Ismail Vali, senior consultant for iGamingLeaders.com, has authored an exclusive three-article series for CasinoBeats. The Three Acts of Gaming explains how Las Vegas set the blueprint for the first and second acts, or eras, and the lessons both Vegas and global resort gaming can teach online gaming as we move through the third.
The first of these acts focuses on Las Vegas, which will celebrate one hundred years of legal, licensed gaming in 2031. Vali expects this centennial to pass without fanfare, in a city well used to the show-and-awe of gaming in its constant bid to remain relevant, responsible and revolutionary for the players it seeks to engage
Prologue: What are the Three Acts?
In any Hollywood movie, the plot or story comprises:
- Act One – The Set-Up
- Act Two – The Conflict
- Act Three – The Resolution
For the purposes of this article, a brief Story of Gaming if you will, I’m defining the Three Acts of Gaming as:
Act One: Las Vegas – The Set-Up
Gaming suffers from two key problems. Firstly, a product problem, since all our games are the same as those available in any other casino, or sportsbook.
Secondly, we suffer from a perception problem. What is it, exactly, that we do, create, and generate “all that cash” from?
Las Vegas understands gaming’s perception problem in detail – after all, it has, more than any other across The Three Acts, struggled with the moral censure, controversy and stigma associated with the “vice industry” label we all used to be saddled with.
“Over many years of risk and reward, the business of gaming has been transformed and reinvented“
Over many years of risk and reward, and under many different eras of management, the business of gaming has been transformed and reinvented, ranging from the Mob rackets of the 1930s to 1960s; through the corporate consolidation of Howard “The Aviator” Hughes’ period, across the late 1960s to 1970s; into the 1980s and beyond, facing fundamental evolution when meeting the broad-based business savvy of operators like William G Bennett (Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor), Ralph Engelstad (Imperial Palace, and pioneer of the high-volume, low-roller offering), Kirk Kerkorian (MGM Grand), Steve and Elaine Wynn (The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Wynn, Encore) and Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands, The Venetian, The Palazzo).
Finally, into the current era, indelibly affected by Wall Street money, triggering the development of mega-resorts, and the subsequent attention and influence of creative Wall Street financiers, such as Carl Icahn, once publicly-traded Gaming Inc firms were welcomed into the S&P 500.
Several of the latter individuals and groups, with the talented and committed teams at their
disposal, looked not just for healthy bottom line gross win from gaming and betting, but also sought to make aggressive margins from the allied revenue streams of conferences, rooming, retail, food and beverage, nightlife and entertainment.
These are additional income sources that, previously, had effectively been “given away” in the style of all-you-can-eat buffets, junket tours and the like, just to get potential gamblers to Las Vegas and on-property.
All of the corporate triumphs and failures, the stuff of myriad business pages in the press, are not the main image of the city and resort, however. The mass-market obsession of Las Vegas has long been upon creating – and delivering – the Experience for as broad an audience as possible, and, in the current social media society, the resort’s narrative is now being built off the millions of player experiences formed in and by the location every year.
“Sin City’s modern storytelling comes courtesy of its seduced, enthralled and selfie-happy visitors”
These visitors, whether they class themselves as gamblers or not, are, effectively doing the
marketing for many of the key branded operators in Las Vegas, and for their myriad sub-branded nightclubs, theme-park rides, spas, restaurants, shows – and, of course, their table games, slots and sportsbooks. All those What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas selfies do not, ultimately, remain just in Vegas – Sin City’s modern storytelling comes courtesy of its seduced, enthralled and selfie-happy visitors, representing Las Vegas, Nevada, all across their Instagram and Facebook feeds.
Las Vegas, as I discussed in more detail in a previous CasinoBeats and SBC News article, Bricks vs Clicks – Why the Gaming Industry Should Never Be Divided, embraces the clear product problem that affects us all in the gaming industry: whether brick-and-mortar or igaming, all our products are the same.
Las Vegas welcomes the audience to Sin City, to the Adult Playground – What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas. Placing product as secondary, building brand as paramount, and making the Experience the fundamental engagement outcome of anyone’s time in the resort.
In short, Las Vegas never sells gambling. By making the entire resort, and everything one can do in it, subject to the show and awe of gaming, it sells the Experience. It is this Las Vegas lesson that underpins the development of gaming, globally, and should be heeded, historically and presently, for igaming’s successful future evolution.