Just like Vegas: Regional and tribal casinos want to make non-gaming amenities profitableBuck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · July 22, 2018 at 12:13 amA growing number of U.S. casinos are following the Las Vegas model of marketing amenities separate from gaming with an emphasis of building non-gaming attractions as stand-alone profit centers.Nothing shows that trend more than the MGM Resorts International’s “Welcome to the Show” campaign that was launched in its entirety this year. The focus presents how the company isn’t in just the hotel business, but one that tingles your spine with entertainment.The nearly three-minute video showcases food, shows, nightclubs, the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, boxing and a smidgen of gambling for MGM’s 27 destinations across the globe. It was highlighted during the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference at Caesars Palace in an educational session on Strategies to Market Your Non-Gaming Amenities and Why They are Different.Moderator Mark Astone, CEO of Catalyst Marketing Company, even electronically polled the marketing executives that include tribal and regional casinos and found nearly two-thirds now market amenities separate from gaming.“This is a big discussion of where we are going with amenities and what are the trends that are happening,” Astone said. “We’re not marketing gaming anymore. It’s evolved. They are marketing entertainment amenities.”Brett Mangan (left) and Jumada SchwindenThe marketplace has changed. Amenities that include food and beverage and entertainment weren’t profitable in the past, but that gap has been bridged. Marketing experts said even amenities that aren’t profitable by themselves can generate a profit for the casino by attracting customers.The Las Vegas Strip is a perfect case study. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Strip casinos in fiscal year 2017 collected $6.038 billion in gaming revenues, which was 34 percent of the $17.7 billion in total revenues for those 12 months. In addition to gaming, total revenues include rooms, dining, shopping, entertainment and other activities.It’s about concert-goers that make a night of it at the property or girlfriends that spend the day at the spa and then go to a wine or jazz bar in the hotel. It’s golfers who spend the day on the course and then dinner back in the hotel.More and more casinos are expanding to full resorts and thus recognizing the value of non-gaming clients and marketing to them as well. It starts with a database, finding forums non-gamers frequent and creating messages that target their interests, the marketing consultants said.Nicole Barker, a senior partner with Raving Consulting and an expert on database and loyalty marketing, said the conservation started in Las Vegas but is spreading to local and regional properties.“What I am seeing in the boardrooms and tribal enterprises is interest in diversification, whether one diversified with amenities or other enterprises,” Barker said. “They are looking for new profit centers. I think we are past the age of amenities like golf or spa, which have not truly helped the bottom line. I see more of an emphasis on analysis whether they hold their own weight. There are more bottom-line discussions and fewer sacred cows.”Jumada Schwinden, marketing manager with Swinomish Casino & Lodge in Washington, said the amenities they have added are no longer loss leaders. The mindset is the amenities must be supported by the marketing efforts.The tribe added a hotel six years ago, but it has removed its buffet because players didn’t want it, Schwinden said. It has a variety of restaurants including a sports bar and grill, and a Fatburger.Raving Consulting hospitality expert Brett Mangan said properties considered destination resorts need different non-gaming amenities to keep people at that location. Some operators make the choice not to add a hotel as a strategic decision. They know their customers and a hotel wouldn’t improve the organization’s profits.“People put in a steakhouse because they sound sexy to have in a resort, but there’s one down the street they are competing against,” Mangan said. “When we’re talking restaurants, steak houses are not the most profitable, but I’m the guy that says not every operation needs to be profitable. I know that sounds scandalous, but there are some properties where it adds to the holistic view of the offerings. Sometimes there are going to be items that create a destination and are important to have that may not necessarily be profitable but contribute to the overall casino profitability.”Schwinden said it’s about knowing your area. Swinomish has a steakhouse because it serves as a setting that attracts people to the property, which overlooks a bay and the mountains.“It’s a great date night to sit on the balcony in Washington State and have a glass of wine,” Schwinden said. “It’s important to know who you are. The majority of our amenities are at least break even.”Barker said there’s pressure to cross sell gaming across the amenities of a property. But, that’s a waste, she added. People need to be a targeted on a micro level for gaming based on their interests.“When considering new amenities, look at your neighborhood and what is the most interesting for your enterprise,” Barker said of casinos. “I love gas stations, and I love RV parks and car washes. That is not as sexy as a golf course, and it won’t improve the gaming but those items, along with convenience stores, are absolutely wonderful.”Barker said she doesn’t like the way some of the biggest casinos use loyalty cards to create points across every outlet where people spend their money and put it into one large bucket.“It’s so convoluted behind the scenes, that at the end of the day, only a select few can spend (points) on amazing gifts,” Barker said.