How Events and Live Entertainment Saved Land-Based Casinos
The gambling industry is arguably one of the biggest and most profitable in the world. The numbers speak for themselves, and with the emergence of new markets over the last few years, this has only gotten bigger.
Of course, in the early 20th century, land-based casinos especially in places like Las Vegas, demonstrated their power to attract people in their thousands every week, and, as a result, it swiftly became the global hotspot for physical casinos.
Casino companies such as MGM, Wynn and Caesars essentially dominated the industry, with their flagship resorts being based in Las Vegas, while they soon expanded to other locations, both around the US and the world.
The buzz that visitors got from being in a brick-and-mortar casino (especially in Las Vegas, where other forms of entertainment were offered) was incomparable for most, and this made for a fulfilling experience.
However, with the birth of the online gambling industry in the early 2000s, this all changed, and physical gambling venues gradually saw a decline in footfall in the years that followed as gamblers preferred the convenience of their own surroundings and the quick accessibility of live online casinos.
The Game-Changer in the Gambling Industry
There were many reasons why online casinos identified the potential when this sector of the industry first emerged. It opened up endless opportunities - indeed far more than that of land-based casinos from a player acquisition and retention perspective.
Online casino sites were not limited to what they could offer in terms of the number of games, compared to land-based casinos, which fundamentally only had so much space available, which automatically made them a favorite among potential customers.
It is not uncommon for online casinos to have thousands of games available (both slots, table games and even live casino products) from a wide range of the best software providers in the industry. They realized very quickly that gambling enthusiasts like choice, and they were able to leverage this using market research to identify the types of games that their players liked to use.
As such, this then enabled them to concentrate on similar types of games for each particular genre according to player numbers and push them accordingly using marketing and ad campaigns. In land-based casinos, this kind of data is difficult to track, particularly relating to player behavior.
There were considerably more marketing possibilities for online casinos compared to land-based casinos as well, especially when you consider the technology that was available to them.
Advertising campaigns on television were soon integrated with digital initiatives, allowing interested customers to scan their television with their mobile devices, which would automatically open their website. Online casinos could also be highly flexible when it came to creating sign up offers to attract new customers. Generous welcome bonuses soon became ‘the norm’, with players able to claim as much as double their initial deposit in excess of a thousand dollars.
Some online casinos would even offer a choice of welcome bonuses to cater to various budgets and desires, while players could also benefit from ongoing promotions that the gambling sites brought out. Monthly, weekly and even daily promotions could allow players to get an ‘x’ number of free spins on a designated slot or enter exclusive tournaments.
Each of these initiatives was (and still is) unattainable for those people wishing to frequent land-based casinos.
Land-Based Casinos’ Strong US Comeback
It did not take long for land-based casinos to realize that they were losing market share, despite the fact that they still had their share of customers who preferred the more authentic casino experience - even often treating it as a social occasion.
Following the global pandemic, though, land-based casinos (especially in the US) have witnessed somewhat of a resurgence in footfall.
Despite the US having recently made online gambling much more available, with the industry continuing to break records, it has led to the emergence of more physical casinos.
The city of New York has received numerous applications from major casino companies over the last year to construct mega land-based casinos in the Big Apple, suggesting that there still is a major demand for land-based casinos.
Even Michigan’s iGaming market, which has become one of the most consistently popular states in terms of numbers for online casinos, has seen visitors flocking back into its mainland-based casinos, especially in Detroit.
According to Statista, in 2018, Nevada casinos penned a (then) record $11.6 billion in revenue for that year; however, this fell considerably to $8.76 billion in 2019. This figure more or less remained the same for the following two years in the aftermath of the pandemic.
However, 2022 was the most successful year yet for Las Vegas. A new record $14.8 billion in revenue was generated, suggesting that land-based casinos were back on the rise, attracting 38.8 million visitors.
In early 2023, Steve Hill, LCVCA president, revealed: “2023 is going to be a spectacular year in Las Vegas and a special year. Lately, I have been asked a lot of questions on how we’re doing on recovery, the points we have to make up on occupancy and the headwinds that may be coming from a recession. Frankly, for me, I think for Las Vegas, those questions are void. If we have a small recession, we’re going to roll right over it. That’s who we are. Las Vegas is a category of one. There’s not only no other place like Las Vegas but there’s no other place that’s close.”
He also expanded on various initiatives that casino resorts had planned as a way of attracting more visitors.
What we’re going to have with the MSG Sphere is something no other city has,” he explains. “There’s not going to be any other entertainment venue like that. It’s going to open every single day of the year and is a spectacular addition to the Las Vegas community and a real difference maker.
Meanwhile, the ambitious Las Vegas Formula 1 project was predicted to be a key difference maker by Hill:
It’s going to be a spectacle that the world has never seen, and it will be along with the Super Bowl, if I can extend 2023 about six weeks into 2024, the two biggest events in my lifetime in Las Vegas. We have one opportunity to get the first race and first Super Bowl right. We are going to show the world what we mean by being a category of one. There is no other city in the world that even has the opportunity to try and treat 65,000 attendees at the Super Bowl or 100,000 attendees at a Formula 1 race like VIPs. We’re going to do that here and make a statement while we do it.
Are Event Initiatives the Key to Rival Online Casinos?
It could be argued, based on what is taking place in Las Vegas, that if land-based casino want to compete with their online competitors they might need to follow suit and create interesting events and performances.
The US resort, though, has always been renowned for its entertainment, which is a key factor in attracting visitors to its casinos. Recently, it was revealed that Macau was undergoing a $6 billion investment revamp in order to create a similar type of feel to Las Vegas. It is understood that some of the biggest gambling companies in the world had invested, with plans for significant entertainment amenities, in order to make this more of a magnet for tourists.
Other land-based casino destinations around the world could well follow suit. Singapore has been on the rise for the last couple of years, while the Philippines have undertaken an ambitious investment project.
Typically, exotic casino locations such as these could be a contributory factor in helping the physical casino segment rival the online gambling once again. For now, though, online casinos are still significantly leading the way, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.