Fueling the Fantasy.
The collective US conscience is slowly, yet begrudgingly, accepting the fact that soaring gasoline prices are here to stay. And with that come tighter spending budgets abbreviated holidays and shorter road trips. And that can spell disaster for Las Vegas casinos that depend on all the highway traffic that floods in from coast to coast. But some casino companies are feeling the pinch in a different, more positive way.
To keep Las Vegas enticing, some casinos are offering gasoline giveaways and discounts. Circus Circus, for example, recently sent out an electronic blast announcing a gasoline card that includes a $25 of credit honored at local gasoline stations, a $4 discount off the cost of admission to the Adventuredome Theme Park, and a book of coupons worth $100. The cards are offered to guests who book a minimum two-night stay on the hotel's web site and are handed out at check-in.
Alan Feldman, spokesman for Circus Circus, said the program was designed to address growing customer concerns about the excruciating cost to fill the tank.
Before costs reached $3 per gallon, or 33 percent higher than last year, all major hotel-casino operators claimed that gasoline prices weren’t enough of a factor for customers to think twice about that top-down pilgrimage to Las Vegas—especially the influx from Southern California, where most of Las Vegas's drive-in business originates. But once that watermark was surpassed, the Las Vegas establishment started to sweat.
“Recognizing that consumers may be thinking about altering their travel plans due to the price of gas, we have already launched at least one promotion with a gas-price theme and we are considering similar promotions at our other properties that have a strong proportion of drive-in visitors,” Feldman said.
MGM Mirage is offering similar programs at its properties in Primm Valley like Whiskey Pete's, Buffalo Bill's and the Primm Valley Casino Hotel.
“What began as a summer promotion is now an ongoing part of the club. Basically, customers can comp their own gas by using their [casino] points,” Feldman continued. “Our July and August room offers will also include a gas voucher. This is a loyalty promotion based on a certain level of play. It will include room offers and gas.”
While some are quick to capitalize on the situation, others are stepping on the gas a little more cautiously. Harrah's Entertainment, the world's largest gaming company, has no similar marketing programs in place, said spokesman David Strow, but executives at some Harrah's properties, who asked not to be named, said gasoline giveaway and discount programs are in the planning phase.
However, Imperial Palace, which for the past year has been owned and operated by Harrah's Entertainment, got a jump start by launching a direct mail campaign for all Imperial Play Club members. Spokeswoman Jackie Brett said the program was aimed to help customers relieve some of the pressures from increasing gasoline prices. “The offer was for specific dates, June 19-30, and varying amounts from $50 to $150 on a gas card, along with room offers,” she said.
Similarly, Mark Sterbens, director of marketing at Terrible's Hotel and Casino, said his company has fuel-incentive programs in place based on earn-and-reward systems and gasoline redemption cards.
It’s hard to find a dark cloud hanging over free gas, but Brian Gordon, a partner in the Las Vegas-based consulting firm Applied Analysis, says the casino programs are probably more psychologically helpful than pocketbook friendly.
“It's an attempt to bond with customers and tell them, 'We feel your pain,'” Gordon said.
Local operators with gasoline programs are joining an increasing number of hospitality industry companies nationwide that are using gasoline giveaways and discounts to help keep customers coming. And while lower-priced properties rather than premium hotel-casinos so far have led the way in Las Vegas, upscale resorts are joining the fray nationally.