The El Cortez is well positioned to attract Millennials (and yes, you did read that right!) By Christopher G. Axelrod May 1, 2014 at 6:51 pm Last week I had dinner with CDC Publisher Jeffrey Compton at the flagship restaurant at the El Cortez called Flame. (Note – Jeff has had a long-time professional relationship with the El Cortez.) I had never been to the El Cortez, but always admired its location and legacy. During our dinner Jeff mentioned that though the property is well-maintained and doing well, he was concerned that it, as with many gaming properties in the US, might have “aging audience” issues. I responded that upon looking at many aspects of the El Cortez, I thought it was easily positioned to attract younger patrons. Seeing the look on his face, I immediately assured him that I was not kidding and that I don’t do drugs. He said he wanted to hear more. The adage of “location, location, location” applies here. The classic El Cortez Hotel and Casino has been home to some of Las Vegas’ original and very colorful casino history. (It would be wonderful if their walls could share the characters and lifestyles that the property has seen.) Due to the downtown development surge, many new attractions have now opened around the property and the El Cortez has responded with renovations to its casino, restaurants and rooms. The growing popularity of the Fremont Street Experience is bringing new customers and life to downtown. Both families and young revelers enjoy its many attractions and spontaneous mayhem. The four music stages serve as festive anchors. Some visitors miss the most historical (and best) places due to the numerous obstructions of street vendors, solicitors (and, unfortunately, panhandlers), kiosks, zip lines, and bars which divert consumer attention at every step. The most recent clubs, coffee houses, theaters, and casual restaurants have expanded to the east and now thrive right in front of the El Cortez. The Commonwealth and Fremont Country Club, new large music clubs, are well-designed beacons to provide younger crowds with their preferred culture. These significant investments are thriving and located directly across the street from the casino. These new and curious clubbers do notice the retro signage and mixed wood and mortar hacienda design construction of The El Cortez, since there is no other casino quite like it: genuine, constructed of natural materials. It is the only casino on the National Historic Register. This legendary casino is once again at the right place and at the right time. The El Cortez needs very little exterior updating. Perhaps some modern electric doors, more colorful lighting, and tasteful panels depicting infamous characters and history would be enough to draw the curious to explore the interior. The goal would be to get more “Dude, check out that awesome place” exclamations from the street life. That seems particularly possible because Millennials savor new discoveries and are well armed mobile devices to quickly spread the word. They value instant information access, social media postings, and viral affirmations of something special. On the interior of The El Cortez, one quickly discovers the friendliness of the seasoned and nicely uniformed staff. They seem to like their work and the “vibe” is lively. Today’s younger customers are from a generation that is open on liberal social issues and will talk to anybody without hesitation or inebriation. They believe that we are all connected in this global society together. There are no haters. The senior staff seems naturally able to appeal to this casual generation by acting as if the younger customers are partying with their cool “rents” (parents). The modest gaming floor is open and spacious, with an easy non-solicitous flow. The size is ideal for being social; you can easily find your friends without texting, if you want. The young generation lives by music, so blending some younger artists into the house audio playlist would feel more accommodating without seeming highly commercial. Today’s connected 20-30 year olds reject places trying to be hipster. There is a fine line between being naturally organic and offering an artificially-themed environment. Intrinsic organic warmth is what is lacking in most modern casinos. This electronically-stimulated generation is digital, with lots of opportunities for dazzling sights and sounds. The El Cortez feels like a refuge from contrived glam and premium price points. Today’s younger crowds know what good quality food is; they want variety with more menu items that are environmentally sensitive and vegan. They enjoy diversity in beverages and premium brands, and even want to try healthy global products. Herbs from an on-site garden and a small outdoor eatery would be impressive offerings. The investment needed to accommodate this fast-paced lifestyle is not extremely large. Add some cycle rentals for guests, and other minor, thoughtful amenities, and you’ll have happy and loyal young professionals who will spend and spread the word. This could be their home casino, one that is like no other in Las Vegas. Christopher G. Axelrod has been involved in the food and entertainment business for over 38 years. He offers specialized independent services for designing, conducting and providing customer experience evaluations for business improvements.