BlackBerry to the future in the Las Vegas Business Press

My latest piece in the Las Vegas Business Press takes a look at why Leroy’s Blackberry sports-betting application is a big deal:

The year is still young, but 2011 has already been groundbreaking for Nevada’s gaming industry. The Gaming Control Board approved an application that lets players make bets from their own mobile devices, pointing the way to a future in which gambling will go mobile.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : BlackBerry to the future: Gaming takes step ahead.

At its core, the app is just old-fashioned account wagering updated for mobile devices, with a raft of security and geo-location protocols that ensure a) the data is secure and b)the person making the bet is in Nevada.

Anyone can download the app, whether you’re a Nevada resident or not, but you have to physically be within the state to place bets. In addition, you have to open your account at a Leroy’s sportsbook, and if you are lucky enough to win, you either pick your winnings up at one, or arrange for a wire transfer.

This is really where the future of sports betting is going to be. With people using apps for an increasing number of information and commercial services, it’s only logical that they be able to bet on sports with one.

October & the future in LVBP

This week in the Las Vegas Business Press, I finally get a chance to discuss the October Nevada gaming numbers:

For both the state and the Strip, it was the third consecutive month of positive year-over-year revenue growth — as good a sign as any that, for now at least, the bleeding has stopped. At the very least, the data suggest that revenues for Nevada casinos have stabilized.

Yet October was very different from previous months, particularly on the Strip.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : October numbers may point way to future.

It’s definitely shaping up to be a more varied year than 2008 and 2009 as far as the gaming revenue numbers go. I predict more volatility in the near future.

Not a happy June in the LVBP

My latest Las Vegas Business Press column is out, in which I dissect the June Nevada numbers:

The June results are in, and whatever the national economic picture, one thing is certain: Nevada gaming remains moribund. The figures released by the Gaming Control Board aren’t much cause for optimism, though things look a little better for Southern Nevada than for the north.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Latest data provide little optimism for gaming.

Basically, even without the incredibly low bacc hold on the Strip, it wasn’t a good month for the state, as slot handle continues to fall and table handle is mostly kept afloat by high levels of bacc play, play which happens in maybe a dozen casinos. But even if the bacc hold percentage had been more in the house’s favor, it still probably would have been a flat month.

Also, an interesting article in the LV Sun about the decreasing number of slots in Nevada, something I’ve written about. I’ve got one question: if it’s just a matter of having more games on each slot, why has the statewide win per slot only inched up slightly ($108.76 vs. $110.04) since 2004? The total win is declining in addition to the total number of slots, so each slot is doing about the same about of “work” it was six years ago, multiple games or not. Sure, the counter-argument is that revenues would have declined more without the game menus, but still, there hasn’t been a real increase in per-machine revenue generation yet.

Gambling, legalization, and taxes in the LVBP

I tried to douse some of the anti-gambling rhetoric yesterday, so it’s only fitting that in this week’s LVBP column I give a little perspective on calls for gambling legalization to bridge budget gaps:

The legalization or expansion of casino gaming is a hot topic in many states across the country. Like Nevada, many states are having problems meeting their budgets. Unlike the Silver State, they don’t have a robust gaming industry to draw upon. So, gambling expansion is frequently couched as a solution for budget shortfalls.

It’s hard to look at the taxes that casinos have produced to date, however, and agree that casinos are the only necessary solution to budget ills.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Cash-strapped states making risky wager.

So while casinos aren’t the ultimate evil that some on the anti side present them as, they’re clearly no panacea to budget problems.

As I’ve said before, legalizing casinos may solve some problems, but it will probably cause other problems. Those might be big or small problems, and a state could certainly be better off with casinos than without them, but it’s disingenuous to argue that they’re always going to save the day. Even in Nevada they don’t.

Writing about gambling

Based on a discussion in my Gambling and the Media class, I wrote a little essay about how gambling’s depicted in film and literature. Now it’s a Las Vegas Business Press column:

Looking at how gambling is depicted in books, films, and television says a lot about how people perceive the pastime, but it often says more about the author’;s mood or his or her plot needs.

The general rule is that the more important gambling to the plot of the story, the less positive the portrayal of gambling. Take, for example, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic, The Gambler. In it, the title character loses his soul to roulette. And the casino itself is decidedly unglamorous. “There is no splendor whatsoever in those sordid rooms,”; Dostoyevsky writes, “and as to gold, not only is it not piled on the tables, but one scarcely ever catches sight of it.”

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : When writers feel desperate, gaming depictions turn dour.

So if you’re looking for a positive, or even neutral, view of gambling, search out a movie or book where gambling isn’t the focus. The one exception is books about how to win at gambling, curiously enough.

Fun or bad? You decide

No Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven this week because of a production error, but there’s always next week to look forward to, and I’ve got a piece about the promotion of Las Vegas in the Business Press this week:

Maybe it isn't. While the ads are amusing and have a fair shot of “going viral,” they have a subtext that we might want to think twice about broadcasting.

This subtext goes back to the general premise of the ad, that a beleaguered worker drone has to resort to trickery to take a vacation to Las Vegas. We rarely need excuses to do things that are good for us. The implication is that Las Vegas is bad for us.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Better to promote LV as fun rather than bad.

The piece I wrote for this week’s Vegas Seven will see the light of day soon. Unless it’s been edited down since I last saw it, the column is a real milestone–my first overt Star Trek reference. That, and it’s features some insightful analysis, of course.

Take Seven

For a while now, I’ve been dropping hints about an article on resort fees that I’ve been working on. I’ve been a little more mysterious than usual because the magazine I wrote it for hadn’t been published yet. Well, it’s out at last, in the debut issue of Vegas Seven magazine.

It’s the first in a weekly column series that I’m writing called “Green Felt Journal.” My beat is gaming and tourism generally, with a mix of current issues, historical perspective, and coming trends. It’s different from the column I write for the Business Press every two weeks, because the LVBP column is more reflective and observational, while Green Felt Journal is drawn more on statistical research and interviews.

The best way I’ve found to read the resort fee article is to go to the digital version of the magazine and flip ahead to page 34, where you’ll see the inaugural edition of the Green Felt Journal in all its glory. forum members will be glad to see that I used the topic thread on resort fees in the article, with users rockchickx51 and donnymac66 getting quoted in print. Thanks, guys!

But that’s not all. I’ve also got an essay in today’s issue about how the Wonder Pets can save Las Vegas. Yes, in all seriousness I wax philosophical on how Las Vegas should take some tips from a toddler TV show. Here’s a sample:

In a recent episode, the Pets fly to Las Vegas to aid the Rat Pack, a trio of bumbling performing rodents named Blue Eyes, Dino and Sammy who can’t get their act together. In honor of this mission, the heroes replace the mast and sail on their intrepid vehicle of choice, the Fly Boat, with a construction inspired by neon signs and showgirls’ headdresses. Just like that, the Fly Boat is reborn as the “Vegas Boat.” After departing the schoolhouse to a slot machine’s jangle, the Vegas Boat zooms past the Wynn and down into a pint-size re-creation of the Strip. There, in a makeshift rehearsal space, the Pets give the Rat Pack a lesson on working together when they dance. This works like a charm. To celebrate, they join Dino for some pasta and, though their work is done, Blue Eyes refuses to let them leave without having some fun.

Can the Wonder Pets Save Las Vegas?

Maybe I’ve been watching toddler TV for too long, but the show really says a lot about how most people view Vegas.

If you’re in Vegas, look for a copy of Vegas Seven on the street–I believe you’ll find them where 944 is distributed. [UPDATE: You can find them at 7-Eleven, Albertsons, Fresh N Easy, Whole Foods, Golds Gym, Hard Rock Hotel, the Palms, Lee’s Discount Liquor and Blockbuster]

If you don’t live in Vegas, you’ll have to content yourself with browsing the contents online. There are several great articles in there, including one about how Las Vegas is courting China.

For those of you who want to keep up with the rest of my work, I’m still writing a monthly historical column for Casino Connection, and have occasional longer pieces in Global Gaming Business–one about the mainstreaming of gambling should be out soon. In this month’s issue, by the way, there’s an excerpt from Eadington and Dolye’s Integrated Casino Resorts that is definitely worth reading. There’s also a look inside Aria’s surveillance room that is interesting, and much more.

As the Wonder Pets might say, it looks like my work here is done. How about some celery?

UPDATE: OK Schopenhauer, you asked for it. Here it is:

My favorite is the one at about 1:14. If you want a good introduction to the Wonder Pets, try this video from Parents magazine.

More about F&B and branding

With G2E upon us, I’ve been even busier than usual–hence no post yesterday. Here’s a preview of what I’ll be saying about food and beverage operations and casino brand identity, as covered in my LVBP column:

A property’s brand includes a great many things: the name, the architectural style, fonts used in signage and advertising, the uniforms, the entertainment, and the food and beverage offerings.To longtime casino observers, the idea of a “brand identity” for a casino may seem like a pretentious exercise in needless navel-gazing. After all, if you have loose slots and cheap eats, you wont be able to keep customers out of the place, right?

Actually, branding has been a big part of the casino game for decades. When the El Rancho Vegas, founded in 1941, decided in the early 1950s to position itself more competitively against the newer Flamingo and Sands casinos, it toned down the Stetson-and-jeans feel of the property for a more genteel French provincial ambiance. An important part of this change was transforming the Roundup Room dinner theater into the Opera House.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Casinos define themselves better when gaming and food pair well.

From there, I talk about the importance of selecting the right f&b mix for a property–something that most people in the business probably know but is interesting to talk about.

Morality, economics, and gambling expansion

I’ve got a new column in the LVBP, about the dubious morality (and even more dubious economics) of many states that legalize gambling:

There's a paradox here: Many states legalize gambling only to bring in revenue in lieu of raising taxes. When their citizens can't generate the kind of tax revenues state governments can't do without, gambling is the obvious fix. The only problem is, when people aren't spending on other things, they're not going to be gambling much, either.The whole model of legalizing for revenues and revenues alone is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : States that legalized gambling for revenue did so for the wrong reason.

Read the whole piece if you like. What I’m doing is carrying the typical argument that “this is a business like any other” to its logical conclusion. If it really is, then artificially limited the market does everyone except a select few a great disservice.

Of course, I’m not the first person to say this. Peter Collins said it with a great deal more wit in his Gambling and the Public Interest.

Taking a bow

My Las Vegas Business Press piece on Encore is up. It’s an expansion of my original post on this site. Here’s my grand conclusion:

Encore, in its essence, is hopeful. Even the name is a reminder that something came before, and something will come after. It’s both a great new resort and a call to remember that as long as it continues to change, Las Vegas will survive.

Wynn should take a bow for Encore and its essence of hope.

Insomuch as it’s possible to plumb a casino opening for a deeper read on the current American mindset, I’m giving it a shot. I’d really like to develop this into a 2000-word or so essay that pulls in the history of the Strip, speculation, consumerism, much more. Any editors out there want to pay for such a piece? Just checking.

Together, I think Wynn and Encore are the first Vegas resort that’s not looking backward: there’s no nostalgia for the past or for imagined versions of other, more notable, places. It looks like City Center and Fountainebleau will be in the same mold. Whether you love or hate the Wynn suite of properties, you’ve got to admit that stylistically they are a world away from, say, the Palazzo and Venetian, which are supposed to evoke the glories of a city whose heyday passed before Columbus sailed. They are original without making a fetish of their modernism.

If we don’t have the airline capacity to deliver people to town, though, does any of this make a difference in 2009? Later in the week I’ll be developing my year-in-review/looking ahead columns, and I think that will be the big question.