Last week (February 15-17), my wife, Debbie, and I visited Las Vegas. We weren’t there to gamble or party (not really, anyway) but rather to source products for her eBay business at the OffPrice Show tradeshow. I’ll describe the show in “eBay Elations”, my eBay blog.

Deb and I had a great time, no doubt about it, but I couldn’t help noting some interesting marketing lessons from our friends in Nevada.

Las Vegas - Doing Research

Researching Marketing Techniques at the Venetian

One thing I noticed was the increasing prevalence of penny slot machines. If you haven’t been to Vegas lately, you should know that no one actually feeds copper coated coins into these machines. It’s all done with bills; payout (if your luck holds out ) is via “Cash Out” receipts.

That being said, it appeared to me that casino management had read the signs of their market – people who are increasingly on budgets – and scaled down the costs to participate in the fun. I figured that their strategy was that they would make up the difference in other ways – like when penny slot gamblers feel lucky and wander over to the craps table for a quick killing, er, gambling suicide.

Actually, as my later research turned out, penny slots are actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. People think they are going to spend a few bucks at the penny slots, but with all of the ways to bet on various lines (i.e., different ways to win on a each “pull” of the slot machine), they bet more than just a penny or two at a time. More like 50 or 300 each time. In other words, $.50 to $3.00 or more! Since they bet so many lines, they get “hits” more often, winning on one of the many lines they bet. It’s fun, but still a losing proposition!

So much for my theory on drawing customers on a budget. However, the pricing lesson is also worth noting: advertise low cost but make it tempting and easy to upgrade.

Chinese New Year Trumps Mardi Gras
It’s no secret to Las Vegas, nor the various Native American Casinos, that Asians love gambling. The attention paid to them is simply Marketing 101: When you want to increase your business, pursue the niche or market segment that pays off the most. In Vegas, it’s clear that is the Asian market. This year, Mardi Gras, February 16, coincided with Chinese New Year. Both are big holidays, but which got the most attention in Sin City?

Marketing lessons at casinos

Year of the Tiger Beats Mardi Gras

The Year of the Tiger was commemorated with a giant sculpture in the Venetian Lobby as you’ll see in my photo, not to mention special covers on chairs at the tables, posters in walkways, “Happy Year of the Tiger” bilboards, whole sections of tables devoted to Asian games, paper lanterns at every turn, and a corresponding number of Asian patrons trying their luck. Where did Mardi Gras appear in the scheme of things? Except at the Rio (Brazilian Carnival-themed casino), not many places! I wonder how things differed at casinos in the south?