Now that Resorts Destinations has had an opportunity to settle in at its new home in East Chicago, the stage is set for the Grand Opening celebration and the company’s official entry into the Northwest Indiana and Great Chicago-land area casino gaming markets.
Just what will Resorts bring to the table in the way of creating a unique experience for gamblers in the Midwest and how does it plan to do business and co-exist in a market represented by five gaming companies, all of which spend millions of marketing dollars every year to attract customers and build a loyal fan base?
The Thrifty Gambler posed these questions and others to Nicholas L. Ribis, Vice-Chairman, CEO and President of Resorts Destinations, an affiliate of the Los Angeles, California based real estate firm Colony Capital, LLC.
The Thrifty Gambler: How is Resorts Destinations going to maintain the strong customer base that was built under the Harrah’s ownership and at the same time attract new guests to the property?
Nicholas L. Ribis: I think we’re doing a very good job transitioning from a Harrah’s property to a Resorts and we’re going to add new customers. I was in town when the acquisition was completed. It was powerful. After months of anticipation, the employees understood, the reception was good and I was really impressed with what I saw. But it takes time. I gave a little speech to our executives, emphasizing it’s not a sprint but a long distance race. At the beginning there are things we’re going to want to change and work on, but I think that each customer is important to us and each customer has to be treated to feel that way.
TG: Harrah’s player’s club program, Total Rewards, has tremendous name recognition and was very popular with players at East Chicago when it was Harrah’s. How do you expect guests to accept the Resorts “R Card”?
NR: It’ll be seamless. Our guests won’t see any difference. It’ll offer the same kind of customer profile and treatment. So I really don’t see a major change.
TG: Are there any major changes in the way of additions or renovations in store in the immediate future?
NR: After evaluating what we had before we acquired the property, we think in the past three years Harrah’s did a tremendous job redoing the pavilion and the hotel. We have some ideas about adding restaurants and other amenities that are a bit different than what we have here now, and we’ll develop those over the next six months. There is no urgent need to do high level capital expenditure right away.
TG: Resorts will compete in close proximity with the Horseshoe in Hammond, which is owned by Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. How do you view the relationship between the two properties in this market?
NR: You are talking about two really well run, excellent properties. We have some opportunity and they have some opportunity. I think the two properties will compete with each other as they have in the past, but we believe we’ll have the successful product and the successful ideas and the successful services. I’m sure Harrah’s, which is a great company, is going to believe the same. What this will do is to bring more and more people into the area, which is good for both of us. I’ll answer it this way. We’re going to refine our customer base to reflect the way we run our company. And it’s going to be a bit different than Harrah’s, and I’m sure that Horseshoe will be doing the same at their place. We think we have the superior facility by far and we think we know our customers and don’t have to worry about competing with a company next door. We have a clean slate and we’re going to attract all the customers that we think will come to our facility.
TG: Under the Harrah’s brand the poker room was expanded, improved and promoted in conjunction with the company’s ownership of the World Series of Poker. Will Resorts keep the room?
NR: Oh, yes, absolutely.
TG: Overall, what in your estimation will make East Chicago continue to flourish and have the potential for growth.
NR: We have all the amenities: A great product, great hotel, great casino and great pavilion. We’re going to use all that to keep our customers happy and attract new customers.