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Las Vegas looks outside casinos to draw millennials

Nov 27,2017
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A rendering from Caesars Entertainment depicts a 1,050-foot-long zip line it will build above its outdoor promenade anchored by the Linq hotel-casino in Las Vegas. [AP/YONHAP]
LAS VEGAS - Casinos in Las Vegas are upping the ante in their pursuit of coveted millennial visitors with new attractions designed to wow them, provide them Instagram-worthy moments and maybe even get them to gamble a little.

In 2018, a zip line across the street from Caesars Palace and an e-sports arena at the Luxor will join the city’s entertainment repertoire geared toward those generally up to age 34. They are becoming majority spenders in today’s economy but aren’t necessarily interested in traditional casino gambling, such as blackjack and craps.

Fresh out of bankruptcy, Caesars Entertainment plans to build a 1,050-foot-long zip line above its outdoor promenade anchored by the Linq hotel-casino and the world’s tallest observation wheel. The attraction - the third of its kind in Sin City, but first on the Las Vegas Strip - will feature 10 lines that will allow thrill seekers to ride seated or Superman-style.

“It’s an efficient use of space, but it’s exciting,” Linq Promenade general manager Shaun Swanger said. “Our core audience is millennials. During the day, you see a lot broader range and a lot more families, but as the sun goes down, it gets a little bit younger, and as midnight approaches, it’s one big party.”

The ride will begin at the top of a 114-foot-tall launch tower that Caesars will build at the west end of the promenade. Photos and video of the rides, bound for social media, will be available.

Las Vegas casinos have invested in numerous non-gambling amenities to attract the elusive millennials, from rooms with bunk beds for cost-conscious young travelers to a Wi-Fi-equipped co-working space and a lounge that features pool and air hockey tables.

They also have embraced the outdoors by building a park and public promenades, counter to their long-held strategy of trying to keep people inside casinos, losing track of time as they buy more chips.

It has become increasingly common to bring zip lines - traditionally an outdoor adventure activity - into urban settings, said Andrew Lepp, an associate professor in the recreation, park and tourism management program at Kent State University. In Las Vegas, however, the thrill may last beyond the seconds-long ride.

“You get that adrenaline rush, and then you might be more likely to hit the blackjack table,” he said. “Both are forms of calculated risk taking.”

Casino operators for years have been luring young visitors with nightclubs and day clubs that regularly feature world-class DJs, some of whom have long-term contracts once reserved for stars the likes of Celine Dion.

These days, interest in the outdoors is such that Wynn Resorts Ltd. plans to begin the transformation next year of its 18-hole, par-70 golf course into a development that will feature a 38-acre lagoon.

Elsewhere on the Strip, MGM Resorts International is transforming a former nightclub into an arena for competitive gaming. The facility at the Luxor is expected to have a competition stage, LED video wall, daily gaming stations and a streaming and television-quality production studio.

MGM created a committee several years ago dedicated to reimagining the gambling experience with millennials in mind. What will become the second e-sports arena in the gambling oasis can hold 1,000 people at a time. It will have areas for people 21 and older and other spots for a crowd 16 and up.

And for young visitors who want to spend time on the casino floor but find the average slot machine unappealing, operators have adopted skill-based machines. Unlike traditional slots that depend solely on luck, a player’s skill can influence whether he or she wins on the new-age machines.

MGM Grand patrons can try a version of the popular Frogger arcade game, while Caesars property Planet Hollywood unveiled new games on its casino floor last month, including versions of the smartphone games “Catapult King” and “Into the Dead.”

The machines hit U.S. casinos for the first time a year ago in New Jersey, but casinos are still tweaking how to market them.

AP