Lead Stories

BITAC Casino Goes Virtual

By Dennis Nessler | August 24, 2020

While the current pandemic has created obstacles for hotels of all types, when you factor in the many additional challenges of operating a casino during this time it should come as no surprise that casino hotels have felt the impact as much as any sector.

In Las Vegas alone, a number of publicly traded casino operators recently revealed financial results for the second quarter and the revenue losses were significant, in many cases exceeding 70 or 80 percent compared to last year’s figures.

Given the difficult operating environment right now as a result of the coronavirus and the subsequent economic downturn it’s never been more important for casino hotel executives to stay connected within the industry. Hotel Interactive is poised to host its annual BITAC Casino Resorts Virtual 2020 event next month, only virtually this time. Taking place on September 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the event will feature a series of educational sessions with key casino hotel executives as well as boardroom style meetings with a broad range of suppliers.

Every element of BITAC Virtual is designed to allow for interaction between industry executives to stimulate ideas, share practical advice, and enable attendees to hone their leadership skills. The event affords attendees the opportunity to:

  • Engage in live Q&A during interactive educational sessions where casino resort executives share their unfiltered views on challenges facing the industry and discussing the latest parameters of how we collectively move forward.
  • Participate in group boardroom presentations with other industry executives to learn about and source cutting-edge products to enhance the guest experience, improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs, and receive practical advice.
  • Enter the Virtual Networking Lounge to participate in or start a group chat, establish and build relationships with key industry executives, ask questions, and get answers.

Some of the executives that will be taking part in the upcoming event shared their experiences from the past several months and addressed their leading concerns regarding COVID-19.

Susan Varnes, president and COO, Treasure Bay, LLC, detailed some of the adjustments they have had to make. “I can tell you that our top challenge is getting our guests to comply with wearing masks properly. Our focus on guest service has unfortunately been overshadowed by the constant need to request guests to apply their masks. Some are angry and think we are over-reaching, even though we are mandated and audited by regulators daily, and others feel we should be tougher on those who don’t comply. It has become a no-win situation. The rest of the protocols have become a way a life we can all live and work with,” she noted.

Angie Groeneveld, director of hospitality operations, Harrah’s Ak-Chin, noted the company has been able to maintain business levels for the most part, but added, “we are challenged with staffing due to COVID leaves as I’m sure most businesses are.”

Robert Maloney, vp, commercial operations, Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs, also weighed in.
“I think that the hardest challenge that we have is not on the property but outside the property. The patrons are getting so much different information from the media and the federal and state government, at this point I think that they don’t know what to believe…Safety and cleanliness has been job one and our team members have adapted in a terrific manner. So, off the property seems to be the issue,” he said.

Maloney commented further on his expectations for the BITAC virtual event. “We hope to meet with specific vendors that can supplement the services and technological advances for Agua Caliente Casinos. We have not been to a mediocre [BITAC] conference yet. Each conference gives us not only the opportunity to meet new vendors but it is a great learning experience for us. The new products we are introduced to or old ones we have not previously been introduced to give us the opportunity to adopt and use at the properties. It is a great forum for new ideas,” he noted.

Groeneveld added, “I know that I will gain more knowledge from the experiences of my fellow operators as well as suppliers/vendors.”

As someone who noted she has long been interested in attending BITAC, Varnes touted the flexibility afforded by this event. “The virtual aspect allows me to work it into [my schedule] a little easier. I don’t know quite what to expect from the event so I don’t have expectations other than to listen and gain some knowledge from the speakers,” she noted.

If you’re interested in attending BITAC Casino Resorts Virtual, please click on the link below or contact Jay Viola at jviola@hotelinteractive.com or (631) 424-7755 ext. 106. http://www.bitac.net/Event/Casino/2020?occurrence=2020-09-15

Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler is Editor-in-Chief of Hotel Interactive, parent company of Hotel Community Forum. Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience to his position, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. As part of his duties, Nessler not only covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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