In many ways 2016 was a rather calamitous year, even when it came to celebrity deaths. The list of luminaries that passed over the past 12 months was studded with 1960s and 1970s icons such as Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Harper Lee, Arnold Palmer and Gene Wilder, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, it appears to be more of the same for 2017 when comes to the passing of cultural touchstones—the latest is Mary Tyler Moore, star of the influential TV comedy series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, who died last month. Although not as well known, another January passing of note was astronaut Gene Cernan, who was commander of the Apollo 17 space mission in 1972. What makes his death particularly poignant is that he was the last survivor of the dozen men who have physically walked on the moon. As such, he was the last living link with one of mankind’s crowning achievements.
Cernan’s death in particular resonates with me. As a child of the 1960s and 1970s, I was an unabashed admirer of the space program and NASA. Heavily influenced by science fiction novels, movies and television shows, I believed that the near-term future would include rockets, space travel and colonies on the moon and other planets. Alas, reality has proved otherwise. Shortly after Cernan’s moon walk, NASA was forced to scale back on its manned space program; it was a practical decision, considering how much the government and the general public had soured on the cost of the endeavor. In place of interstellar flight and manned rockets came satellites and the Space Shuttle; and over time the interest in space ebbed and NASA appeared to lose its way.
Today, however, the interest in manned spaceflight has been rekindled, thanks to privately-funded programs such as SpaceX, which has as one of its goals the eventual human colonization of Mars. NASA is working with SpaceX on some aspects of this mission and seems to have found its purpose again. I wish both Godspeed.
In some ways, I see parallels between the space program and the North American casino industry. Much like NASA, casino gaming had a 15 year or so golden age (1990-2005), where fortune favored the bold and daring projects opening in a growing number of new jurisdictions excited interest, and business, from an ever increasing number of people. But then the Great Recession hit, jurisdictional casino expansion appeared to have reached its zenith and casino developers—very wisely—cut back on the creation of aspirational new projects and instead concentrated on existing property renovation and sensible infill opportunities. It has been this way for roughly 10 years now, despite an end to the recession and prolonged growth spurt for the economy; and much like the space program, I am starting to wonder if the gaming industry, like NASA, has perhaps lost its way a bit.
I think it is time for the gaming industry to become aspirational again, to create the types of concepts that will bring customers of all types and generations through the doors. I wish I could tell you what this next generation of resort facility will look like and what games it will feature, but that is beyond my skill set. What I propose is giving the resources and freedom to let the development arms of the casino enterprise dream again, to come up with new project concepts that will excite and delight the masses.
It is time for a casino moonshot, and I for one will be happy to go along for the ride.