by Steven Palmisano
People throughout the country are craving normalcy and longing for the return to social spaces that make them feel connected to one another and their community. But with COVID-19 still posing a major concern, many are wary of leaving their homes for non-essential goods and services. Casino properties – with their reliance on the in-person experience – are a case study of an industry that’s evolving and using new approaches to connect to customers. We are witnessing a shift in the traditional casino model: Properties are now offering a hybrid approach to sustain customer loyalty, creating new virtual and socially oriented gaming communities to supplement the in-person casino experience.
JCJ Architecture is assisting operators with best practices on reopening concepts. While we can’t bring groups together the way we have, we are prioritizing safety and creating new memories through a restored sense of connectivity. Efforts start by providing information to patrons on these safety measures. Steps are being taken to provide for their safety by limiting the number of people at gaming tables and revisiting gaming floor layouts to incorporate social distancing. These and many other initiatives are designed to rebuild and reinforce confidence in brand experience.
As consumer behavior and expectations have changed over the past few months, people have further embraced the connections available online. Casino brands were already evolving to meet these demands pre-COVID through online gaming and Sportsbook offerings. In our current environment, providing virtual options to give those who don’t feel comfortable leaving their home access to an interactive platform gives patrons a feeling of normalcy, despite being physically disconnected. Initially, online gaming environments were separate and distinct from the on-site experience. Emerging trends seek synergies blending the online experience with that of the on-site environment. This can play an important role in building comfort for bringing patrons back during phased openings.
A challenge is to build comfort with older patrons who are not as internet-savvy, while still attracting younger patrons drawn to the ease and immediacy of the online world. In the virtual arena, communities are built utilizing social networking and interactive gameplay. On-site pop-ups provide an opportunity for the digital community and physical casino worlds to interface and blend seamlessly within the overall brand. This concept is a blended customer service counter, “Apple store,” special event space and sundry or gift shop. While people may leave the physical space without making an actual purchase, it offers a direct connection via a host who can answer questions and build excitement about what the digital environment has to offer. Conversely, an online patron can redeem player points or receive “on-site” specials and incentives. By doing so, the brand has achieved its goal of getting people into the space (while at a social distance) to help register patrons or offer demos.
Creating this relationship between an online platform and a brick and mortar location gives patrons a place to carry out the gaming experience and brands the opportunity to reach a larger demographic while creating a unique social atmosphere.
Steven Palmisano, AIA, is project director at JCJ Architecture.