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Las Vegas in Europe? – The gambling hotspots of the future
by KRISTIAN NYGAARD

Las Vegas in Europe? – The gambling hotspots of the future

Bright lights, big city, neon all around me…Tom Jones to the East, Celine Dion right in front of me and the lure of the next million bucks just around the next corner.
The essence of Las Vegas and other American gambling cities lie not least in the sentiments that they convey – the feeling of each visitor that they too can have part in the riches that is so obvious in the extravagant casinos, the limos, the women and many other ingredients of the good life.
The concept of not just putting up a single casino in the middle of nowhere but building up a community around several casinos and including every possible facility, which can service the gambler.
These facilities can in the mind of the cunning casino marketer also in time be used to attract these gamblers, especially the high rollers. Examples of this are anything from boxing matches over topless revues to replicas of the Eiffel Tower.
No other country in the world is known for its gambling cities as USA. Although smaller communities around the globe such as Monaco in Southern Europe and Macao in Southeast Asia also receive many gambling tourists, then the main concentration is in the States.
These include the traditional destinations like Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey as well as more recent additions such as Tunica, Mississippi and Biloxi, Mississippi.
But then, what has made Las Vegas what it is today and can these qualities be duplicated in Europe?
In my opinion there are six major factors:

? LEGISLATION

The legalising of gambling in 1931 lay the primary foundation for the Vegas that we know today.
Although, gambling to a large degree also existed as an illegal activity, then the possibilities arousing from this being legalised were numerous.
Casinos could overtly advertise and thus reach a lot larger market than when being illegal.

? PROXIMITY TO CONSUMERS

Being only 4 hours away by car (and even less with aeroplane), Los Angeles and its suburbs were the obvious markets for willing gamblers in the beginning of Las Vegas era as a gambling town.
Had it been in Alaska or any other remote areas of the States, then a rise of gambling had been faced with much more obstacles for growth than the case of the well-connected Southern Nevada.

? INFRASTRUCTURE

It was no coincidence that gambling in Nevada centred on the community of Las Vegas. It was after all here that the railroad passed.
For all that it mattered, gambling was legalised in the whole of Nevada and could thus develop even in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
But obviously, it is necessary for any tourism destination that the proper infrastructure is in place. Put in another way, the visitors must be able to come, leave and get around the destination.
As mentioned, Las Vegas was a stop on the railroad in 1931. Later came also an international airport as well as a modern highway (which lately though has become quite congested).

? PROFILE

The marketing effort was essential in the creation of Las Vegas a destination. Probably very few other destinations in the world have been so good in conveying feelings.
The feeling of Las Vegas is that of immense glamour and richness.
Since the 30s, Las Vegas was almost on a planet of its own.
The first hotels had a distinctive frontier feeling (also the name of an actual hotel…). Here you were sort of on your own and things that had an importance in the ‘real’ world, were unimportant here in ‘Vegas’ world.
For the weekend any office clerk with a 9 to 5 job and an average salary back in Burbank could play, drink, be with prostitutes and be entertained in any possible way.
There still is a lure of Vegas. Here you come with your most fancy dreams about gambling, drinking, entertainment and sex…
A week later you head back to your hometown filled with many experiences and often with a lot less money on bank account.

? ENTERTAINMENT

The purpose has been two-fold.
First it attracts the high rollers to a certain casino, if they can highlight a world-class entertainer or a heavyweight world championship fight. High-rollers will not stop at just watching, they are very likely to spend the remaining time of their stay at the tables.
Second it can give the casino a clear profile, to maintain entertainment of high quality. This will again attract the high rollers and the low rollers as well as all the suckers…All the same to the casino, which at the end of the day are the only sure winners in Vegas.

? EXPANSION

Las Vegas had every chance for physical growth. After all it was in the middle of the desert with no other real town within a 200 miles radius…
Imagine that this had been on Manhattan…Where could one have found the same possibilities for buying land and making new buildings? It certainly would not have been cheap when one considers the price of land within the city of New York!
The natural growth for casinos happened along the Strip, since it was the entrance road when driving from California and at the same time it was close to downtown Las Vegas.
That was then, however. Today, the Strip is almost as congested as downtown Manhattan and casino operators are often looking elsewhere in search of new lots. This has meant the arrival of several satellite gambling cities around Vegas, such as Jean, Primm and Laughlin.

Enough about the past in the States…Allow me to look at the future now.

Where could the possible hotspots of tomorrow be in Europe?

I have a strong feeling that in a few years we will see some newcomers in Eastern Europe.

This is basically due to two factors:

1. The political and administrative environment is more liberal towards gambling.
2. The level of cost is generally lower (although on the rise in many former Eastern Bloc countries)

However, Western Europe is in no way out of the picture. Advantageous laws have recently been passed in United Kingdom, which should mean more gambling in a less restrictive way.

So my personal list comprises the following European areas, which with certain changes and with the right guidance could end up as the new Las Vegases in the Old World:

BLACKPOOL, United Kingdom

Already possessing a very clearly defined “fun-in-the-sun-and-sand” tourism profile, the step towards gambling is not far away.
Recent changes in legislation towards less stricter laws for casinos in the United Kingdom should certainly favour this.
Blackpool has a long tourism history and a reputation based on the piers and the tower located in the city and straight on the beach promenade. The area furthermore benefits from the proximity to major urban areas such as Manchester and Liverpool and already attracts many customers from these areas.

BRATISLAVA Area, Slovakia

A true destination for the future…Not only in gambling, but also an all-over tourist destination. The excellent location in the middle of Central Europe makes this city a winner. Vienna is only half an hour away and a surge in the number of low-cost flights to and from the nearby airport means that the access to future gambling areas near Bratislava is easy, quick and cheap. When being combined with the low costs still present in Slovakia, Bratislava could in 5-10 years rise to be a real star on the Eastern European tourism scene.

OHRID, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Before the war in former Yugoslavia, this was one of the premier inland destinations in the southern part of the country.
Now many years later it is once again on a winning streak…Situated at one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, the city has already numerous tourism facilities.
An advantageous position could especially be obtained within the Greek market. Greece is only around 150 km away and though a quite competitive market, it nonetheless is quite large and has room for expansion.
So combined with general and shopping tourism, Ohrid could have a role

Date Posted: 01-Feb-2005

KRISTIAN NYGAARD (knygaard@tiscali.dk) is a Copenhagen,Denmark-based tourism and gambling consultant. His company International Tourist Consultants (ITC) has worked with casinos in Sweden and Lithuania as well as tourism assignments in Russia and Denmark.
KN holds a Masters Degree in International Business as well as an IATA/UFTAA degree in Tourism and Travel Management and Senior Management and has previously worked with companies such as Scandinavian Airlines, Iberia Airlines of Spain and leading tour operators.

 
 
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