Casino leaders look to non-gaming amenities for local growth
SOUTHERN GAMING SUMMIT
American Writer Henry Miller once said, “Ones destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.”
But, if that destination includes the Mississippi Gulf Coast, some casino leaders believe changes are going to be imperative to survive another 25 years in the gaming industry.
On Thursday last week during the Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi, discussions were held on how to attract more tourism dollars.
“If [we] can combine the resort gaming and regional entertainment, we can create these destinations,” said Tom Hoskens of Cuningham Group Architecture.
“Biloxi-Gulfport doesn’t need to change its authentic self to be great,” he said.
With family-friendly attractions on the minds of leaders in recent years, some projects are incorporating those types of aspects to generate additional revenue dollars.
And exciting plans are coming with future proposed properties, Hoskens mentioned. He explained how D’Iberville’s future Oyster Bay Resort and Casino development is planning a Michelangelo Museum and Gallery to gain attention.
“They’re trying to tie in the history and traditions on the Mississippi Coast into these new developments,” said Hoskens.
Harrah’s Gulf Coast General Manager Jonathan Jones said 60% of Las Vegas’ revenue comes from non-gaming amenities. He said the number of people who went to
Vegas only to gamble has dipped below 70%.
“What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there,” he said. “People are willing to pay for other experiences and other things, and we’re mindful of that.”
Resort fees offer an additional list of amenities, according to Jones.In Vegas, the resort fees are pushing $40 a night per stay. That’s a big difference to the coast who charges less than $20 a night per stay at some properties.
The outdoor amenities and the pool are two things every gaming resort company is known for according to Golden Nugget Casino Hotel Biloxi’s Vice President of Marketing and Resort Operations Scott King. He says those are are catching more attention now.
Still, questions remain, he added.
“How do you leverage an industry that is flat like Biloxi?” asked King. “[It] goes beyond building brick and mortar.”
Marketing is a factor, the panel agreed. In fact, hundreds of thousands in marketing dollars are jointly spent on promoting the coast’s industry each year.
With a $4.6 million budget for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the regional tourism organization that markets various aspects of the coast to aid in the drive of more visitors, a limited amount of marketing dollars tends to be spent quickly, according to Executive Director Renee Areng.
And, reaching new markets such as millennials is already a challenge.
King hopes that strategies, which increased communications with age groups such as millennials, will help the industry gain on the Mississippi Coast.
“It’s not just millennials, but it’s how [we] communicate with our customers and players,” he said.
With upgrades to the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and partnerships through GolfCoast.com, the coast now has the potential to grow from future non-gaming attractions.
However, time and money will eventually run out on the option for some non-gaming attractions, ones that local leaders cannot wait for State leaders to accept.
“If [we] can bring another 2 million people, they’ll visit the casinos,” suggested Hoskens.
“Figuring out how to do that is on all of our minds.”