Las Vegas will find itself in a new era when the casinos get the green light to reopen. I predicted May 21 is that date in an earlier post about what I think a Las Vegas reopening looks like. I may be a bit optimistic.
If my prediction is in the correct range, that will give casinos about two months after closing to think about their next move. The following is what I would like to see. I think much of it is already being discussed.
Dump Las Vegas Strip parking fees
This is the most obvious move to make. Guests that return early in the reopening process will not get the same Las Vegas experience they had on previous trips. The resorts know this. Tacking on a junk fee to park when you also have a resort fee was always a poor business image. It is a bigger ripoff when many resort amenities are not open.
Downtown Las Vegas gets this right. The casinos there charge for parking. However, there is validation for playing, staying or dining at the property. Las Vegas Strip casinos need to move to this model, which does not draw the ire of potential customers and only charges those that are not spending money on the property.
Speaking of resort fees, I do not think these are going away without government intervention. However, I envision many hotel promotions that include ‘no resort fees’ language in the coming months. Some casinos, like Treasure Island and Golden Nugget, were already testing this before the closures.
I think one surprise we will find when the casinos reopen is that fewer employees are needed for the process. Casinos were moving towards more automation before the closures. This included robot service bartenders, bar drink monitoring, electronic table games and hotel check-in kiosks. Expect these to become more widespread as cost cutting becomes imperative for survival.
I also think we will start to see drink monitoring move to some slots. Maybe not immediately, but the need to cut costs will get us there faster. I have seen this in Atlantic City and think it works well. The service was great where I encountered it.
Fix the electronic blackjack game rip-off
This goes back to labor cutting initiatives. The multi-player video blackjack games in Las Vegas once paid the full 3:2 on a natural and awarded slot points. Now, most pay 6:5 and either do not accept a players card or the points are reduced.
I expect live table games to fall out of favor due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least temporarily. At least make the video versions of it playable to replace that. That will help keep players happy and not force them to head to live tables that have more risks and labor costs.
The same argument can be made for craps. The video versions typically have double odds from the pass line and about 1.5x for the don’t. Make this at least a 3-4-5x game like most Strip tables. Make the field bet pay triple.
A video triple zero roulette game was on its way to Las Vegas casinos before the crisis. The only place that wheel should find itself now is a dumpster.
Improve gambling odds
It is imperative that the original returning Las Vegas visitors have a great experience, even with so many amenities closed. As these will be mostly gamblers, the casinos must do a better job to make that happen.
The paybacks on machines and table games have been on a downward slide since about 2015. It is time to do something about that.
The 6:5 blackjack tables, at least those with a minimum of $5 in locals casinos, $10 in lower end tourist casinos and $15 in higher ones, should be re-felted to display a 3:2 payout. Some do not even need to do that as the 6:5 disclosure is sometimes on a sign. Permit players to re-split aces on at least the shoe games. Players hate when they cannot.
The triple zero roulette plague needs to go away. Pay triple on 12 on the field at craps tables.
Get rid of the 96 percent video poker games. At least bring them back to 98 percent. Bump the slots up a percentage point or two.
The immediate response by those that disagree with this is that many players do not know any better when they are getting ripped off and help float the casinos. This is true. However, the players will certainly remember that they played exponentially longer on the same amount of money than from previous visits. If they win, or at least had more luck than normal, they will return home to brag about how Las Vegas has loosened up. That word-of-mouth is priceless at a time like this.
Get the marketing machine ready
I imagine most casinos already have this plan worked out. Casinos need to be ready with the offers they will give to players based on ratings. The offers should be the most generous in recent history. There is little downside to seeding free rooms and upgrades to known players. These will otherwise sit empty.
There is always concern about freeloading, and especially more during tough economic times. One solution is tying free bets and meals to a predetermined level of play. For example, earn x number of points for a free a $50 meal voucher or free play, valid daily.
One aspect of the marketing machines most casinos fail at is social media. It is already time to drive interactions with customers. Get them excited about coming back to Las Vegas now and slowly build that demand for when the doors can reopen.
Search Twitter for discussions pertaining to your property. Join in and answer questions to clear up confusion. Come up with a policy about expired offers and players club tiers during the closure and make sure players know what it is. This is like a hot topic right now. I have been asked many times about it.
Do not hesitate to turn a negative discussion into a positive one. Share every step of the reopening process through social media. This will keep your brand and Las Vegas on people’s minds when they need something positive in their life.
Management should get more involved with customers
Casino management has become a faceless butt of many resort and parking fee jokes. It is unfortunate because these are tough and stressful jobs, especially right now. However, staying in that back office is not conducive to the company image when it needs to win customers back.
There has been excitement behind company CEOs recording videos on updates to guests and employees. This should continue. It should also become the norm that executives take more time to interact with guests on the property to learn firsthand what these valuable opinions are.
This is already done at some downtown properties and is part of the marketing aspect of these casinos. Guests will feel valued when a board member or casino manager asks them for an opinion and will be more likely to return. No level of marketing can top that.