Practical UNLV gaming law education in the LVBP

My latest Las Vegas Business Press column is out. It’s about how the gaming law program at UNLV’s Boyd School of law is bucking a national trend and delivering a solid education in the practice of gaming law to its students:

A recent New York Times article decried the current state of legal education, describing an “aversion to the practical” that privileged professors’ theoretical scholarship over teaching the basics of practicing law in the real world. Though there may be merit to that argument, the Gaming Studies Law Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ William S. Boyd School of Law proves that practical education is alive and well in Las Vegas.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Practical education in law is alive and well in valley.

The original NY Times article was thought-provoking. There’s certainly a trend in academia to focus on the theoretical over the practical, the abstract over the concrete. That’s all well and good when you’re publishing in specialist journals, but if you’re educating students for the real world you really need to teach them things they’ll actually use. I’m not saying that college or grad/professional school should be the equivalent of a vocational education, but if you’re teaching a course in something that has real-world applications, you shouldn’t shy away from them.

One of the goals of my casino history class is to get students to integrate a solid knowledge of the past of casinos into their mindset. That way, when they’re out in the workforce, they have context for what they’re seeing.

It’s also proof that you can’t reduce everything to a headline-sized argument. While there might be the theoretical drift that the article describes in many programs, clearly there are others that continue to fulfill their educational mission.

Students get involed with gaming’s future in the LVBP

This week, my column in the Las Vegas Business Press looks at how a class at the William S. Boyd School of Law has helped Nevada take a step into the future of gaming, which I think is online:

People have been gambling online for 15 years now. You don’t need to be a clairvoyant to see that online play is in the industry’s future. But between now and tomorrow, there are several uncertainties. When will the United States legalize Internet gambling? How will online operations be regulated? How will prospective operators get licensed?

With an assist from a class of students from the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Nevada Legislature took a step toward answering at least the last of those questions.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Students help push state toward Net gaming future.

I enjoyed learning about the students’ contribution–I don’t recall having heard much about it before, so I was glad to share the news.

Pros, cons of increased casino tech in the LVBP

This week, my Las Vegas Business Press column takes a look not at what technology is being introduced into casinos, but how it’s being used–and should be used:

The technology used on casino floors has evolved considerably in the past two decades. And, as showcased at the recent Global Gaming Expo, it continues to do so.

But, as always, it’s the application, not the innovation itself, that’s going to matter. Casinos can use new tools to go in two divergent directions: cutting costs and bettering the player experience. While the former is tempting and seems the better bet, the latter might be the smart long-term play.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Pros, cons of increased casino floor technology.

I’ll admit that my hope that casinos use technology to drive profits in the long-term by adding convenience to the player experience as opposed to driving profits in the short-term by cutting labor costs is probably naive, but it’s not exactly a radical notion. Ultimately casinos are in the hospitality business, and making guests feel like they’re in a hospitable place would seem to be the first step towards succeeding in that business.

G2E convergence in the LVBP

I wrote up some of my thoughts on the new tech stuff at G2E for the Las Vegas Business Press. Take a look:

The official theme of the Global Gaming Expo, held Oct. 3-6 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, was “innovation,”; but it could have been, more specifically, “convergence.”

As always, there were plenty of new products on display on the exhibit floor. International Game Technology alone demonstrated 400 new games for potential casino clients (and the occasional industry rival), and the other large manufacturers boasted similarly large offerings. But the real story was how the casino industry is converging, on several axes, with popular culture the latest technology, and, in the end, itself.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Annual gaming expo all about convergence.

I’m mulling a piece right now that will consider the consequences of all that new tech. How will casinos use it, and how should they use it?

Tectonic shift for gaming in the Business Press

Mulling over two seemingly contradictory bits of news–that the Justice Department had labeled Full Tilt Poker a “global Ponzi scheme” and that the AGA was launching a renewed push for the legalization of online poker–I got to thinking. It’s a dangerous pastime, I know, but in this case it led me to my latest column for the Las Vegas Business Press:

Gambling online and by mobile devices seems to be on the march. Despite a still-simmering online poker scandal, it now appears that its only a matter of when Internet poker is legalized, and last week the Nevada Gaming Commission approved two expansions of sports betting. To some, this is a surprise, but it shouldnt be: Smart players are just adapting to the latest technology, as they have been for millennia.

Gambling shifts to suit the times arent just inevitable — theyre a smart response to changing conditions.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Tectonic shift for gaming seems poised to come.

The Nevada legislature–which doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a forward-thinking, pro-active body–first addressed online gaming ten years ago. I wonder how much longer it will take for Congress to do the same.

Good July might be great news in the LVBP

My column in this week’s Las Vegas Business Press takes a deeper look at July’s Nevada gaming revenue numbers. The more I thought about them, the more I thought that a good month might not be such bad news:

On Sept. 12, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released its July gaming revenue report. In both May and June, large increases in baccarat win on the Strip powered the state to double-digit-percentage revenue increases. July didn’t have that kind of dramatic story, but that doesn’t make it a bad month for Nevada’s gaming industry. That July was a only a good month for Nevada gaming is, in fact, great news for its future.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : July’s good numbers are great news for gaming.

It’s part of the bigger theme for the past few weeks, which, I’m finding, is “lowered expectations.”

The real test will be August–I’m very curious to see how the market turbulence of early August impacted gaming numbers here. Historically there’s not a very strong correlation between the market and gaming revenues, but I think that the bigger uncertainty might have kept a few dollars in pockets, so to speak. We’ll see in a few weeks.

Dreamer’s paradise reality check in the LVBP

My column in this week’s Las Vegas Business Press is out. It’s a meditation on what less ambitious Strip developments really mean for Las Vegas.

With just about everyone in the industry mistaking the 2005-2007 boom for a new normal, it made tons of sense to trade in your sun-faded casino for a newer, bigger one with higher revenue per available room.It seems incredible that the 2000s saw exactly as many big casino demolitions as the 1990s four in each decade, but the Strip’s upside seemed so limitless that the present seemed little more than a springboard to better times.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Dreamer’s paradise hit with dose of reality.

I think there’s a lot to this story. What does it mean when we stop shooting for the stars?

And that little factoid about casino demolitions surprised me. If you want to stretch it, you can say there were actually more in the 2000s. Here’s my complete list, though I kept a few out for each decade. The ones I counted are in bold”

1990s: Sands, Dunes, Hacienda, Landmark, Marina, Vegas World

2000s: Desert Inn, Stardust, New Frontier, Boardwalk, Bourbon Street, Castways/Showboat, Sahara (closed, destruction almost inevitable)

I might have forgotten one or two.

Geek niche in the Las Vegas Business Press

This week’s Las Vegas Business Press column looks at a travel operator I met in the vendors’ room at Creation Entertainment’s Las Vegas Star Trek convention:

We all know that its getting harder and harder to bring visitors and their money to Las Vegas. But a small startup that specializes in connecting people with the means to travel with experiences that ignite their true passions might have some lessons for Sin City.

Geek Nation Tours is a child of the recession. When Hinton, Alberta, (population 10,000, about six hours by car from Calgary) travel agent Teras Cassidy was in the midst of a summer slowdown, he decided to get creative. Instead of partnering with a local radio station to promote a typical booze cruise package tour to Mexico, he decided to mix his hobby — miniature war-gaming — with his business.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Which niche is which? It will pay Strip to know.

I think that the folks who sell rooms in Vegas hotels should take a look at what Cassidy is doing or even partner with him to bring in some tour groups. I think that the the travel decision process is undergoing a fundamental shift analogous to what’s been happening with entertainment for the past 40 years. Once everyone tuned into Johnny Carson before going to bed. Now, there’s a plethora of network and cable TV options, to say nothing of the almost limitless choices that can be delivered via the Internet. People are able to find entertainment much more closely tailored to their individual preferences.

I see the same thing happening with travel. Already, the LVCVA is doing a good job of splitting its business travel and leisure travel marketing. But what about the many facets of leisure travel? The most obvious way to split that up is rough demographics (age? traveling with kids?) but a more nuanced–and I think soon to be more necessary way–is by interests. Increasingly, travelers are consumers of content who want to do more than just relax. Tailoring that content to meet their needs will make them that much happier and that much likelier to return.

I’ll get out of here before this turns into a column in and of itself, but suffice it say that I think the niche market goes well beyond geeks–though learning a few lessons from them is a great start.

Cut costs or invest? in the LVBP

My Las Vegas Business Press column on the dubious benefits of cost-cutting in a hospitality company is out today:

It goes without saying that there are several ways to cut costs. Shaving off some perks — first-class travel for jet-setting execs or caviar in the employee dining room — makes eminently good sense when revenues are down. Likewise, optimizing employment levels, which often means finding ways to do more with less, can help strengthen a hospitality company’s bottom line and competitive position if it’s done sensibly.

But not all cost-cutting provides a net benefit.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Cut costs now or invest for the future?.

I still don’t understand why you would want to incentivize your executives to make decisions that hold costs down without regard for performance or guest satisfaction. I don’t have any problem at all with people being well compensated for their work (I know I wouldn’t turn down a bigger paycheck if someone offered it to me, and it’s hypocritical to assume that others would), but they should be rewarded for either improving results or delivering better service, not just keeping costs down.

That’s my two cents, anyway. Though if I start cutting costs, I might only give you one cent’s worth next time.

Terry Lanni’s dignified diplomacy in the LVBP

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I take a look at one aspect of Terry Lanni’s legacy:

There’s already been a great deal written about his work at the helm of MGM Mirage, including his role in guiding the company through two mergers that created today’s MGM Resorts International, and his pioneering work with diversity initiatives with the company. Either of them would have been enough to cement his legacy as a leader in the gaming industry (a rank that his 2000 induction into the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame confirms).

However, his service on the National Gambling Impact Study Commission from 1997 to 1999 was both a sign of his stature in the industry and a landmark accomplishment

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Lanni will be remembered for dignified diplomacy.

Maybe the greatest testament to Lanni’s “dignified diplomacy” came from UNITEHERE! president John Wilhelm, who told me this about Lanni via email:

“Terry considered running for the US Senate as a Republican. I tried mightily, though in vain, to encourage him to do that. I told him that he was a Republican I personally, and our Union, could not just support but enthusiastically work for. He would have been a great public servant.”

Wow. You don’t often see union leaders supporting Republican candidates. Terry Lanni was clearly an exceptional man.