Casino Player Behavior Benchmark Analysis - August

The Innovation Group (TIG) has been following COVID-19 and its impact on the gaming industry since the pandemic emerged. As part of our ongoing effort to forecast recovery patterns, The Innovation Group has conducted periodic consumer research to understand changing player perceptions and behaviors around casino floors, amenities, and new technologies such as cashless payments. In May, prior to casino reopenings, TIG conducted survey research to capture the voice of the guest. This week we compare the May results to August to gauge player perceptions since reopening. 

Join Michael Soll, Brian Wyman, and Chloe Paul from TIG in an open discussion on Monday to find out what players from across the U.S. are saying about how the coronavirus is affecting gaming participation, budgets, amenity utilization, and perceptions of their safety during casino visitation. Regional and demographic insights will be shared. 

on Monday, August 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Key Findings:
  1. Players overstated their intention to return, but higher quality players are showing up. Only 17% of casinogoers have actually returned to casinos since reopening, versus 40% who said they would return in May. However, returning players were higher frequency and higher worth guests. Focusing on a small, high-frequency, and gambling-oriented population has allowed casinos, especially in regional markets, to flex their variable costs (especially marketing-related) and achieve considerably higher margins on their reduced revenues. This trend of overstatement (or sentiment change) was similar to that in other consumer activity, such as gyms (33% versus 8%) and travel (28% versus 10%), with the notable exception of retail (53% versus 55%). 
  2. Vaccine development is very important to players opting out. 35% of casinogoers state that they will not return until a vaccine or reliable treatment is available. This presents a challenge to casinos on the revenue front, both from a gaming perspective and also as it relates to nongaming amenities, which often rely on mass market usage to operate profitably.
  3. Players expect to moderate their gaming budgets. Players have indicated that their budget on recent trips (since reopening) has been higher than it was in 2019. However, player forecasts of their next 12-month visitation and spend patterns suggest a flat to lower spend per trip and reduced visitation. This could reflect anxiety about the overall direction of the economy.
  4. Interest in amenity use is much lower than pre-COVID levels. Only 54% of those who have returned to a casino used a nongaming amenity (hotel, pool, spa, restaurant, etc.) on their recent visit, versus 88% who report using one on a typical trip in 2019. While this could introduce opportunities for margin improvement, impact on volume of EBITDA is uncertain.
  5. Safety measures have generally been in line with guest expectations. 89% of those who have returned to casinos believed that the casino implemented "an appropriate level of safety measures" or "too many safety measures," while only 11% felt that the casino did not do enough. Likewise, 85% believed other guests adequately complied with safety measures or went "out of their way to ensure everyone's safety." Safety measures were observed with about the same frequency that they were desired. For example, 80% of those who have returned since reopening saw hand sanitizing stations throughout the establishment, and 78% of non-returners indicated desiring these. Notable gaps were in plexiglass barriers at slot machines (61% desired, 39% implemented) and table games (48% desired, 37% implemented) and in capacity restrictions on the floor (57% desired, 42% implemented).
  6. Regional variation in player behavior tracks prior research. Trip declines blended to 46%, 47%, and 48% in the Midwest, Northeast, and West, respectively, while trip declines in the South were only 31%. Likewise, guests in the South had more relaxed attitudes toward protective measures.
  7. Players want cashless options. 86% of respondents expressed concern regarding acquiring coronavirus from handling cash at the casino. 72% of all respondents indicated that they were "somewhat likely" or "very likely" to use cashless payments if available, and 66% said they'd be "somewhat likely" or "very likely" to visit a casino that offered cashless gaming. High frequency and high worth guests were more likely to desire cashless options.


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