I am a big believer in the principle of leverage and have seen many good examples of that over the years in the casino industry.
For example, decades ago when the Dunes (now Bellagio) in Las Vegas was being imploded, the Flamingo and Aladdin leveraged their locations across the street to invite in VIPs to rooftop parties or to stay in “explosion-facing” suites to watch the whole thing come crumbling down.
In tribal gaming, I have seen native governments leverage their sovereign status to have indoor, non-smoking exemptions, develop and sell their own tobacco products, approve gaming machines more quickly and have less tax on certain products and services, among other things. I recently saw where a South Dakota tribal casino sold New Year’s Eve “room and pot” packages to leverage its ability to legally sell marijuana on its reservation.
Yes, “leverage” is an accepted and effective marketing principle for casino companies. Some casinos leverage their location near a captive local audience. Others leverage unique geography (think Lake Tahoe or Ruidoso, N.M.). They may leverage relationships with slot manufacturers to get hot new slot products on their floor quicker than competitors.
Leverage is powerful, and in my opinion, from my experience, casinos don’t leverage “leverage” enough. So here are some thoughts or principles and tactics for finding and using leverage:
Remember that your greatest potential leverage is with your own customers and employees, especially your best ones. These are people who already have a relationship with you (and hopefully like you) and have the ability to impact your revenues in a meaningful way. Think how you can leverage their own relationships with other customers and potential customers to get them marketing for you and your casino. They may need some tools, some incentives, some measurements and some direction,but they have a clear ability to “refer a friend” or spread “positive word of mouth” with a highly focused audience—their own friends, relatives and acquaintances. Start leveraging that leverage.
Identify underappreciated assets and strategize on how best to leverage them. Have a good buffet that has a good reputation? How about celebrating your 1,000,000th buffet served? Or doing a promotion for a free buffet for a year? Or having school tours (or customer tours) to show all of the work and coordination that goes into feeding several hundred (or thousand) buffet goers daily? Think about leveraging your talented chefs through some cooking demonstrations for VIPs. Leverage your employee and customer talent in live shows or VIP events. Leverage your tribal artist that works in environmental maintenance (a New Mexico casino did this with a unique continuity gift program featuring a tribal member’s artwork). You get the picture—find the unique, the interesting, the unappreciated and the “hidden gems” at your property, then leverage them.
Don’t think that leverage is just for big or well-heeled casino properties that can afford leveraging efforts.Even “little guys” can leverage and often they have to. I have a good friend at a very small tribal casino property who can’t really afford a big consulting project from me. But he leverages the fact that his casino is near the ocean, that he has a fabulous ocean view restaurant there, and he is located in one of the nearest and quaintest resort areas in the west, to get me to make an extremely inexpensive consulting visit there yearly. Now that’s leverage for him and his property, and for me with my wife, who loves her annual “vacation” there.
Leverage doesn’t have to be a solo effort, so think about who you can partner with in your market to create it. Some casinos are in areas where there may be an active convention and visitor’s bureau. Beverage partners (with whom you have done a ton of business) often have marketing budgets for co-op opportunities that can create leverage and more business for both of you. Even partnering with competitors around things like regional car shows or chili cook-offs or big name entertainment events can create enough leverage to drive business. Leverage each other to get the customers in the neighborhood; you can then fight over them when they show up.
Yes, leverage is good and it is powerful. Find some and then leverage it.