When President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency regarding theCovid-19 virus on March 13, 2020 – shutting casinos and gaming properties across the nation – many believed they would be back at full capacity within the month. That poker tables would once again be packed with eager players, and roulette wheels would continue to spin. Alas, this was not to be: the weeks went on, turning to months and eventually a year, as the land-based industry suffered blow after blow, culminating in what many saw as the death knell for an industry that had so long sustained North American gaming.
For almost 18 months, it seemed that every land-basedrecovery was short lived, that every victory was met with a new variant of Covid-19which slammed casino doors shut once more. But, at last, as we enter the summer of 2022, the land-based industry is back and, miraculously, bigger than ever. How did the industry perform such a recovery? We examine that question here.
In a recent report, the American Gaming Association stated that land-based casinos had their greatest start to a year in the industry’s history. Attendance was up 11.3% compared to pre-pandemic 2020 and a staggering 34% from 2019, the previous most-attended year. In terms of revenue, the industry generated $11.5bn in table games and slot revenue, a 22.7% increase over2021 and a 10.6% boost on 2019’snumbers, the highest year on record.
Essentially every jurisdiction has experienced growth during 2022 thus far, with the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City dominating the landscape. With this overall increase, average casino gaming revenue per admission landed far above pre-pandemic records, growing 35.8% when compared to pre-pandemic levels. But what led to this resurgence in consumer confidence? And can that industry replicate it in the months and years to come?
How Land Based Did It
How did land-based casinos overcome this seemingly existential challenge to their existence, and even more so, how did they go from strength to strength in the wake of Covid-19? In short, the industry embraced change and welcomed innovation. In the last year we have seen the eyes of the casino industry fall on one specific idea: the idea of omnichannel.From Hard Rock to Caesars Internationaland Wynn Resorts, omnichannel is theapproach that the industry used to move itself forward and grow beyond anyone’s expectations.
But what is omnichannel? Put simply, it's the attempt to give consumers a truly integrated experience. In a casino that embraces the omnichannel approach, visitors will have access to an app that may allow contactless payments, room bookings, sportsbook usage, and cash wallets. Across the nation omnichannel approaches boomed, making the casino and integrated resort a truly enticing prospect to many that previously felt uncomfortable returning to such a public place.
Moreover, as with every industry,the land-based market learned a number oflessons from the pandemic that allowed it to move forward. At the forefront of this is the embrace of cashless gaming. It is not an exaggeration to say the casino industry has dragged its feet on cashless when you compare it with other industries, but the pandemic made it a must for all properties that wish to succeed. Much like the omnichannel approach, this acceptance of cashless gaming made visiting a casino a smoother, more enjoyable experience, further adding to its growth.
Embracing these two emerging technologies allowed casinos to be an attractive prospect to those who may have been reticent to return to properties and, combined with a pent up desire to havesome fun again, led to a boom for land-based casinos.
How To Continue This Growth
This growth is undoubtedly a win for the land-based industry, but if it wants to sustain itself (and compete with iGaming's inevitable explosion) it has to adapt further. Embracing innovation is a sure-fire way to continue expansion. One key aspect casinoswill need to get right if they wish to continue this unprecedented period of growth is catering to a younger audience of gamblers. This is already being done successfully at a number of properties with the inclusion of sportsbooks in casinos, but for the land-based industry to truly remain at the forefront of gaming it must change further. Ari Fox, of the Casino Esports Conference, has argued extensively that if the land-based industry wishes to bring in a Gen Z audience, it must embrace esports, video games and the gambling potential that comes with it. Fox suggests that every casino should have an area dedicated to these activities, as young gamblers simply are not attracted to traditional slot machines. By doing this, casinos can future-proof themselves, ensuring profit and growth in the coming years and decades.Nevertheless, the industry must applaud what land-based casinos have achieved in the last year, recovering from a seemingly fatal blow and surpassing all previously held records. 2022 could very well be that year of the land-based casino.