Why Caesars Entertainment is shooting for 30-something customers for Linq

Caesars Entertainment

An artist’s rendering of the proposed restaurant/entertainment district Project Linq.

Project Linq

An artist's rendering of the proposed restaurant/entertainment district Project Linq. Launch slideshow »

Linq project developments

Linq project developments

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Caesars unveils details of Linq project, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011.

As one of the nation’s most traveled tourist destinations, Las Vegas may appear a melting pot for American tourism, reflecting nearly every age and income bracket.

Over the years, there’s only one kind of customer that has mattered most to most of the casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. And they’re not 20-somethings partying in nightclubs.

Baby Boomers entering or exiting their peak spending years, including retirees with more time in which to spend their nest eggs, have long defined the growth and entertainment offerings along Strip.

Many Baby Boomers — who didn’t grow up with futuristic forms of stimulation like video games and smartphones — like to play slot machines.

Corporations tend to view Boomers as an aspirational group of big spenders who benefited financially when the stock market was soaring.

Which is why Caesars Entertainment thinks the company’s $500 million Linq attraction — a streetscape of more than 40 eateries, bars and entertainment venues built along an outdoor corridor between its Flamingo and O’Sheas casinos and anchored by a 550-foot-high observation wheel — makes a bigger statement about the future of Las Vegas.

Before the recession hit, the company’s internal customer surveys revealed an inconvenient truth for Las Vegas and its humming casino-centric economy: Although older customers appreciate what Las Vegas does best, like football field-sized displays of slot machines, high-end restaurants and brand-name shopping, younger customers wanted something different.

In short, they wanted something less stuffy and more low-key.

“They’re not looking for another Louis Vuitton store” or casino, said Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Caesars Entertainment. “They want to clubhop and barhop. They want something edgier and hipper.”

That’s somewhat of an inconvenient truth for Las Vegas, whose attractions have always been built around large, centrally located casinos. That also goes for the two newest resorts in town, which incorporate unusual features aimed at newer generations of Las Vegas visitors.

CityCenter incorporates three condo towers and public displays of modern art into its futuristic design. And the Cosmopolitan next door — with a collection of hip boutiques and eclectic restaurants — is the most densely built resort on the Strip, with multiple floors of attractions and nearly 3,000 rooms built on only 8 acres.

Although most revenue on the Strip comes from nongaming sources like hotel rooms, drinks and food, the Strip’s expensive megaresorts could not have been built without their massive gambling floors — big revenue generators with high profit margins that have little parallel in the business world.

And for those casinos to work, they need Baby Boomers’ gambling dollars.

But those Baby Boomers are getting old, and that is raising a red flag for Las Vegas casinos. As Boomers retire, they exit their peak spending years. They will be replaced by a smaller population of potential visitors with more money to spend.

In recent years, casinos have diversified their graying customer base and embraced younger generations with elaborate nightclubs and lounges. Such venues, by drawing a newer crowd to its growing club and party scene, have helped remake the long-standing image of Las Vegas as a destination for older folks with more established bank accounts.

By 2015, Caesars estimates that 52 percent of spending in Las Vegas will come from Generation X and Y customers. These 20- to 40-somethings will hopefully frequent Las Vegas 20 years from now, Jones said.

Before the recession made giant resort developments unfeasible, Caesars Entertainment executives were at work on a strategy to lure younger visitors. The strategy, executives decided in 2007, wouldn’t involve a casino. Nor would it involve luxury brands that are already two and three deep in Las Vegas.

For inspiration, they looked to established retail and entertainment districts around the country that were already popular with young people, like New York’s Meatpacking District and the Grove in Los Angeles. Generation X and Y customers, the company found, didn’t want to be cooped up in a fancy mall. Instead, they wanted to wander from one attraction to the next in a more natural and casual outdoor environment — a large-scale collection of outdoor-facing, nongambling attractions that’s common in other big cities but still doesn’t exist on the Strip.

The prototypical Linq customer, executives say, isn’t a graying slot player but rather, a30-something, middle-class man or woman who wants to meet up with friends for cocktails or beers.

The shopping at Linq, which is expected to offer boutiques that are new to town, also is designed to be a casual experience that’s secondary to the district’s main function as a meet-up spot for young professionals, executives said.

It sounds like a far cry from the single-minded, and frequently expensive, escape afforded by a slot machine or blackjack table.

The only nod to the reigning profit center of Las Vegas is the name of the Linq’s planned observation wheel, dubbed High Roller.

At about $20 a pop for a 30-minute ride, customers won’t need a Baby Boomer-sized nest egg to give it a whirl.

Tags: Linq

CORRECTION: This story was changed to indicate Las Vegas is one of the nation’s most traveled tourist destinations, instead of the nation's most traveled destination. | (October 15, 2012)


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Discussion 10 comments

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  1. The 20 to 30 targets they are looking for doesn't gamble.
    Go into the Cosmo, thier casino is a ghost town during the week.
    Gambling drives this city. Keep driving baby boomers out and when the 20 somethings get bored, you will wind up with nothing.
    Indian casino are loaded with seniors who are spending thier money.
    They believe Vegas could care less about them anymore.
    That's why I always stay downtown or other local casinos.
    If all else fails Reno and Lauglin are still good value for the older gambler.

  2. Stevez39,

    I wonder if you are missing the whole point of LIz's story (and the point of Caesars' strategy). My baby boomer friends aren't being driven out so much as, well, we're starting to die.

    Caesars is planting seeds for future customers. And Caesars knows that twentysomethings don't gamble. That's why it makes more sense for Caesars Entertainment to develop Linq as a cool outdoor gathering spot versus a building another (and much more expensive) casino. Caesars wants to give twentysomethings on a budget something to do here, to build some brand loyalty and wait for the larger payoff in a few years when they will be in the gambling demographic.

  3. Thank you Tom, perfect response!

    Stevez39 represents comments I continue to hear from "boomers" (I'm one) who are starting to sound like our parents, with a bit of a self-centered tone on how the "world is going to a hell in a handbasket" and you'll never get through it without doing things the same way we did crap. Baloney!

    The world is changing, that's for sure and the strength of Las Vegas is that it's always changed as well. The Rat Pack ain't comin' back, neither is the Mob... and smokey gamblin' halls have been replaced by daytime pool-parties and bottle service. The next generation is the future of society, not the death of it.

  4. Great article and good comments, even from Stevez39; just a different point of view. I think Ceasar's (and Vegas) is smart with their future planning. Vegas' future planning will allow it to be exactly what it is today... a fun-loving gaming, dining and entertainment community for ALL demographics. That is why Tropicana, The Plaza, TI, El Cortez and others are refurbishing their perspective venues. We baby boomers (and beyond boomers) yet have PLENTY to enjoy in Las Vegas, on and off the Strip.

    As I age, I do things and go places a wee bit differently when I vacation. But, I ALWAYS vacation in Vegas and have a heluva time on each visit (since 1976).

    Good planning, Ceasar's! And keep up the good work, Vegas. You are one-of-a-kind in the world!

  5. I like their thinking and how they articulated what project Linq is all about here. My only thought would be that it needs to be a unique experience. Copying what that generation already enjoys in NYC and LA would probably not be an attraction to them. That generation (my generation) comes to Las Vegas to experience something different that what we currently enjoy at home.

  6. WOW!! Very well thought out project. Unlike the Executives at MGM, Caesars actually took the time to research what their customers like and LISTENED to them!! This gives me hope that maybe once again our city will shine!! Not only are they creating much needed jobs to this community, but they are also raising the bar for all other companies to reach!! If we could only find the right place and the right people to give us a Professional Sports Franchise. This would give a much needed sense of community and pride for this tired city. Those of us that still call Las Vegas home are the ones that truly love living here. We didn't bail out when the economy tanked. This City has taken some hits over the last couple of years and we are ready for some good news!! Good luck to Caesars Entertainment and God bless our city!!

  7. People would gamble more if they could win a little bit now and then...

    But we will see how this works out. One possible concern is that it might drain too much business off the strip, which is already struggling to keep its head above water. Who's going to walk around Linq all day in 120 degree heat, then go down to Luxor or MGM?

    Another is that it might become a hangout for lowlifes that many strip patrons desire to avoid - the Larry the Cable Guy types, the gangbanger wannabes, and of course hordes of porn snappers. This idea does have potential, but it could go either way.

  8. Attracting young consumers is, was, and always will be a key goal in the Vegas marketing plan. But another key part of that plan is to maintain that consumer right through to the end of their life span.

    The baby boomers are ripe for harvest, because of marketing that was done in the '60's, '70's and '80's. Failing to market to the boomers now wastes those efforts.

    The consumer cycle is young people unfettered by spouse, kids, and career, then a dead spot as these consumers plod through their parenting years, then the sweet spot occurs when the kids are gone and there's money to spend.

    The boomers are the sweetest spot that Vegas will ever see!

  9. "My baby boomer friends aren't being driven out so much as, well, we're starting to die"

    Geez., Tom - we're not dead yet!!! In fact, the oldest boomers are only in their early 60's (boomers were born between 1946 - 1962) and sure, we've slowed down but we still like a good time. We don't stay up all night and drink anymore but we do like to spend money. We like to see good shows just as well as the 30-somethings. Who says we won't like what Linq has to offer? We are NOT our parents, that's for sure. I agree with biscuitMKE- there is STILL penty to do in Vegas for boomers and it's best the powers that be don't forget that!!

  10. "middle-class man or woman who wants to meet up with friends for cocktails or beers"

    Well, I guess we're different but my friends and I STILL like to do this and we're all in our early 60's. Maybe it's because we're big city people and it's common to do this. A Midwestern thing where you gathered at the corner tavern to catch up. And no one drives; we walk. Something lacking in the western states; no social structure. I should also add - we are a bunch of "young thinking" boomers and have friends in our group that our younger than us. And some of the younger ones could care less about going to Vegas; their attitude is why bother when if you want to gamble - there is a casino an hour away in any direction.