Slot executives give their perspectives on signs that slot gaming is on the rebound.

Jay Fennel, chief operating officer, Club Fortune Casino, Henderson, Nev.

JAY FENNEL

Jay Fennel, chief operating officer, Club Fortune Casino, Henderson, Nev.

At my property at Club Fortune [on the Boulder Strip in Henderson, Nev.], we had a great December – we beat ’08 and ’09. And in January, we beat 2010, ’09 and ’08, and February is trending the same way. We’re starting to see it rebound. Our customers’ average spend per trip is increasing and their frequency is increasing. We’re holding our own, and we’re not having to buy the business. We’ve just really tried to get smarter about our business. We didn’t lose our compass, if you will.

In talking to operators in other parts of the country [that haven’t been hit by weather factors], they’re starting to see some rebound too. People are starting to open up their purse strings. I am seeing some signs out there. Station Casinos is hiring, putting people back to work. I hope it continues. I hope it’s not a flash in the pan. Are you going to see new casinos opening up with tons of slot machines? No. You’re going to see casinos maintaining their business.



Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations, Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, Calif

BUDDY FRANK



Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations, Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, Calif.

We’ve seen a steady increase actually since the beginning of last year. It actually started in December 2009. Prior to that, every month had been flat or slightly down. The general trend since then has been positive signs. I don’t think Southern California suffered the kind of declines that we heard about in Nevada and New Jersey. Here in Riverside County, we had a high rate of unemployment and foreclosure. But we weren’t seeing those double-digit declines that you were in Las Vegas. It was much worse for Vegas customers than for those at our local casinos. I think that’s part of the pattern across the country. The locals casinos I think saw some softening; the regional tourist destinations were hurt much harder than the local casinos.

Actually we continue to see reduced spend per head compared to our record levels, but we are seeing many more people. [Asked if Pechanga is doing more to woo those people, Frank said,] It’s always been pretty competitive here in Southern California. I don’t think it’s necessarily are we doing more. I think everyone’s worked really hard to be more efficient [whether through such avenues as technological improvements or simply better procedures, practices and policies]. [For instance, Frank noted], Pechanga has a high speed floor and that investment has been paying off. We actually did it before things started heading downward, but it’s starting to pay returns really well.



Phil Mazzone, director of slot operations, Bally’s, Wild Wild West & Claridge Park Place & The Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.

PHIL MAZZONE



Phil Mazzone, director of slot operations, Bally’s, Wild Wild West & Claridge Park Place & The Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.:

Things are starting to pick up. Some of the business is starting to look a little better, certainly not the way it was before, but it’s starting to look up. We’re definitely seeing more volume, not so much an increase in spending. We’re also starting to see more interest in Atlantic City. [He cited as recent examples Revel Entertainment landing financing to finish its Atlantic City casino project, and the Trump Marina Hotel sale to Landry’s Inc.] It looks like there are more people starting to take another look at Atlantic City.



Gregg Solomon, chief executive officer, MotorCity Casino, Detroit, Mich.<

GREGG SOLOMON



Gregg Solomon, chief executive officer, MotorCity Casino, Detroit, Mich.

Year over year, we’re seeing increases in the 14 percent range overall, head count, slot handle, there are a lot of good signs out there. The hotel occupancy is really starting to come around. One thing that’s been encouraging is a whole new category of products out on the floor. [For example IGT’s American Idol MultiPlay video slot game.] They’re just playing it like crazy. And we’re just seeing a lot of good new games. It just seems like things are really getting back to the way they were pre-2008. We’re very encouraged. There have been some other announcements in the economy that we think are going to bode well for us; particularly there has been a lot of good news in the auto industry. Certainly from the Detroit perspective, things are much better, and it looks like there’s a lot of momentum behind it…If we’re seeing it, then I think other jurisdictions have got to be seeing the same thing. SlotManager