AI Could Change More Than the Game(s) in Las Vegas

I first wrote this about a month ago. I was just thinking about the potential impact of AI and automation on Las Vegas. And now you can read it:

Since the invention of the slot machine over 100 years ago, automation has been a part of gambling, generally for the better. And yet recent developments in AI could substantially shift the Las Vegas resort industry, possibly (though not necessarily) for the better.

Read more: AI Could Change More Than the Game(s) in Las Vegas

I still don’t know whether more automation will be good or bad in the long term. There is just too much that I don’t know about the topic. I guess that why it’s the future.

How Seasonal Are Gaming and Tourism? – Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at seasonality in Las Vegas:

How seasonal are gaming and tourism in Las Vegas? My hometown, Atlantic City, had a well-defined busy season: Memorial Day to just after Labor Day (the Miss America Pageant was created to extend the summer an extra week). Vegas has its fluctuations, too, but they are harder to characterize. 

Read more: How Seasonal Are Gaming and Tourism? – Vegas Seven

This started with me just wondering how seasonal the business is; I know I’d looked at it before but hadn’t bothered the write it down. So now I’ve got some spreadsheets and some graphs that didn’t make it into print. Like so many other things I look at, there is no  easy answer.

How to Keep Las Vegas’ Forward Momentum Rolling – Vegas Seven

In my latest Green Felt Journal, I look at the importance of the new Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee:

Las Vegas may be breaking tourism records—May was the city’s busiest month ever, with more than 3.7 million visitors—but that doesn’t mean it’s time to get complacent. Governor Brian Sandoval must understand this, since he’s assembled a new committee that will spend the next year considering ways to create the infrastructure that will keep tourism—and the local economy—booming into the future. Read More

Source: How to Keep Las Vegas’ Forward Momentum Rolling – Vegas Seven

It’s always nice to look into the historical context for present-day policies.



A Fresh Study Sheds Light on the Habits of the Vegas Visitor | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I look at how the Vegas visitor is changing–and what that means:

The big question is, Why do people come to Las Vegas in the first place? Naturally, there are many reasons, so GLS Research, which compiles the profile, asks subjects for the primary purpose of their most recent visit. Having heard so much about how the Strip is about “more than gambling” these days, the trend is surprising: 15 percent of respondents said they came here primarily to gamble—more than three times the 4 percent who said that in 2004.

via A Fresh Study Sheds Light on the Habits of the Vegas Visitor | Vegas Seven

The one constant in Las Vegas is that the visitor is always changing. It’s up to the casinos to evolve to fit emerging demographics without alienating the old.

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.

Projecting the future

A while back, some folks asked me what I thought the near-future held for Las Vegas gaming and tourism. After mulling over some of the LVCVA data for the past 40 years, I gave them six different scenarios. This might be nice for a wider audience, I thought. But, since I had a lot on my plate, it fell to the bottom of my to-do list.

Today, reading about the PWC report in the Las Vegas Sun, I decided to share what I came up with.

There are so many variables at play, I decided to forecast out six different scenarios that begin with the current trend, but allow for some flexibility.

Instead of looking at statewide numbers, I focused on Clark County, since I was using the LVCVA’s data and they include Clark County gaming revenue with their visitor data.

Through September, Clark County revenue is just about flat with 2009; that’s about where it should end up (a while back I did a post with some statewide revenue projections if you’re curious). The Strip is definitely trending up, but everywhere else continues to drag.

My methodology was simple: by dividing the total county gaming revenue by the number of annual visitors, I got a neat “gaming spend/visitor” number. Yes, this includes the locals’ play with the visitors’ play, but since the locals’ economy is largely driven by tourism (more tourist spending=more tips/paychecks for locals that can end up a locals’ casinos) this wasn’t necessarily a drawback.

Based on the about 2.5% increase in visitation we’ve seen for Las Vegas this year, I decided to offer two main scenarios: a modest and a major increase over the next six years.

The modest increase in visitation assumes a compound annual growth in tourism of 1%. Yes, that’s less than the 2010 total, but I figured this was averaged out for six years, and should conservatively take into account some possible contraction.

The major increase in visitation assumes a compound annual growth in tourism of 7%, which is about equal to what the Strip saw in the 1990s. Not likely, as far as I can see, but it’s a good best-case scenario.

For each possible increase in visitation, I posited three possibilities:

1. Gaming spend/visitor will continue to fall at the 2009-2010 rate (3%)

2. Gaming spend/visitor will remain flat (sounds good, but when adjusting for inflation isn’t)

3. Gaming spend/visitor will increase by an average of 3% year

Below, I’ve got summaries of each of the six scenarios [I’ll post jpgs of the data this afternoon, time permitting]

(Modest increase in visitation, 3% gaming spend/visitor decline)
Visitation +1%, Spend -3%
Clark County gaming revenues decline by about 10% by 2015. More visitors coming doesn’t matter, if they don’t spend more. This kind of sustained decline would have serious impacts for the state’s budget, since 85% of all gaming revenues come from Clark County.

(Modest increase in visitation, gaming spend/visitor flat)
Visitation +1%, Spend Flat%
Now we’re getting somewhere. Gaming revenue increases by $2 billion by 2015, with about $10.8 billion coming in. This is at least a viable future.

(Major increase in visitation, 3% gaming spend/visitor decline)
Visitation +7%, Spend -3%
Even if visitation skyrockets, it’s not worth much if spend/visitor declines: despite handling almost 6 million more visitors in 2015, the total gaming revenue actually fall below their 2010 levels.

(Major increase in visitation, gaming spend/visitor flat)
+7% visitation, flat spend
This looks workable, with an increase of gaming revenue to $10.2 billion by 2015. If there’s a bigger bump in non-gaming spending and higher sales tax collections that offset the increased costs associated with having more visitors, this could be workable.

(Major increase in visitation, 3% gaming spend/visitor increase)
7% increase in visitation, 3% increase in visitor spend
Isn’t this the best of both worlds? More visitors, spending more. We get Clark County gaming revenues rising to $11.9 billion by 2015.


Let’s compare my scenarios with PriceWaterhouse Coopers. In 2014, they believe that Nevada’s total gaming revenues will be $12.4 billion. Extrapolating from my Clark County data (assuming that the county will average 85% of total state revenues), here my estimated 2014 statewide totals. These might be a bit optimistic, since I’m guessing that Clark County’s total share of state gaming revenues will increase.

Scenario 1:$9.4 billion
Scenario 4:$10.4 billion
Scenario 2:$10.9 billion
Scenario 5:$11.8 billion
PWC: $12.4 billion
Scenario 3:$12.7 billion
Scenario 6:$13.3 billion

I think the PWC folks might have been right on this one. It’s not the most optimistic projection, but it’s not unduly pessimistic, either. If I had to handicap it, I’d say that in 2014 the statewide gaming revenues should be somewhere between $11.5 billion and $13 billion. There are so many variables out there, though, that it’s pretty hard to handicap.

The complex Vegas story in LVBP

It’s not every day that venting about the frustrating aspects of your job leads you to a column. But if you read my piece in the Las Vegas Business Press, you’ll see how I use some misconceptions about Las Vegas as an opportunity to set the record somewhat straight:

Recently, for example, I received an e-mail for a U.S.-based correspondent for a respected foreign publication who wanted to know whether the rumors were true, and that Las Vegas would soon be closed because of the poor state of the economy.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Beyond the headlines, real LV story is complex.

For some reason election season put me on a lot of foreign correspondents’ radar, even though I almost never talk politics. I don’t envy those who have to quickly dial into a complex situation and summarize it for a general audience at all.

Still, the idea of Vegas closing down made me think of the end of National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Big concern for Las Vegas

Interesting article in today’s Las Vegas Sun by Richard Velotta about how undue concern over carbon emissions may seriously impact travel. This has tremendous implications for Las Vegas:

Seventy-two government agencies have cut their travel budgets because of environmental concerns, a top travel executive said, leading him to conclude that overzealous environmental policy could be the next roadblock facing the tourism industry.

via Travel expert: Environmental policies loom as tourism threat – Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010 | 1:55 a.m. – Las Vegas Sun.

This is a real threat to the Las Vegas economy. The city has really suffered from the decline in business travel, and any continued decline would obviously hurt the economy even more. And the implications for leisure travel are even more disturbing.

In many ways, these anti-travel folks are taking the “evils of carbon” disaster porn they’ve been fed and carrying it through to its logical conclusion. If you really believe that carbon emissions are responsible for “destroying the planet,” then only a sadist or a fool would willfully create these emissions for something as trivial as a bachelorette party.

This is one of the reasons why it’s sensible for resorts to take specific action to be more “environmentally responsible”–like reducing waste, recycling, or decreasing energy usage by switching to LED lights. But going away from specifics and talking about nebulous concepts like “sustainability,” I think, raises all sorts of questions, questions whose answers we might not like.

AC invaded

Here’s something to remind us that an oceanfront view can be great, but an oceanfront smell isn’t always the best. From the AC Press:

Local beach patrols reported spotting mussels along area beaches Sunday, but so far there have been no problems.

Atlantic City Beach Patrol Chief Rod Aluise said there were some mussels on the beach by Albany Avenue near Ventnor, though it was not a big problem.

The problem in the city, Brigantine and other beachfront communities Saturday was clam worms, also known as jelly worms or bugs.

Aluise said the clam worms are harmless, but swimmers and beachgoers are bothered by them because of the “icky factor.”

The clam worm problem only happened Saturday.

Margate Beach Patrol Lt. Joe Cincotta said a lot of mussels, about a foot deep, washed up by Washington Avenue, and to a smaller extent on Monroe and Quincy avenues.

“It's pretty heavy, the heaviest we've seen in a few years,” said Cincotta, adding that it smells, but there have been no complaints.

Ventnor Beach Patrol Lt. William Ferry said the mussels were around New Haven Avenue, and they haven't gotten any complaints about the smell. Ferry said they got clam worms on Saturday, too.

via Mussels invade area beaches – : Breaking News.

I figured this article would be a fun break from the usual doom and gloom around here because it’s got such a small-town charm.

Plus I used to work on the beach in Ventnor, so a few years ago I would have been one of the guys cleaning up those mussels at Newport Ave (you’ve got to click through and see the photo).

Visit Mister Falcon in Mesquite?

In Steve Cyr’s talk last week, he made more than one reference to Mister Falcon, a legendary high roller who’s apparently been seen in town with Bruce Willis. I don’t know what you thought you heard, but that’s what the work-safe version should sound like. I was thinking about Mister Falcon today when I got an email from Mesquite:

All Clark County residents are invited to escape momentarily to the beautiful Falcon Ridge Hotel or Highland Estates Resort in Mesquite, Nevada. Both properties are offering you awesome rates of $39.00 Sunday through Thursday and $49.00 Friday and Saturday throughout this summer.

To book your room at the Falcon Ridge Hotel, call 702-346-2000.

This is another one of those things that seems hysterical to me, but ymmv.

It also got me thinking that maybe Mesquite could punch it up a bit by advertising “a monkeyfighting vacation in a Monday to Friday resort.”