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MGM, Caesars CEOs post videos on company websites

Updated March 26, 2020 - 3:02 pm

It used to be that casino CEOs might do a promotional video or appear on camera to promote a resort.

Nowadays, it’s more about reassuring employees and explaining what’s happening in unprecedented times in the age of the COVID-19 outbreak.

MGM Resorts International Acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle and Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio were among the first to turn to online appearances, offering straight-from-the-top assessments of what’s ahead for Southern Nevada’s two largest casino operations.

“During difficult times it is vital for leaders to be ‘visible,’ ” UNLV hospitality professor Bo Bernhard said. “But of course, these are unprecedented times when the hospitality industry’s long-held conceptualizations of ‘visibility’ have to be jettisoned, and creative alternatives sought.”

Mehmet Erdem, an associate professor of hotel operations and technology at UNLV, said videos like this offer transparency and empathy during a challenging time for the industry.

“It is a prudent and expected move for CEO’s in the gaming and hospitality industry to be in the forefront of (public relations) efforts in a crisis management situation,” he said.

Rodio’s video, recorded from his Las Vegas home, was posted Tuesday. Some of the highlights of his presentation:

— Caesars Palace opened in August 1966 and has operated continuously without closing until last week.

— The company is donating hundreds of thousands of gloves, masks and hand sanitizers to local hospitals, first responders and local charities.

— Loyalty benefits through the company’s Caesars Rewards program “will be an important way to express our appreciation to our most valued customers.”

— No reward credits will expire while properties are closed. The company may modify tier status earning requirements, depending on how long closures last. Credit redemptions and dates to use them will be extended. Property events will be rescheduled and communicated at a later date.

— “We look forward to welcoming you back,” he said.

Some of the highlights from Hornbuckle’s video, sent directly to employees and posted online Thursday morning:

— The company doesn’t know how long its properties will remain closed, but it is relying on the guidance of public health officials and government leaders.

— Casinos doors were never meant to be closed “but are now unfortunately locked shut,” a difficult outlook for a company that welcomes thousands through its doors daily.  

— An emergency relief fund, established by the company with $1 million, has been expanded to include more eligible applicants. The fund has since grown with a $1 million match from entertainer Bruno Mars, while the estate of Kirk Kerkorian has added $2 million. Hornbuckle and his wife added $100,000.

— The company has positioned itself to weather the outbreak’s impact. It is reviewing all capital spending, deferring some projects and instituting a hiring freeze.

— Hornbuckle said accepting the acting CEO role was the easiest decision he has made in the past few weeks.

— The current environment is the biggest challenge MGM has ever faced, including 9/11 and the 2008 Great Recession because of the uncertainty it presents.

— “Trust me, our lights will be on again, our marquees will shine and we will welcome the world,” he said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Bailey Schulz contributed to this report.

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