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Powering beyond the pandemic

Powering beyond the pandemic


The land-based future looks bright

It is now more than two years since the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and there is no doubt that its many impacts have been forever life-changing. One popular refrain, especially when referencing the acceleration of online gaming, hybrid working and other home-based pursuits, is that the pandemic “accelerated changes that had begun to happen anyway.”

True as this may well be the one change that the land-based casino sector was not expecting was to be closed down for months on end. So now that the world is largely re-opening, armed with a fresh set of values and perspectives, one of the many questions we can ask is what does the future hold for the land-based casino sector?

A sector that has never stood still

Fortunately, casino gaming is a sector that has never stood still, especially not in the most recent decades. Whilst the romantic imagery of beautiful roulette, blackjack and baccarat tables still pervades with the wider public, the reality is that electronic gaming, powered by computer software, has powered a constant state of evolution. The dominance of slot machine revenues has increased, the arrival of progressive games followed by a multitude of electronic versions of table games pushed the needle further, with players forever confronted by the next and newest big thing.

Add to all of this the fact that gaming – as in gambling – is perpetually prone to the pressures and whims of politicians and legislators the world over, and the notion of change is not unfamiliar and nor is the need to be prepared for abrupt and often momentous change.

The out-of-home leisure industry, as in bars, restaurants, hotels and casinos etc, arguably felt the impact of the pandemic restrictions harder than most business sectors. The ability to work from home is not much use when your job is catering to the out-of-home entertainment needs of a socialising public. In the case of the land-based casino sector, with its renowned entrepreneurial flair, the question “What happens next?” was addressed almost immediately.

Refurbishment and diversification

Aside from completely re-evaluating every aspect of their duty of care to staff and guests alike, which was a universal response, the two most popular next steps were refurbishment and diversification.

Exciting as they ultimately are, renovations and refurbishments are always a day-to-day nuisance, involving partial or total closures. And so the silver lining around this huge and very dark cloud was the opportunity to undertake meticulous and unhurried infrastructure improvements, in anticipation of a tsunami of eager and stir-crazy guests once the doors finally reopened.

In addition, the motivation to diversify was dramatically heightened. For many years, many established land-based operations viewed their online counterparts as unwelcome upstarts. Territorial protectionism is a reaction built upon fear and these ‘kids’ with their computers were a nuisance. And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t. Online gaming doesn’t require its players to actually ‘be’ anywhere, or physically engage with others in any way. One of the perversities of the pandemic was that it provided almost perfect playing conditions for the committed iGamer.

Unlikely bedfellows and best of friends

Unsurprisingly, these initially unlikely bedfellows are now the very best of friends. Land-based casinos throughout the world have, when legally allowed to do so, transitioned a significant part of their business into the online space. Through carefully cultivated partnerships, both parties are seeing exciting benefits from this meeting of minds, with both reaching new audiences of keen players and bettors.

In terms of the numbers involved, nowhere will this transition – and relaxation of relevant legislation – be more sharply visible than in the United States. Most of its 50+ states are larger and wealthier than most sovereign nations, and as its casinos align themselves with specialist sports betting and iGaming partners and use their proven marketing social engineering skills to enthuse and grow their audiences, billions of dollars will flow.

And, of course, another after-effect of the pandemic is that the many US state governments – and governments throughout the world – are now in great need of substantial funds to restore coffers depleted by the provision of local aid and support. Taxation of casino revenues is juicy and low-hanging fruit in this regard and the industry needs to quickly, but sensitively, take advantage. 

Broadening and softening the customer offer

The second area of diversification, which may be easy to initially easy to overlook, is the opportunity presented to the land-based sector to both broaden and ‘soften’ their customer offer into non-gaming entertainment and leisure areas. The mention of ‘softening’ is intended to illustrate the additional, synergistic, benefit of joining up all the dots, as a more ‘integrated resort’ environment, attracting visitors with health spas, golf courses and even family areas, is far more likely to be welcomed by those same legislators and politicians who are seeking out ways to generate more taxes.

Traditionalists will always point to the fact that the land-based casino environment, and atmosphere, delivers glamour and romance – qualities that are totally absent online. Well let us put this belief into perspective; in the context of entire adult populations, gaming in casinos is a minority pursuit. It caters to a niche audience, as it always has. We are probably all part of this audience, but the majority of our friends and families are probably not. This is the reality. So by diversifying the total offer into wider and more consumer-friendly areas and joining forces with online partners and specialists to maximise the gambling opportunities, casinos are not only protecting themselves against any future adversities, but they are also expanding their horizons and growing accordingly. Should we really have expected anything less…?