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Indian Casino Gaming Surges Post Pandemic Through Creative Marketing Efforts

By Jon Bailey

Recently we had the opportunity to attend the National Indian Gaming Association’s (NIGA) annual conference, the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention held in Las Vegas. Amid tribal leaders, industry experts, gaming specialists and marketers, the conversation was lively about the future of Indian gaming. Tribes from across the US were represented, gathered with the purpose of improving their businesses across a variety of categories.

We were most interested in the discussions surrounding best practices and innovations in marketing. With many gaming clients fueling our agency expertise, we’re always looking to improve our understanding and increase our creative idea generation. This was a great place to do just that.

Obviously there was much discussion about perseverance through the pandemic and its aftereffects. Yet the optimism was clear and present. There is much opportunity to look forward to as gaming revenues surge back and casino attendance steadily grows. According to recent figures released by the American Gaming Association, casinos just had their best overall quarter in history, taking in $13.6 billion in Q2.

Marketing Observations about Indian Gaming

With clients such as Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, we’ve been stretching our creative muscles to build new brand campaign materials, promotions, exciting announcements and more. Some of the ideas that different Indian casinos shared at the NIGA conference were also really awesome examples of success.

A few observations about the state of Indian casino marketing:

  • Creative marketing campaigns are increasingly becoming a vital component of casino operations. No longer can casinos rely on loyal customers to continue their gaming habits, and innovative tactics are needed to grow revenue and market share. There were many examples of this shared by various casinos in key gaming markets.
  • Metrics and data are being used by savvy marketing departments to pinpoint guest profiles that respond best to specific messages. Marketers are seeking improved access to measurements so spending can be better qualified according to customer segmentation. Data mining has become an increasingly sophisticated tool for successful casino marketing.
  • Promotions are still a major driver of attendance, but the focus of successful promotions is moving away from traditional tried and true methods (toaster or car giveaways) to more experiential prizes such as trips, chef’s tables, golf, spa and loyalist program rewards.
  • Casinos are planning better to manage budgets, looking at variable cost promotions instead of buying a ton of swag and hoping to give it all away. (What casino do you know that doesn’t have a prize closet overstuffed with leftover giveaway items?)
  • Overall marketing spending is on the rise, with targeted audience marketing taking the lion’s share. Sophisticated digital marketing methods are being employed to better connect with prime individual gaming customers and reduce wasted dollars spent on lower performing audiences.
  • With competition for customers increasing in every market, the need to hyper-focus marketing tactics is running at a fever pitch. Increasingly sophisticated methods are being used to connect with customers off- and on-property. (For example, we are employing geotargeting and beacons for a casino client to help serve messages to guests while on property or after leaving.)

With travel continuing to increase despite the recent pandemic backslide, the odds are in our favor regarding casino marketing. People are more willing to travel by car within reasonable distances to stay at a casino resort where they feel safety meets their personal standards.

Overall Travel Trends that Marketers Can Use

According to Expedia, 4 out of 5 travelers are making hotel decisions based on their perception of pandemic safety measures. Las Vegas was the #1 most booked destination in the US in Q1 of 2021. And although the booking window for travel planning is very short (sometimes within just a few weeks before traveling), the length of stay has increased substantially.

To marketers, this shows us a few things:

  • We can influence travel much more immediately than ever before, turning on and off marketing programs based on occupancy, rate enhancement and more.
  • Guests can be encouraged to stay longer by showing them reasons to lengthen their experiences on property. Spas, golf, signature dining and other qualifiers can create marketing messages designed for multi-day bookings.
  • Should inventory allow, immediate surges can be created by targeted marketing to specific geographies within driving distance. No budget need be spent on audiences beyond a certain perimeter, and instead focus on those most likely to pick up and go spontaneously.