But on the land-based side at least, poker’s signature event, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), is still going strong, with last year’s player number total for the NL Hold’Em main event being over 6,400.
In June 2015, WSOP.com did more business in one month than both Ultimate Poker and WSOP did in the entire year in 2014Seth PalanskySeth Palansky, VP of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment and editor-in-chief of WSOP.com, spoke to Gambling Insider as part of a wider article on Caesars' event’s effect on Las Vegas.
What influence does the WSOP have on the Las Vegas land-based casino industry as a whole?
We haven’t really tried to quantify it lately, but it has a significant impact. The WSOP is 50 days in duration. We alone see more than 100,000 room nights booked for our event across our footprint of properties in Las Vegas. Also, people rent houses, stay in timeshares, in other hotel rooms, etc. When you specifically look at the poker segment of gaming, it is by far the largest driver of revenue for all of Las Vegas during this period, all as a result of the halo effect the WSOP provides. We have even begun to schedule against ourselves in recent years with a big festival of poker at Planet Hollywood during the WSOP dates. The fact is, anyone who dabbles in poker is present in Las Vegas during this seven-week summer stretch, and the influence stretches far and wide.
How does the WSOP impact on player numbers entering your Las Vegas casinos in that time?
My team has never looked at this specifically. The fact is we couldn’t hold the WSOP at another time of year in Las Vegas. Our properties are too busy and full with conventions, etc. The confluence of the summer heat, more affordable hotel rooms and lack of conventions, make the WSOP an ideal fit for its time period, and provides a huge lift citywide for Las Vegas as players flock to participate.
How does the WSOP give Caesars Entertainment a competitive edge while the WSOP is running?
To us it is the equivalent of having an arena event in town for 50 consecutive nights. The WSOP brings over 100,000 poker players to Las Vegas, and in turn, those customers partake in everything that Las Vegas has to offer. We feel very good about our ability to capture our fair share of that market share. The WSOP continues to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of today’s customer, and the Rio is no doubt the centre of the poker universe in Las Vegas for seven straight weeks.
June's gaming revenue figures were the lowest reported by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) last year. In light of the WSOP running that month, how surprised are you by that?
Not surprised at all. This is a terrible way to look at it, because you take away convention business and it will obviously look quite different. With schools out, vacations in full swing and conventions at a halt, June in Las Vegas is about putting up with the heat and enjoying the day clubs and night clubs and poker. It is a very good month for us, especially in relation to our competition.
From looking at the months where the NGCB reported interactive poker figures in 2014, June saw the highest revenue produced with $1.04m. How much of an influence did the WSOP have on that?
This says it all. In June 2015, WSOP.com did more business in one month than both Ultimate Poker and WSOP did in the entire year in 2014. Our online real-money poker business on WSOP.com sees tremendous results when the WSOP is in town. Our online offerings are inextricably linked to the offline WSOP these days, and we now give today’s customer all the options they could want to play poker during the WSOP.
In terms of players that go to Las Vegas for the WSOP, how do you think this compares with the draw of sporting events, such as high-profile boxing matches?
Well, we had one poker event last year feature 22,374 entries, all paying $565 each. I think that compares very favourably to a boxing event seating 17,000 down the street with their average ticket price. The issue is, we do a poor job doing research studies measuring the WSOP’s impact. Maybe because we are too busy managing the event and preparing for it, etc., but bottom line is we have no doubt the WSOP is as big a driver as anything this town offers on an annual basis. We surpassed 100,000 entries last year for the first time (103,512) and gave away more than $210m.
You can read the full article in the May/June 2016 issue of Gambling Insider. Click here to sign up for a free subscription.