The Breaking the Rank

Industry experts often compare competition among game companies to Monopoly games. However, the changes over the past 12 to 18 months have been so widespread that experts say it’s as if the game has changed. There are new players, different boards, and new rules. There seems to be a growing crowd chasing top-end customers, and other players are trying to capture the rest of the short market.

No other company has changed as dramatically as Boyd Gaming Corp.’s role in the Las Vegas gaming industry. Boyd Gaming started out as what at least many Las Vegans consider a sleepy competitor local gaming business. However, last week the company moved into a leading role on the domestic stage with plans to develop Echelon Place, the second-most costly single hospitality industry project in U.S. history. The project features 5,300 hotel rooms, a million square feet meeting and convention space, a 350,000-square-foot retail store, and a 140,000-square-foot casino. 온라인경마

Bill Boyd, chairman of Boyd Gaming, said his company plans to become a leader in Las Vegas’ lavish hospitality with Echelon Place, offering world-class dining, nightlife, shopping, meetings and conventions, and entertainment. To achieve the top-notch luxury of Eclone Place, Boyd Gaming will partner with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, a leading luxury hotel group in Asia-Pacific, and Morgan Hotel Group, a developer of lifestyle boutique hotels. Bob Bowner will be leaving his post in Borgata, Atlantic City, to lead the development of Eclone Place.

The result will be a new wave of development and competition that Las Vegas has never seen before. Before 2004, game industry insiders here said the casino business was a mature one with relatively static players. Boyd’s bold deal with Etchellon seems to break the ice. A year ago, the gaming industry was dominated by three major companies – MGM Mirage, Harrer Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment. Each of them was known for their acquisitions, but none of them were known for their own development.

Now, Caesars has been taken over by Harah’s and eaten up. And the bullish Mandalay Resort Group has been merged into MGM Mirage. In the same year, Las Vegas Sands went public and began work on its new resort, Palacho, next to Venice, which it owns. Also, Wynn Resorts opened Wynn Las Vegas and began work on its second Las Vegas property, Encore. Sands and Wynn Resorts are both chasing premium markets. Niche operators like Palms, owned by George Malouf, Hard Rock Hotel, owned by Peter Morton, and Golden Nugget, led by Tillman Fertita, are undergoing major expansion. All three hotel casinos are also chasing luxury customers.

Meanwhile, Robert Earl, who is rebranding Aladdin to Planet Hollywood, and San Remo, now called Hooters Hotel, are chasing new-grade casino customers who were previously cut short by major operators. In contrast, Harrah’s Entertainment is focused on operating dormitories for slotsharks, with the exception of Caesars Palace, which provides lip service at least for luxury customers, the analysts said on condition of anonymity. You won’t be able to tap “Hara.” Schwartz said questions remain about when and how “Hara” will move away from this proven strategy and unveil plans to redevelop key properties in the city, from “Hara” and south to “Imperial Palace” to “Paris Las Vegas.”

Station Casino was left as the only company focused on the local market. However, insiders and analysts agreed that Boyd Gaming and niche operators would not send locals to Station without a battle. Boyd Gaming officials are reluctant to discuss marketing strategies, while Steve Ruggerio, a game analyst at CRT Capital Group, expressed skepticism that Boyd would abandon its traditional customer base or convention participants and focus on high-end customers. The premium market is at risk of overcrowding, Ruggerio said. But he added that while Eclone Place will be gentrified, Boyd will use the expo center to maintain and strengthen its position in the mid-tier market.

Bill Thompson, a professor at the University of Las Vegas who specializes in game research, said although high-end has been the fastest growing in the casino market segment, the market will now have to grow 10% annually to absorb the project at its inception, or the two companies will start to eat each other. Thus, the dual marketing strategy behind Boyd Gaming’s development plan looks flawless, Thompson said. Schwartz said MGM Mirage is pursuing a similar two-tier marketing strategy that initially provides real estate to any budget Steve Wynn designed when he led Mirage Resorts. It’s better if you can charge $250 per night, but if that’s all you have to offer, you can end up frightening customers, and Boyd promised not to do this. “It’s a good business plan. Having a Ritz-Carlton doesn’t mean you can’t have a holiday,” he said.

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