Strike it Rich with Casinos

As casinos beef up the resort side of their business, opportunities abound.

It seems like every year, another state legalizes gambling and brings in a rush of casinos. There are over 1,500 casinos in the U.S., and from 2010-2013, 70 commercial casinos (for-profit entities not owned by Native American lands) opened their doors.

With more and more competition, gaming companies must offer entertainment besides just slots and poker to bring in continued cash. Even in Nevada, the acknowledged mecca for games of chance, gambling accounts for less than half of casino revenues. Las Vegas has stayed relevant by becoming a true vacation destination, with live shows, shopping, dining and frequent conventions, says William Thompson, a professor who studies the casino industry at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “The rest of the country has a long way to go,” Thompson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

More obscure locations like the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA, are getting hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to add more restaurants and shopping, emphasizing the complete resort experience, rather than convenience. Such trends can translate into the need for more promotional and logo apparel for the market, a fact that prepared distributors and decorators can exploit. The nice thing about casinos, says Christine Delvecchio, president of All American Screen Printing & Embroidery in Sterling Heights, MI, is that when they place an apparel order, it tends to be big.

The downside, though, is that the work is often low margin, says Jammie Hsu, owner of Proforma element 7 in Las Vegas. “They just want rock bottom pricing,” she says. When it comes to apparel choices for casino giveaways, “they just want the lowest of the bottom.” Hsu has worked with a number of casinos over the years. The Golden Nugget ordered four-color process screen-printed T-shirts for a poker party from her distributorship. San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA, ordered several hundred embroidered fleece pullovers as a giveaway for a slots tournament. Another casino ordered embroidered polo shirts to give out to players being rewarded with a cruise. Hsu has also sold T-shirts that Caesars employees, at various properties, wore for company volunteer outings.

Seasonality plays a big role in casino orders, according to Williams Fersch, co-founder of PowerUp Promos. “During non-high peak times, a client may want something as simple as T-shirts for a slot machine tournament they’re holding,” he says. “But when the casino resorts are already going to be filled because people are in town for something like the Super Bowl, the kind of promotional products they want to give out change dramatically.” PowerUp has supplied things like bathrobes and football jerseys to help casinos attract high rollers.

Breaking into the competitive world of casino vendors can be a challenge. Both Hsu and Delvecchio say they were able to get a foot in the door, thanks to their status as women business owners. Delvecchio notes that Detroit casinos, in their initial terms of agreement with the state, were required to seek suppliers within the city limits first and agreed to use minority- and women-owned businesses when possible. Hsu says she met a lot of casino buyers by participating in diversity events. After making initial introductions, though, maintaining casino business requires solid relationship-building skills and constant vigilance. “I’ve built relationships with many casinos, but unfortunately for us, it’s exhausting because someone can go lower, and then we lose it,” Hsu says.

Despite all the challenges, the casino market can still be a good bet for the savvy distributor or decorator. – TH

By the Number

$37.9 Billion 2014 revenue for U.S. commercial casinos.

Product Picks

T-shirts, hoodies and other apparel are  go-to options at casino tournaments, parties and gift shops.

The glitz of Las Vegas is captured in this French terry hoodie (8860) with glitter knit throughout. Available from J. America (asi/62977; circle 88 on Free Info Card).

A&P Master Images (asi/702505; circle 89 on Free Info Card) decorated this T-shirt for the Lava Nightclub at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY. The heavyweight 50/50 cotton/poly T-shirt (29m) is available from SanMar (asi/84863; circle 123 on Free Info Card).