Even in the midst of a pandemic, the fall remains a very busy season for gaming conferences. Over the past few weeks, I have virtually attended a number of casino-oriented trade events in addition to a wide array of webinars. All told, I have sat through a dozen or so sessions, and I’m here to report that, despite the vast variety of topics, there have been some common threads:

 

  • The gaming industry remains super-vigilant when it comes to COVID prevention. Recently, I have been hearing a lot about COVID fatigue, and how some people and businesses have grown lax when it comes to maintaining COVID prevention protocols. I’m sure that this will change going forward as the third surge of coronavirus worsens, but it’s nice to note that the casino industry has not removed its foot from the pedal when it comes to customer and player safety during the pandemic. Indeed, the opposite has occurred—gaming enterprises continue to invest much time and money into products and practices to make casinos as COVID-proof as possible. 
     
  • The importance of the casino in the overall resort mix. For the past decade, the casino component of the gaming resort experience has often taken an economic back seat to the more lucrative, non-gaming entertainment-oriented adjuncts of the overall enterprise. Since reopening, most gaming resorts are relying on proceeds generated from the casino alone—and doing quite well, considering the circumstances. The casino is still the engine that powers gaming resort profitability and popularity, it’s a shame it took a pandemic to remind everyone of that.
     
  • The truth about the competition. Ask a resort operator to identify their primary competition, and they will likely point to a nearby gaming property. However, during COVID, many casinos and their adjacent rivals are reporting packed gaming floors. Part of the reason for this may be social distancing measures that limit gaming positions within a property; another is that movies, concerts, live sporting events, restaurants and other challengers for discretionary spending remain closed, and casinos are the only game in town. The lesson: for better or worse, customers now consider casinos just another form of entertainment, which means, post-COVID, the universe of potential economic contenders has gotten much, much larger.