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Gaming Guru

Rod Smith
 

Casinos of Future Getting Smaller

2 December 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Smaller resorts likely will be more dominant in the future of Las Vegas, according to nearly half the respondents in a final American Gaming Association survey released Monday.

At the same time, prospects for themed resorts and megaresorts are muted, just under half of the survey respondents said.

"Small casinos mean a personal touch and (operators) are going to need that if they let technology take over everything else," said University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert Bill Thompson. "Personal interaction is what makes Las Vegas different. When you walk into a casino, you should see a person. Otherwise, you people could just stay home."

The transition to more cashless gaming machines, the automation of casino services and advances in gaming technology will also change the gaming floor of the future, according to final results of the first-ever Future Watch Series survey.

The results largely confirm preliminary data released in September by American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf at the Global Gaming Expo. That data summarized 35 casino executives' views on the gaming floor of the future.

The final results incorporate responses from more than 200 suppliers, vendors and attendees who went to the annual trade show.

Fahrenkopf said the survey series was designed to be a tool to help operators, suppliers and vendors better understand the latest trends and developments in the gaming industry.

Respondents in the final results were nearly evenly divided on their vision of the future of casino design in Las Vegas.

While 53 percent believe the billion-dollar megaresort concept will continue to be the gold standard in Las Vegas, 47 percent think there is a brighter future for smaller casino operations similar to the Palms.

According to final results, 61 percent of respondents also said that casino resorts of the near future will continue to rely on property themes to about the same extent they do today. Thirty-five percent predict casinos will somewhat move away from theme-based designs.

"Steve Wynn is going in at 2,800 rooms (at his new Wynn Las Vegas) and there's a growing consensus that's what a casino should be to establish a connection for people," Thompson said.

The survey also polled respondents for their views on future casino designs and 77 percent of respondents said gaming areas will look "totally" or "quite a bit" different in 2020 than today because of automation and technology.

A majority (60 percent) also said new technology-intensive games will continue to gain market share, replacing the bulk of traditional reel machines. Respondents also predicted traditional reel machines will primarily remain a powerhouse only in smaller markets and at more low-end properties.

"If they're saying they want everything mechanized, they're going the wrong way. The right way is more people in the casino, hosts in slot rooms and slots you don't need a computer education to understand," Thompson said.

Respondents to G2E's 2003 Future Watch survey include a wide range of gaming executives. They included representatives from gaming jurisdictions across the United States, as well as the international gaming community.