One of the memories that people cherish about “Classic Vegas”—at least the one that they remember, whether they were there or not—is that it was the kind of place where everyone didn’t know your name, but they knew something more important: how you liked your whiskey or your steak. While that kind of personal service is difficult to consistently provide when 40 million people visit annually, one of the growing trends on the Strip is providing exclusive experiences based not on retail pricing or sheer gambling spend, but on loyalty.
We’re seeing this develop in new ways thanks to the greater reach of social media and player-loyalty programs. Playstudios’ My Vegas game, for example, gives players the chance to earn credits they can redeem toward a variety of perks not available to the general public, from behind-the-scenes Cirque tours to the chance to program the Bellagio fountains. The latest example of this trend was revealed Thursday, when it was announced that MGM Resorts International and the Ultimate Fighting Championship have teamed to provide new levels of access to UFC events and content to top-tier members M Life, MGM’s loyalty-card program. It’s also a sign of increasing cooperation—in some areas—between Las Vegas gaming operators.
Access is a standard benefit of joining a loyalty program—some casinos send out pre-sale offers on a nearly daily basis. But this partnership includes items such as codes to watch UFC events for free and access to live video chats with fighters, showing how the rewards offered for loyalty continue to evolve in the digital age. Neither of these are costly, per se, for the provider, but they are highly valued by members. It’s a way to use technology to offer benefits and access that other customers can’t buy.
Even more interesting, this move shows how the barriers between ostensible Las Vegas competitors are, to an extent, breaking down. MGM Resorts, for example, is already partnered with Sam Nazarian’s sbe, which runs Hyde Bellagio and will, on Labor Day weekend, open a potential competitor, SLS Las Vegas. The UFC, which has held events at MGM properties for more than a decade, is majority owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who also own dominant positions in Station Casinos and Ultimate Gaming, companies that are also in the gaming business in Southern Nevada.
This isn’t exactly Las Vegas Sands letting Wynn high rollers hitch a ride on its corporate jets, since you could argue the MGM and Station/Ultimate Gaming aren’t in direct completion as such—Station is predominantly a locals player in Las Vegas, and MGM hasn’t unveiled its online offerings yet. But it demonstrates that mutual benefits can break down walls that once would have remained intact. It says that there is enough crossover between premium MGM guests and serious UFC fans that the partnership is expected to add value for both parties: MGM gains another reward to offer players that competitors will not be able to match. UFC fans coming to town for events will now be able to use loyalty points accrued at MGM properties—from gambling, lodging, dining and entertainment—on things that they couldn’t get otherwise, and which ultimately align better with what they want. A chance to play Shadow Creek might not interest a UFC fan very much, but the opportunity to meet their favorite light heavyweight—well, that might be incentive enough to book a reservation.
Just as interesting, this move really brings the Las Vegas fight game full circle: For decades, heavyweight boxing was the hot ticket in town. Premium gamblers were rewarded with ringside seats, autographed gloves and meet-and-greets. Now, using current technology, MGM and the UFC are finding a way to deliver something similar again.
It’s a reminder that innovation in Las Vegas has the potential to bring back some of the aspects of the past that are most fondly remembered.