We’ve heard how suppliers are planning for the future of casinos, but what about operators? How is the industry shaping up from their perspective? GI sat down with Ray Pineault, President and General Manager of Mohegan Sun, to find out
What principle factors will drive the way casinos change in the future?
There are many factors that will determine how casinos evolve and change in the future. Among the factors that will direct and influence change in the gaming industry and resort operations in general will be economic factors such as regional and national competition and/or economic downturns and availability of disposal income, generational changes and impacts, including the approaching retirement of Baby Boomers and ultimately Generation X, impact, influence and transfer of wealth and disposable income to Millennials, technological advances, and new forms of gaming including eSports, i-gaming, social gaming and sports betting.
Do operators or suppliers have a bigger influence on the evolution of a casino’s game offerings?
It has to be a collaborative effort. Suppliers and operators need to work together on the development and evolution of casino games. As an operator, we need to have an understanding of what casino games perform well and what it is about those games that makes them attractive options, as well as what it is about other games that maybe isn’t as appealing, what our guests like or dislike about certain games, what attracts them the most and what they get the most enjoyment out of. However, operators and suppliers have to be mindful of changes in the guests’ expectations, cultural changes such generational needs and desires as well as regulatory changes to meet those guest expectations and needs. Suppliers need to work with their customers, the operators, and operators need to listen to and adopt to our guests to develop and offer games that appeal to the casino guests. However, suppliers also have to be innovative creators of games and content that will appeal to a multitude of varying guests. Therefore, it is a
collaborative effort that both operators and suppliers should actively participate in to achieve the highest optimal results.
Will the presence of non-gaming facilities continue to grow in casinos? If so, what new concepts can you foresee becoming common in casino resorts?
I would classify gaming facilities into two broad categories of operations. The first is regional operators, who almost exclusively rely on a drive in market from 60-90 miles away, which cater to mostly day trip guests and generate a vast majority of their revenue from gaming that will offer typical non-gaming amenities such as a few restaurants, perhaps small hotel offerings along with minimal shopping and meeting space. Then there are the fully Integrated Resorts, which may or may not include heavy regional competitive components, such as Mohegan Sun, but also attract a much broader category of guests and from much further distances. In the latter category of operators, the presence of more diverse categories of non-gaming facilities will continue to grow and proliferate. There will be growth in non-traditional gaming offerings such as eSports and fantasy sports lounges to the extent they are legal in the jurisdiction, social and communal gaming and nongaming facilities including convention and exposition space, nightclubs, shopping, dining, pools, outside activities and other amenities and offerings that bring in guests from further away and extend stays to multiday trips.
Is regulation a factor in the prevention of casino floor development? If so, what regulatory changes would you like to see?
Casino gaming is a highly regulated industry and we always have to be mindful of what is permitted. As a Tribal Casino, our primary regulators are located on-site and overseeing operations 24/7. While our regulators are receptive to hearing about initiatives we are interested in pursuing to make improvements and changes, whether to guest service, speed of service and efficiency or otherwise, there are times that certain regulatory mandates inhibit, or even prohibit our ability to fully gain the benefit of improvements we are interested in implementing. We try to be as creative as possible to make sure we stay within the confines of what is permitted, but there are certain regulatory confines that don’t always allow us to implement ideas we might have for improvement.
Is the pace of change of the standard casino offering increasing or decreasing compared to ten and 20 years ago?
I can only speak about the last ten years. Although I have been with the organisation for 15 years, I have only worked in the casino part of our enterprise for the past ten. However, over that time, things have drastically changed and the evolution continues. When I first started in the gaming part of our organisation we still had coins, coin buckets, hoppers and fill teams. In the ten years since these are virtually nonexistent in any casinos today. The advances in technology continue to change casinos regularly. We see new and innovative table games and side bets, increases in slot technology including at the machine messaging and bonus offering opportunities, development of partially skilled based gaming, communal slot machines along with many other advancements and changes. The days of the three reel mechanical slot machine and traditional blackjack, craps and roulette, while still present, are being evolved and changed constantly.
Are casinos around the globe converging into one homogenous product or diversifying further to accommodate regional tastes and preferences?
On the gaming side of the equation, the slot machines, table games, sports betting, poker and race book options are almost equally available in jurisdictions throughout the world, subject to obviously jurisdictional legality. However, while certain gaming options such as traditional blackjack or baccarat are universally available and popular, many others such as the types of slot machines, popularity of side bets, novelty games and many other variances are dictated by guest preferences and vary greatly from regional to region. On the non-gaming side of the equation, I think there is much more diversity and as operators continue to try and distinguish themselves from their competitors, the diversity and distinctions will expand.
How focused are you on Millennials?
Millennials seem to be the favourite topic to so many people in our industry. There is no doubt that they are a group that consumes media, entertainment and socialises very differently to any generation before them. There is also no doubt that they comprise a very large group of individuals who can’t be ignored. Any operator who wants to sustain themselves for generations to come must be cognizant of this group, try to understand the group’s likes, needs and preferences as well as attempt to build the recognition and loyalty of this group. However, this group has not reached their prime earnings years as of yet. They are just entering the building family stage and free time and disposable income does not currently reach the levels of Generation X and the Baby Boomers. While attention and preparation for Millennials is imperative, there are still other age groups and demographics that require extra importance such as the parents of Millennials even, who generally speaking, are still very much some of the mostardent resort and casino guests there are.
Is augmented reality or virtual reality technology something that you are interested in as a potential casino floor offering? Or do you think the hype is overblown?
I think that virtual reality and augmented reality are technological advances that are only going to become even more improved and enhanced and are here to stay. I see a time when these advances will become a part of not only the gaming floor but offerings available for non-gaming amenities and experiences. As this technology continues to improve and enhancements are made, I can envision a time when the use of this technology could vastly improve the resort and gaming experience.
What has been the biggest change on the casino floor since Mohegan Sun entered the market?
There have been numerous changes to the industry that have had profound effects on the make-up of the casino, not the least of which has been ticket-in-ticket-out technology. Technology advances in the delivery and content of games, improvements in the delivery of cash to the floor, enhancements and new gaming options, and devices and the collection of guest and property data to drive business and optimization, are among the many other changes. The casino floor and the make-up is constantly evolving and requires on-going evaluation and adaptation.
You’ve recently been granted the licence to operate the Incheon airport casino resort in South Korea? How will this be challenging and will that property have any revolutionary features?
Like any large scale project, there will be bumps in the road. Doing business in foreign jurisdictions does have unique challenges such as language barriers, cultural differences, different legal and regulatory rules, and processes for development and operating. Korea is a stable country, both economically and politically, and with local business partners, we are very confident we can navigate those challenges.
Along with the significant gaming, lodging, food and beverage and retail offerings, we do believe that there are some true differentiators in our project relative to other integrated resorts throughout Asia. For example, our super arena will be one of the largest in Asia, and along with our other entertainment offerings will make Korea a sporting and entertainment destination on its own. Inspire will be the only integrated resort with its own private air terminal. Also, I am not aware of any other resort with medical and wellness facilities similar to the ones included in the Inspire programming, which will be home to the best cosmetic surgeons in the world. Finally, through adding various cultural and recreational elements including a life sciences center, museum, indoor-outdoor theme park, entertainment district and eco-park, we believe will further provide a truly unique total destination experience not typical in other integrated resorts.