The recent news about the casino closings in Atlantic City is emblematic of many of the locations around the nation where casinos have been permitted to set up shop. In the beginning the sheer novelty of their presence allowed them to flourish and prosper. However as more and more locations jumped on the revenue bandwagon competition finally began to materialize and the glory days of fancy new casinos in glamorous locations began to fade. This trend was also compounded by the collapse of our economy beginning in 2008 when discretionary income in most families began to shrink or disappear altogether. Almost all entertainment venues felt a decline in their gate receipts from Disneyland to the fancy resort casinos around the country.
Even Las Vegas has suffered from severe losses. After a trial fling with trying to attract family business by becoming more diverse in their entertainment offerings that catered to all age groups including children they have been forced to pull back and go back to their core business of gaming and elaborate shows aimed primarily at adult audiences. Some analysts have pointed to two factors for this decline in overall gaming interest. First is the competition factor.
When people can find similar facilities just a few miles from home why travel half way across the country to visit a place in the middle of a desert? The river boat casino approach sprang up all along the major water ways in our nation and as the various locations that hosted them discovered the revenue that they
brought in they simply gave up and it was no longer required that these casinos be physically on a boat. Also the Indian Reservation casinos found a whole new audience as the general population discovered that they enjoyed the excitement of occasional gaming. All locations began offering other entertainment options besides the gaming and that has opened up a whole new industry in our nation while basically stealing the once exclusive markets of the older established venues such as Reno and Las Vegas.
The second factor contributing to the decline in the gaming industry is the economic situation that is still plaguing our nation. The entire entertainment industry as well as the tourist industry has sustained major losses as a result of the last five and a half years of economic distress. People who previously may have taken cruises opt instead for a local vacation. Those who may have gone to a typical local vacation venue opted instead for 'staycations' where they essentially stayed home and spent less money. In short every economic sector except the very wealthy has scaled back their spending on entertainment and tourism.
I recently made trips to both Las Vegas and to Tunica Mississippi, a favorite venue for me and my late wife. In both cases I was disappointed in the reduced services and quality of experience that I encountered in both locations. The facilities were understaffed, the accommodations were obviously well worn and used, and the amenities were significantly poorer in quality and quantity. In short, like almost every other business in the U.S. today, casinos were having to cut staff, reduce product quality and quantity, and spend less on maintenance and infrastructure in order to maintain profitability.
So in my perspective the glory days of casino gaming where gaming is the sole attractant have become a thing of the past. Future entertainment venues are going to have to become much more diverse and offer a broader spectrum of entertainment options in order to draw the much smaller customer base that exists today. Also what is offered is going to have to have a reasonable range of options price wise so as to draw as many perspective customers as possible. Even places such as national parks are going to have to offer more than a single attraction in order to draw the larger crowds that bring with them profits. Amusement parks are becoming 'theme parks' and are offering a variety of shows and other entertainment options. What the next step is in this market place is probably going to resemble an entertainment mall where you can find just about anything that you could want in one location.
The early attempts at this in Las Vegas were somewhat half hearted and missed the mark in my estimation. They tried to blend the spectrum of activities too closely and forgot that parents don't generally abandon their kids in an amusement park while they go to an adult stage show or do some gambling. Had they put more effort into creating supervised activities for the kids so that their parents could have some adult time I think that perhaps they may have had better results. For example with a five day four night vacation package two days would be like an organized camp for the kids and mom and dad would have the whole day and night to themselves. It might add to the cost a bit but it would make for a very desirable attraction for those wishing to get away and get the most bang for their buck I would think. Some of the larger theme parks actually provide supervised day care for children too little to enjoy the park. This permits parents with older children to enjoy the park while the toddlers are group supervised in a fashion similar to a day care scenario for a very reasonable price.
As I see it the solutions are out there. It is just going to take a person or persons with the vision and nerve to find them and put them into practice. Social evolution will dictate what tomorrow's entertainment and entertainment venues will look like and the gaming industry will ultimately have to be a part of that evolution. Time will tell and it will definitely be interesting and different.