The world’s two biggest casino companies, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, are sending surveys to customers to determine why they’re displeased with Las Vegas and visiting less often.
We know why, but don’t want to ruin the suspense.
The surveys are telling in both their timing and substance.
Here’s a section of the survey from Caesars Entertainment, sent to us by Darrell V.
The timing? Casino earnings and stock values are down significantly, and many believe the situation’s going from bad to worse.
The substance? “Where the hell have you been?”
Other questions in the surveys try to get at why travel patterns have changed.
In another section of the survey, the company asks what would have to happen to get a guest back.
We got a weird feeling when we read that survey question. It sort of triggered memories of ex-girlfriends asking what they’d have to do in order to get back together.
The problem is when you’re at that point, it’s too late. You weren’t vibing, cues were missed and it’s nearly impossible to recapture that spark.
But that’s what Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts are trying to do, apparently.
Park MGM, an MGM Resorts casino, sent out a similar survey, as did other casinos in the MGM Resorts family. Thanks to Brent E. for passing it along to us.
In it, the company flat-out asks if the customer thinks Las Vegas is changing for better or worse.
These surveys are remarkable in that 1) the companies seem to be aware visitor perceptions are changing, 2) it’s taken them so long to become aware of that fact.
See, people who interact with Vegas visitors have known for some time they’re visiting less often.
While there are a number of reasons for this, there’s one we hear over and over again: “Las Vegas is nickel-and-diming us, and we’re not going to take it any more.”
Even devoted fans of Las Vegas cite a litany of fees and irksome business practices they say is causing them to visit less often.
Wait for it.
Tap water fees.
Until recently, casino companies barely acknowledged nickel-and-diming could be a factor in revenue and occupancy declines, despite an avalanche of concern we see every day on social media.
It seems the casinos weren’t listening.
Well, they’re listening now.
As we said, there are a number of reasons Vegas seems to be at a crossroads.
For example, there’s something called “commoditization.” It’s defined as “the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand) end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market or consumers.” You
In human terms, it means legal gambling is everywhere now, rather than Las Vegas having a virtual monopoly.
The irony of all this is Las Vegas is in a slump when the overall economy is booming. You can bet this is an ongoing source of frustration and embarrassment among casino executives.
What’s the solution?
Casino companies shouldn’t need surveys to understand what’s frustrating their customers. Their customers are online all day every day, not to mention in their casinos, sharing their concerns.
Second, provide value.
This is a tricky one, because in may ways, Las Vegas provides incredible value. Compare the cost of a hotel room in Las Vegas to those in other cities, and the contrast is dramatic.
Despite that, the value isn’t the focus for visitors or what they remember or share with friends. It’s their anger about resort fees, the exact opposite of value.
Vegas is in the middle of an image crisis.
It’s also suffering from a comparison to itself. Specifically, a comparison to its past self, the one where gambling paid for everything so everything appeared to be cheap or free.
Now, casinos have to get smart about how they make money.
They have to roll back paid parking. They have to get rid of resort fees, or at least stop calling them that and just include them in the cost of a room. They have to dump triple zero roulette and 6-to-5 blackjack.
Casinos can’t stop there. They have to wrangle their restaurant and show partners and insist they stop jacking up nonsense convenience fees and moronic CNF charges. Why? Because they’re a reflection on the casinos and Las Vegas itself.
And as great as Las Vegas is, people will stop coming. Many tell us they already have.
Visitors are willing to pay for great experiences, but they won’t tolerate feeling ripped off. They demand value, and Las Vegas has to make a concerted, coordinated, committed effort to provide it again.
Update (9/27/18): Strip gambling revenue was down more than 12% year-over-year in August 2018. It was down in July as well. Trust us, they’re listening.