Mob Neighbors in Vegas Seven

I didn’t have a chance to share this yesterday, but this week’s Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven is about the Mob Museum’s impact on its casino neighbors Downtown:

The really interesting story in the wake of the Mob Museum’s Feb. 14 debut will be how the museum reacts to its downtown casino neighbors—and how they react to it. Usually, when people think of the mob in Las Vegas, they think of Teamster-financed Strip resorts, complete with visions of Frank Sinatra, Sam Giancana and Carl Cohen having a schwitz in the Sands’ steam room while mob lackeys bagged up money for Chicago in the count room. But downtown, even though it’s better known for characters like Benny Binion, Sam Boyd, Mel Exber and Jackie Gaughan, was just as open to mob influence as the Strip.

via Mob Neighbors | Vegas Seven.

I wanted to pull in some lesser-known historical material about the mob’s role Downtown and highlight how the Museum’s already impacted the casinos.

On a sad related note, Dennis Gomes, who helped to drive the mob about of casinos like the Fremont, passed away last night. I’ve written a short Vegas Seven blog piece about his influence on Nevada and the national casino industry.

I worked for Dennis at the Taj back in 1994-5, and, as I told someone this morning, it obviously made an impression on me since I’m still studying the industry 18 years later. I had a few nice exchanges with him over Twitter in the past few months and was hoping to record a podcast interview with him when our schedules permitted. Sadly, that’s not going to happen now, but there’s enough that’s been written about his career in gaming that there’s no danger of his legacy going unheralded. If I got a ballot for the Gaming Hall of Fame, I know how I’d be marking it this year.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Gomes’s family and friends. As I said this morning, Atlantic City–and the gaming industry–has lost a leader and a friend.

Turning around Resorts

An experienced gaming executive (who I once worked for at the Trump Taj Mahal) has acquired Resorts Atlantic City, and a former Resorts exec has some advice. From the AC Press:

One of the executives who oversaw Resorts Atlantic City during its 1970s heyday said the money-losing casino should transform itself into a convention haven as part of its turnaround strategy under new ownership.Steve Norton, who now serves as a private gaming consultant, said more conventions would fill the hotel rooms with lucrative customers and offset the typically slow midweek business cycles that plague Resorts and other casinos in town.

via pressofAtlanticCity.com: • Atlantic City, Pleasantville & Brigantine – Breaking News plus Local, Business, Sports, Entertainment & Video News for Southern New Jersey.

I’d like to think that everyone in the industry is aware of the “load balancing” that conventions provide–Vegas casinos have been doing this since the 1950s. But if people need to be reminded of that, so much the better that they hear it. But I would assume that any big casino’s going to be doing some kind of yield management with their rooms to maximize their revenues from business travelers, FITs, and casino guests. But looking at the performance of a lot of the Atlantic City casinos lately, maybe not.

The bigger question is: how do you position the city’s oldest casino in a business where being the newest usually has a premium? I know of only two casinos that actively trade on their history, or pedigree, and those are the Golden Gate and (more and more) the El Cortez in Downtown Las Vegas. In both cases, it’s a smart way to use an asset that your neighbors don’t have or (in the Nugget’s case) don’t want to use.

The property isn’t going to compete with Borgata, Caesars, the Taj, or Harrah’s in flashiness, but that’s OK. There are plenty of people who want a less-frenetic time “down the shore,” and Resorts might be able to capture this crowd–the people who feel underserved because they don’t want to go to bottle service nightclubs or listen to booming bass while they play quarter slots. They’re good casino customers, and there’s a lot of them: the key is making sure they drive to Atlantic City.

I’ll trot out a few of my suggestions for getting people in the door:
1. Free parking and free slot play in the amount of tolls/EZpass receipts for out-of state customers. I laid this out a few months ago, and I still think it’s a good idea. If they’re in your database, you’ve got their zipcode. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out how much they pay in tolls, so you wouldn’t even have to make them show receipts to you. We’re talking $30 or so in slot freeplay here, not really anything that’s going to break the bank, particularly when you consider that no one’s going to drive down, play $30, and leave right away. Sure, you might get some scammers who pack 6 to a car and take advantage, but this isn’t necessarily the worst thing: you’ve got people in your casino who think they’re playing with house money. If you’ve got a half-way decent casino, you should be able to keep them there.

2. Play up a more sedate, more sophisticated image. Sure, in the casino world this is subjective, but with the right packaging an anti-“Jersey Shore” campaign could go a long way.

3. A vintage slot section, with favorite games from way back. Others have done this, and it draws a crowd

Those are just three ideas, off the top of my head, without having been on the Resorts floor in a year or so and without any inside knowledge of what their customer database looks like.

In other words, I think there’s a lot Gomes & company can do with this property. I wish them luck.