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The Road Back: Back to Basics – Day one

Insight | Analysis

Communication is a vital to a casinos’ efforts to bring premium customers back to properties, according to a panel of industry experts in the first of ICE North America’s Back to Basics webinars, part of the The Road Back series.

Register here to watch this session on-demand.

Holly O’Brien, vice president of marketing and advertising at Golden Nugget Las Vegas, said that the response from customers had not been uniform, but some players were much more eager to return than others.

“It depends on the customer,” she said. “You’ve got a certain segment who are just happy to be back. They’re just excited to experience the amenities they can and be out and about again. For the most part they’re very compliant and they know it’s mutually assured success.

“On the other hand there’s some transient guests or those who’ve recently acquired stimulus money and are new to casinos and some of those people maybe are not so accustomed to wearing masks or other rules.”

Scott Phillips, who organises trips to casinos for VIP players as president of Preferred Casino Player, said the distinction was between players who simply wanted to gamble and those who wanted other amenities or a greater social aspect to their trip.

“A lot of people ask ‘What’s going on in Vegas’ because if they’re not there they don’t know,” he said. “I tell them that if you just want to gamble, it’s very clean and very safe, but if you want to go to shows or gamble with your friends, that’s not really an option.”

However, he added that attempting to convince players who had their doubts about returning to venues would be unlikely to prove successful.

“If they want to come, they’re going to come,” he said. “I can’t convince a customer to come if they don’t think it’s safe, or if they don’t want to get on a plane, or they don’t like the amenities.”

O’Brien said one of the most important ways of making high-value customers feel comfortable in returning is through regular communication and transparency.

“One of the things I want to emphasize is that communication is as much a part of marketing as the offers we send our ourselves, so even during our 78-day closure we were doing some level setting, telling customers what we knew, what to expect and when we thought we would know more,” she said.

Then when we did reopen on June 4 we had very visible Covid- messaging telling people what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it.”

Kara Fox LaRose, president and general manager of Ilani Resort in Washington, agreed with this assessment. However, she added that while her venue was communicating with customers, it had actually cut back on traditional advertising.

“Transparency and consistency are the most important things for a brand and the experience,” she said. “Being a trusted brand is such an important thing for guests, in order to make sure tht they’re not questioning what you’re doing. Here at Ilani we’ve been very transparent, our cleaning protocols have been brought forward so everyone can see them.

“But believe it or not, and not everybody agrees with this approach, but we’ve pulleed back a lot of our advertising in our market. We felt it was a little obnoxious to be saying that we’re able to be open when many local businesses aren’t. Instead we’ve found ways to leverage our assets, our loyalty program, our team base and our customer base and I believe that helps a lot for long-term sustainability.”

The Road Back: Back to Basics series continues today (7 October), with the second of a two-part session on bringing premium players back to casinos.

This session features expert speakers from Resorts World, Penn National Gaming, Foxwoods, Caesars Entertainment and the National Fire Safety Council and National Child Safety Council. Register here to attend the session, and to listen to yesterday’s discussion on-demand.