MGM woos millennials with cell phone gambling at 9 Vegas properties

Gabriel Bouys | AFP | Getty Images

Visitors to Las Vegas now have another gaming option — mobile tournaments available on smartphones that you can play without leaving the bar or the pool.

MGM Resorts, the largest casino operator on the Vegas Strip, said Wednesday it launched a mobile gaming platform and online tournament available on the Wi-Fi system at nine MGM properties.

"This mobile platform that was just released is going to lay the foundation for what we do in the future," said Lovell Walker, executive director of Interactive Gaming Development at MGM Resorts. "We think that mobile is going to be a major part of gaming."

MGM said this marks "the first digital and interactive tournament to be offered by a regulated casino in the United States."

Mobile betting is one way MGM is hoping to draw in younger customers, who are more attached to their smartphones and online platforms and less into playing card games or slot machines on casino floors.

"Any kind of social game player or anyone who is already very active on their phone would be a prime candidate for this product," said John DeCree, a casino industry analyst at Union Gaming in Las Vegas. "It's probably any of the younger demographics, including millennials."

According to DeCree, the mobile betting market is an important step for casinos since "more than 50 percent of Las Vegas Strip's business is (activities) off the casino floor. So how else can you interact with those people when they're at the pool or the bar."

According to MGM, the mobile gaming platform known as easyPlay Mobile Tournaments, will be available to guests ages 21 or older at these nine MGM properties: ARIA Resort & Casino, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, Luxor, New York-New York and Excalibur. The company held its first tournament a month ago while the product was still in beta testing.

At present, the platform isn't being offered at the company's Circus Circus property, a budget casino resort. Walker indicated that the Circus Circus property might get added down the road.

EasyPlay will allow guests at the Strip properties "to compete with other players in a variety of tournament games using their own mobile devices whether they are at the pool, sipping cocktails at the bar, or simply relaxing in their rooms," MGM said. It added that they can "win thousands of dollars in cash and other prizes by playing in regularly scheduled tournaments of classic casino games including slots, bingo and video poker as well as fun social, casual and console games."

Mobile sports wagering is another area where MGM has an online technology platform. The company launched the playMGM product in May and it is currently in Nevada gaming field trials. They hope to launch it around football season in the beginning or middle of August.

Initially, revenue from mobile betting is expected to remain "pretty small," but "longer-term it's going to be a great business for the Strip," DeCree said.

The news comes as Bank of America Merrill Lynch Wednesday lowered its estimates for MGM, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, citing soft second-quarter trends in Macau and Vegas. In a note to clients, BofA analyst Shaun Kelley said the firm remains "cautious on Macau ahead of significant new supply openings, while Vegas trends look healthier starting (in) Q3."

Overall, gross gaming revenues on the Vegas Strip in May were impacted by tough year-ago comparisons due to the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. As earlier reported, May also was the third-straight month of falling gross gaming revenue for the Strip.