Rick Arpin knows what he’s talking about. After 16 years with MGM Resorts, followed by a stint with payment processor NRT Technologies, Arpin has the experience needed to direct his KPMG clients in the right direction. Arpin believes the coronavirus recovery will be very nuanced and dependent on individual markets. In Las Vegas, Arpin says the recovery of gaming will be framed by the recovery of the airline, tourism and conventions industries as well. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the GGB offices in Las Vegas in June.
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GGB: What are some of the things operators are concerned about and how does KPMG advise them?
Rick Arpin: The main concern, on the human resources side, is how we can make sure that our employees are protected, which includes things like temperature checks, understanding the symptoms, and how do we track their whereabouts should they become infected? We have high-risk populations that we have to treat differently when they come back to work.
We look at it on a risk basis. Something as simple as scheduling teaches us how we can segregate our population so that this doesn’t spread, even years from now, when we might have a bad flu season. There are lots of applications here to control an outbreak.
How do you think the Las Vegas casinos have responded so far?
I think the jury’s still out, to be frank. The governor, health officials and the Gaming Control Board have said they would closely monitor how it’s being handled. I think the additional requirement that everyone, including guests, wear masks is indicative of that oversight. The results need to be used to make decisions going forward.
But I think that they’re throwing everything at the wall here to make sure the employees and the customers feel safe. We’ve seen this in the past, with security tightening up after an incident with a visible presence. This is no different. We want visible measures, to make sure the customers feel safe.
Would the current trend of smoking bans in casinos be part of those visible measures?
Certainly. We know not everyone agrees with it, but now is an opportune time to do it. This period will also give us a good chance to rethink how we operate.
Las Vegas was poised to break out in 2020 with new properties, a new football stadium, an NFL team locating here and more. The NFL Draft was supposed to be held in Vegas, but of course was presented virtually instead. How should Las Vegas approach the future, since this is all so disappointing?
When you take some of the emotion out of it, we have to consider this as just a pause in what was a very good strategy from the visitor-tourism perspective. Sports and entertainment as a big element of a diversified long-term strategy makes sense, and we should continue to pursue those goals.
People have different predications on when we’ll be back to “normal”—three months, six months, 18 months, three years. No one knows what that will be. And let’s not forget, people will still want to be entertained, people still want to see sports, people are still going to want to have meetings and trade shows.
Will the industry look different? Do we have some changes to make? Of course, but this is temporary and we’ll come back stronger than ever with those changes. We just have to think carefully of what that future will look like.
How do we look at the changes we have to make?
At KPMG, we’re looking at previous events and how we responded to them, and whether those changes were temporary or permanent. When you consider 9/11, we now have the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), which is clearly permanent, but that continues to change. We now have pre-check, so we can get through faster.
So I think we’ll see the same thing in gaming. Can they sustain extra staff for cleaning? Possibly, but I believe we’ll find ways to do that in a more automated fashion. So we’ll see new ways of doing things, whether it’s cleaning or social distancing. You’ll see a lot of innovation and technology in these areas.