It had to have been one of the most real-life college assignments students at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute have ever undertaken.
Students of Professor Bo Bernhard were asked to write a proposal for an integrated resort to be built in Japan. They had to consider mission statements, design elements, marketing and branding strategies and to make them fit within Japanese cultural expectations. Students also had to consider an extremely important issue — how to minimize compulsive gambling.
Once the proposals were drafted, students were required to prepare 20-minute oral presentations to a panel of judges who, by the way, included Las Vegas casino executives as celebrity judges that are doing just what the students were asked to do in real life.
For the past several months, representatives of MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Las Vegas Sands have been earning and burning frequent-flier miles between Las Vegas and major cities in Japan as government leaders there work toward establishing a plan to build one or more resorts with casinos in that country.
Last year, the Japanese Diet agreed to allow gambling in the country and this year, leaders are working through the many details of that approval. How many resorts? Where would they be located? Would foreign companies need to partner with a Japanese operator? What features would the resorts include?
Local companies are confident Japan will be a lucrative market. Some studies have indicated it could be as much as $24.2 billion annually, which puts it in Macau revenue territory.
In addition to the four Las Vegas companies, other global gaming operators are looking at Japan so it made sense for Bernhard to open the challenge up to his students.
Bernhard’s assessment: The UNLV students knocked it out of the park.
One of the student presenters was Gin Sheng, who collaborated with Qin Haoyong on the Mirai Tower Resort & Casino.
“We had celebrity judges from MGM in the crowd when she presented it — and they said that they arrived at the exact same market conclusions as she did in her analysis of the various locations for a Japan Integrated Resort,” Bernhard said. “Which is pretty remarkable, when you think about it, that she produced what a very-well-resourced major multinational did — as a grad student.”
Nguyen Tran, who graduates in December and had the best undergraduate presentation with The Fantasy Hotel & Resort, got an A+++ from one of the resort judges.
“I know you’re not allowed to give multiple plusses, but please make an exception in this case,” the judge said. “I wish he could give our presentation when we do this for real in Japan!”
Student Rebecca Ross, a native Las Vegan whose dad, David Ross, once served as chief operating officer of Coast Casinos, said her Modoru resort, targeted for Osaka, would have a TopGolf facility on the top of a 50-story tower and a 4,500-seat arena that could host, among other things, sumo wrestling.
“I had to see what the Japanese were interested in and what they held in high standards,” said Ross, who said she’s never visited an overseas integrated resort. “For instance, one of our hotel rooms, so we had to implement things of luck because they are very interested in luck. We definitely had to implement the culture in the resort. The Japanese culture was the backbone of our resort.”
Tran decided to develop his project on his own because he felt partners may have thought his plans too wild and crazy.
“I came up with these crazy ideas because the thing about Japan is that they have wonderful products so we have a perception of Japan as somewhere incredible so I had to come up with something futuristic,” he said.
Tran envisions the tallest building in the world at 180 stories connected to Narita International Airport by an 18-mile “SkyTram” transportation system, an automated underground parking structure, a lobby on a glass surface with fish swimming below and four-dimensional elevators with glass floors that turn a mundane experience into something exciting.
If any of these ideas are incorporated when Japanese resorts open in around 2023, you’ll know where they came from.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.
Contact Richard N. Velotta at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.