In the last post of the series, INTELITY’s resident casino expert Ben Keller answers the single biggest recovery question casino operators have: what comes next?
Over the past few weeks, INTELITY’s resident casino expert, Ben Keller, has been answering questions about the state of the casino industry and recovery. In part one, he covered topics like safety measures, guest and player satisfaction, and how to boost revenue as 2020 comes to a close. Then, in part two, he talked about trends: which products are sticking around for the foreseeable future and which will fade with COVID.
Every question discussed so far comes back to one topic: the future. What is the future for casinos? Turns out, this is the hardest question to answer, but also the most rewarding and interesting topic to discuss. Here’s what he has to say about what the short- and long-term future looks like for casinos and casino-resorts.
Is the post-COVID future for casinos a return to normal as soon as safety concerns fade or is the industry going to be changed forever? If so, how?
Ben Keller: Let’s get the easy part out of the way. The one thing I really do think we know is that mobile key is here to stay. Have you tried to go to a concert in the last few years? A sports game? You’re not printing out a ticket, you’re pulling out your electronic ticket on your phone. Right now, mobile key technology is finally advanced enough for hotels and resorts to streamline the entry experience for guests. There’s still a ways to go to make it completely convenient, but I think over the next 5-10 years, the physical room key will be used less and less until using a mobile key becomes a requirement in many places.
Now the hard part. Other than mobile key, it’s a mixed bag. Some trends will last and others won’t. Some people will feel comfortable going back to the way things were as soon as restrictions are lifted while others will take precautions for a long time. That’s not just the future of the casino industry either; that’s true across the board.
There are also still lingering issues to be figured out. Here in Vegas, if you go to the casino and walk around with a drink, you don’t have to wear a mask. Which is typical because if you’re eating or drinking, it’s not required. But think about that: if you’re literally just holding a drink, you can do what you want. Without a drink, you need a mask. That’s clearly a loophole. Casinos and resorts are trying to solve that and other issues on the fly as long as COVID remains a challenge.
As for gaming itself, do I think every other slot machine will be turned off forever? No, of course not. Do I think casinos may need to eliminate some machines off the floor? Maybe. It could make people more comfortable in the long run and allow for social distancing should we need it again in the future.
Bottom line: casinos have been around a long time and will continue to be around for a long time. Things remain up in the air right now, but when it comes to the future of “normal,” I think we’ll end up with a lot of the same activities and places, but how they’re set up and how we interact with them will change.
People always have a choice. Do they want to go camping? Do they want to go to the lake? Or do they want to go to a casino? What casinos need to do—and what many are already doing well—is figure out how to make the experience feel as normal and as entertaining as possible.
You can institute a ton of safety measures while preserving the feel and the ambience of the casino environment. But there’s a scenario where casinos become very depressing, with only one person at a table or movement severely restricted. That’s dangerous for the industry. In the end, the best “normal” will be finding innovative ways to keep people safe that have little to no impact on the amount of entertainment or fun they experience. It’s a difficult task, but one worth taking on.
Want to hear more about how the future of casinos and how you can prepare to drive recovery and revenue in 2021?