are safe to visit 59% believe smoking should be banned in casinos 36% believe that mask-wearing and social distancing should be followed even after there is a vaccine While more than 50% of Las Vegas customers are continuing past activities with moderate variations in their behavior, such as wearing a mask, a secondary group (approximately 25%) said they will resume past behaviors once there is a vaccine or proven treatment. A smaller number (11%-13%) will only return to normal Las Vegas gaming activities 12 months after a vaccine. “This research offers a unique viewpoint not found in typical investment reports,” Pirosch said. “More importantly, the research provides insights and recommendations for a path forward.” The authors identified two phases and scenarios of the recovery: during COVID-19 and post-COVID-19. For resort operators, the initial phase is to determine which customer risk in the profiled segments they wish to capture. The second phase is based on learnings from past performance for specific customers and developing sustainable business models. Even with minimal midweek convention business, resort operators need to be proactive in developing alternative programming to actively attract customers, the report stated. “The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the gaming industry more systemically than any other event in the history of modern gaming,” Swissman said. “There are no past precedents to draw on here, there is no playbook. Therefore, we must look to each other as an industry and to our guests to share what is important and figure out how to collectively adapt and emerge from our current environment.” The authors said Las Vegas will still draw between 19 million to 20 million visitors in 2020 despite COVID-19, “an astonishing statistic” when compared to other tourist markets. Meanwhile, they believe gaming, retail, paid attractions, and outdoor events will have an accelerated recovery and that sporting events, indoor restaurants, and live music will follow. A large proportion of nightclub and day-club customers will not resume past behavior for the foreseeable future. “This study attempts to provide a snapshot into the attitudes of customers facing the current global pandemic,” White said. “Applying the feedback contained herein is meant to assist in hastening the recovery of the market.” To order the report in full, information can be found on www.postcovidvegas.com Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.