The Evolution Of MGM Resorts Includes Emphasis On Mobile Gambling

Aug.05, 2016 12:05:PM
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    MGM Resorts mobile

This has been quite an evolutionary year MGM Resorts International.

The casino operator has grown in just about every category:

  • In Las Vegas, MGM Resorts opened The Park dining and entertainment complex and T-Mobile Arena.
  • On the east coast, it will open MGM National Harbor near Baltimore, Md., and acquire the remaining 50% of Borgata in Atlantic City it didn’t already own.
  • Next year it will open MGM Springfield (Massachusetts) and the following year Monte Carlo will complete renovations and become Park MGM.

Growth for MGM Resorts International this year continues to the boardroom:

  • Earlier this year the company spun off some of its holdings to form MGM Growth Properties.
  • The IPO of the MGP Real Estate Investment Trust raised over $1 billion dollars.
  • MGM has streamlined operations in its Las Vegas hotels by starting the Project Growth Plan (PGP). In addition to consolidating expenses, PGP is seeking new forms of revenue. For example, earlier this year MGM Resorts International became the first Vegas Strip hotel company to charge for parking.

Mobile gambling at MGM

MGM Resorts International didn’t stop with its spreadsheet and land-based casino growth. It has also looked for new ways to expand gaming revenue.

Twice this year, MGM Resorts International took casino gambling online and mobile. First, it launched a mobile sports wagering app playMGM. The app was followed by easyPLAY online and mobile slot tournaments.

The mobile sports wagering app allows for customers to place bets anywhere in the state of Nevada. For example, a tourist visiting the Grand Canyon can now wager on a sporting event with MGM Resorts. This should help generate sports wagering revenue.

Sports wagering apps for other sportsbook operators account for up to 33 percent of their betting handle today. Mobile sports betting could account for the overall sports wagering handle in Nevada by 2020.

Unlike playMGM, customers may participate in the easyPLAY slot tournaments on an MGM Resorts property using a property’s wifi. The tournaments can be played while waiting in a restaurant, relaxing at a poolside cabana, in a hotel room or anywhere you can imagine on site.

Since the easyPLAY slot tournaments are web-based, they can also be played on an InteractivePro table that patrons can find at bars, restaurants and sportsbooks throughout MGM Resorts properties.

Revenue at MGM and in Las Vegas

Traditional casino gaming hasn’t been the majority of revenue Las Vegas casino operators in years. However, it’s not like people visiting Las Vegas aren’t gambling.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 73 percent of visitors to Las Vegas enjoyed gambling as part of their vacation in 2015. The average gambling budget was $578.54, a major increase from 2011 when the average gambling budget was $447.63.

Of those who gambled in Las Vegas last year, 88 percent did so on the Strip. MGM Resorts International represents nearly half of the casinos on the Vegas Strip.

Despite the positive look at the numbers from a tourist point of view, the actual gaming revenue reported on the Strip has been on a downward trend.

However, overall gaming revenue on the Strip is tied heavily to big-game baccarat. Revenue numbers can swing from positive to negative based on a few big baccarat players visiting during a given month.

That said, it’s hard to ignore that year-over-year gaming revenue on the Vegas Strip has decreased for eight of the past twelve months.

New MGM gambling options

In 2013, MGM Grand opened Whiskey Down. The gaming lounge features a large selection of whiskey, six blackjack tables, seven video-poker machines and seating for up to 64 guests.

This mixed-use space also features some of the InteractivePro tables where you can watch TV, play games and go online. Not coincidentally, you can also enjoy an easyPLAY tournament while sipping on the finest whiskeys in Las Vegas.

Additionally, Whiskey Down is a way to generate traditional gaming revenue in a non-traditional setting.

Customers today are looking for something different, no matter where they visit. Sitting in the middle of long rows of slot machines and gaming like their parents doesn’t quite qualify as a “special experience.”

Sitting in a swank lounge with high-end cocktails is different than you’ll find in most other casinos outside of Las Vegas.

MGM, taking it to the streets

MGM Resorts is now encouraging customers to go outside with the opening of The Park and T-Mobile Arena in between New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos.

The new online and mobile wagering will allow customers to gamble without actually being inside the casino. Customers can now wager on sporting events while watching the event take place in the arena. Customers can play a slot tournament while they wait for their meals at any of the restaurants at The Park.

The slot tournaments are being pitched as mobile gaming for millennials. Millennials traditionally don’t play slot machines. The tournaments will likely be a gateway for older casino customers to gamble via mobile devices.

Meanwhile, millennials are more apt to wager on sports. A portion of this demographic is already watching and wagering on the games. Tailoring the gambling experience to the technological preferences of millennials should encourage more wagering on sports.

Mobile sports wagering and mobile slot tournaments won’t change the balance sheet overnight for MGM Resorts International. However, the addition of online and mobile gambling puts MGM way ahead of the pack on the Strip.

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Marc Meltzer
Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.
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