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Be Cool

Lessons from nightclubs

Be Cool

Think who you think is the greatest thinker in history.

Then think again.

Newton? No way. Socrates? Soc-ra-please. Marcus Aurelius? You can’t be serious. Albert

Einstein? Well, if we use Roman numerals, then the square of MC is not E, it’s 12.1 million.

Because M is 1,000 and C is 100, so if you multiply… eh, forget it.

No, when it comes to sheer intellectual prowess, the type of brain power that only reveals itself once in the lifespan of an entire species, there can only be one winner. And for sapiens, homo, that is … Whoever came up with the concept of bottle service.

You take a fifth of Jack Daniels that costs $35, put it in the hands of a woman wearing an outfit skimpy enough to make Britney Spears blush, and yada, yada, yada, that will be $1,000.

Plus gratuity.

Roll over Descartes and tell Da Vinci the news: Ding-ding. We have a winner.

Just look at what’s happened with nightclubs over the last 15 years. Really look at it. Not with envy, but with awe. Hakkasan, Intrigue, Marquee, et. al. have thrown the Las Vegas Strip into the throes of one-upmanship not seen since Mystere, Siegfried and Roy and Danny Gans duked it out for showroom supremacy in the late 1990s.

Then there are the DJs. Marshmello. Diplo. Deadmau5. The dude that was dating Taylor Swift for a while. The dude that never wore a shirt on the Jersey Shore. The dude that uses an umlaut over his name.

Then there are the music festivals. Life is Beautiful. Electric Daisy Carnival. iHeartRadio.

Or Huckabees. Can’t ever keep those two straight.

As our industry—and dozens of others—struggles to solve the Rubik’s Cube that is the 20- and 30-something consumer, look no farther than that long line of short dresses, high shoes, cheap cologne and expensive sunglasses that’s snaking past your slot machines and into the sound of pounding music. Because that queue has the answer. Or at least the front of it does, as the ingredients that lure people into these clubs—and restaurants and other entertainment complexes—can also be used to lure them away.

Here’s how:

Be cool!

You might assume that at such stratospheric prices, the alcohol served in these clubs must be something special. Something unique. Something that you can’t buy at any old watering hole like Cheers or Moe’s or the Regal Beagle. Well, sorry, Norm, Homer, Jack, Janet and Chrissy, but you’d be wrong. It’s the same old booze you can buy here, there and everywhere.

So, what’s the secret? What’s so compelling to make someone overpay for a common commodity?

The environment. These nightclubs have managed to mangle together a menagerie of elements—exclusivity, mystery, excitement—that combine to create a habitat that can be defined in one word.



Our business must do the same. The age of build-it-and-they-will-come is dead… or extremely sleepy. Looks matter, and the eye candy everybody wants—in terms of décor and design, from the carpet to the wall coverings to the lighting—must make its way out of the clubs and into the table pits and slot sections.


Be energetic!!

At one of the hottest restaurants in one of the hottest resorts in Las Vegas, you dine amid a din that would drown out a jackhammer.

It’s basically a nightclub that serves steaks. It’s dark and it’s sexy, and oh yeah, it’s loud.

Huh? What did you say? It’s whaaaaat?


It’s Loud!!!

Oh, and it’s also crowded. Overcrowded, in fact. Which of course is a problem most establishments would kill to have.

Our business must do the same. And some already are, taking a section or two on the floor and creating a whole new vibe. They darken the lights. They crank the music. And if they had a dry ice machine hanging around, they’d probably fire that up as well.


Be Friend-Friendly!!!!

It makes no sense that Topgolf is successful. We’re talking about a driving range that caters—in large part, at least—to non-golfers. Or at least non-serious golfers. What’s next, a pool for non-swimmers? A car for non-drivers? A casino for non-gamblers?

Hmmm. Let’s get back to that in a minute.

For now, let’s deconstruct the appeal of Topgolf. Why is it so damn popular, especially in Las Vegas, where less than a mile away, a real driving range for real golfers couldn’t wrangle enough business to stay open? Why, indeed?

Socializing, that’s why.

It’s the perfect place to hang with your friends. There’s food and drink and music. There’s plenty of space to lounge around and shoot the breeze. There’s even a swimming pool. Sure, the main organizing principle is indeed golf, but you don’t actually have to partake to have fun. You can simply sit there, sip there, dip there, and watch others smack the ball around.

Our business must do the same. Create a gaming environment that is, to borrow some prison parlance, less solitary confinement and more general population. New game types, areas that encourage non-gamblers to watch their friends play, a comfortable place to hang out, perhaps even food and drink service on the gaming floor.

The main organizing principle will continue to be gambling; however, new products and new ambiance will broaden the appeal to the folks that otherwise wouldn’t give two cents about a penny slot machine.

All of this, of course, is not a hard and fast prescription. Not everything will work according to plan, or more aptly for gaming, according to Hoyle. Experimentation is the key. Suppliers and operators need to shake the tree and see what falls off. Could be nothing, but it could be something, something big, something that changes the course of history.

And if it’s an apple, let Newton know. It may give him an idea.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.

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