Just like when the VCR came out in the 1970’s everyone thought people would stop going to the movie theatres once this new technology got popular. Lots of people in the land based gaming industry including the North American Tribal casinos think that people will just stay and gamble at home. But one thing both these groups have to remember is that they have to give themselves more credit. Just like the VCR didn’t stop people from going out, it will be the same for land based casinos in that people will still want to go out and gamble too. Plus, land-based casinos have a lot more to offer than just gambling, they have so much more that people can’t get on an online casino like restaurants and shows.
There was a US Survey done this year that found out that land based casino will not be cannibalized or limited when online gambling becomes legalized or regulated in the United States. They are predicting that the land-based casinos will actually benefit from online gaming and see an increase. The survey stated that, “more respondents indicated they would increase their state lottery or land-based casino play than those who would decrease it. This was proven particularly true with the lottery-based questions. Younger people who indicated they currently don’t buy lottery tickets would consider buying them online if made available coinciding with online poker.”
If land-based casinos look at this research and cross promote the online with the offline, they could develop a sure fire formula for success. For example, MGM Grand launched an Internet prize gaming site for US players and it was their attempt to see if it was worth getting into online gaming and launch an for money site in Europe. So, they decided to test the waters in Europe to see if it would fly and started out with standard slots games combined with a range of casual for fun games. When players came to the site, they were rewarded with prizes that could be redeemed at land-based operations. And, what do you know it worked; people played games online and took the promotional points to the land-based casinos. What made it happen, is that internet players were rewarded with hotel room discounts, free buffet passes along with a whole host of other offers that resonated with them and encouraged them to keep playing online. When they played online and collected all the points, they simply took all that to the land-based casino and made the best of what they earned online. One of interesting facts they learned was the necessity to create a single account number that would combine both online and offline gaming activity so the single account number could track the player’s complete range of activities.
The lesson MGM learned is that there is a clear benefit and tie between online and offline and a definite opportunity to capitalize on both. Better yet, they even seemed to complement each other and the promotional opportunities are endless. Another good example is the WSOP brand which has strong awareness both online and offline. Players can play online to work their way to the main event, which is located in Las Vegas for the final rounds to the championship. It was Chris Moneymaker who proved to the world that learning poker online at home could actually lead to winning the big jackpot on the final table at a land-based casino. There are lots of upcoming stars today that started to play online and are now seen regularly at the big events and even acting as spokespersons or brand ambassadors for some of the biggest names in online gaming. If you look at those big names, they sponsor some of the biggest parties, prizes and events that take place at the final event every year.
Some of the new winners are really young, competing with player’s triple their age. Online gaming can no longer be ignored and land-based casinos have to come to the realization that they need to learn from it and bring it into the marketing mix and make it a part of the over all brand. “It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ Internet gaming is coming,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, the soon-to-be-retiring president of the American Gaming Association (AGA). “It’s a question of ‘when’.”
Just like the old days when a high roller would come into town, everything would be on the casino. With online gaming they could have a high roller who plays online, but could be encouraged to come visit the land-based casino with a package he or she simply cannot resist. It’s really a matter of developing a cohesive marketing strategy that unifies both experiences and makes them both an integral part of the overall brand. It is then, that both these universes start to really make it profitable for the industry as they both start to meld into one great entertainment experience, when after all that is what they are all really selling at the end of the day.