When Scott Kreeger was tapped as the new president and chief operating officer of SLS in October, it seemed the casino veteran was an ideal choice and yet still had his work cut out. The former executive for MGM Resorts and Station Casinos spoke with the Weekly about the ups and downs of taking the controls of the unique new Strip property, and how experience has shaped his approach to building something different at SLS.
What was the most attractive thing for you about coming to SLS? I really like the entrepreneurialism of a stand-alone property versus a more corporate role where everything is predetermined. I have a lot of control over the destiny of the project, and that’s attractive. It really is the first major hotel opening in a few years and the first in a series of projects at the north end of the Strip, which is very exciting to me. I get to take all the lessons I’ve learned as part of the community for 25 years and be a part of the growth that will continue to make Las Vegas a great destination into the future.
SLS has had some challenges to deal with early on. Is there any particular issue management is addressing right now? Every new property has challenges, and I’ve opened several. Typically you don’t have a first year that’s your best year; you grow into a better performance over time, and we are certainly experiencing that like every casino does. There are things we’ve done phenomenally and things we could be better at. We excel in our restaurant product and entertainment, and that is the lifeblood of the SBE brand. We have been successful in establishing ourselves as a hip experience for the young, affluent traveler, and that differentiates us from the pack. Our two nightlife venues and our pool club are in full swing, and we think we’ll continue to be a dominant player in the nightlife business. We are looking at ways to create some more midweek drivers and group business.
SLS has put a dent in the Strip nightlife scene, which is so competitive. It’s getting even more competitive, but that’s good for business and good for us as well. Omnia at Caesars Palace is here now, and I think that will force operators like us to think outside the box, diversify the programming and broaden what we do. We are looking at a ticketed summer concert series out at the pool.
You spent more than a decade at Station Casinos, and SLS has targeted the locals market. Is there something about working with Station that you can specifically apply to building success at SLS? Absolutely. It was a wonderful experience, and Frank and Lorenzo [Fertitta] taught me a lot. I was fortunate to be the general manager opening at Red Rock [Resort], and some of the takeaways from there are that you can broaden your appeal and cater to a larger group of people and still be relevant as to what your brand is. When I came on property at SLS, it was evident we needed to broaden a bit and look at other customer bases that we may not be speaking to and introduce them to this great product. We did a comprehensive revamp of our local gambling strategy. This place is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, it’s easy to get in and out of, it’s convenient, and the food product is phenomenal. And we’re launching a new card program in the coming months with one of the most competitive point redemption ratios in Las Vegas. We’re going to make our mark. Locals who originally thought this was not the place for them are now finding that it is.
Rock in Rio is coming, and it’s right across the street. How will SLS take advantage of this first-time festival event? Well it’s a great place to stay, first of all. If you’re not staying with us, the monorail is the most convenient way to get to the event, and we have a station in back of the property. And during Rock in Rio, our nightclubs will be fully programmed with top-name DJs and bands as well. We envision people going to the festival, coming to grab a bite and relax, going back over and coming back again.
SLS also has a great big parking structure and Rock in Rio has no onsite parking. Parking can be a problem, but it’s an opportunity. We want to make sure we maintain the integrity of the guest experience and that there is plenty of parking for the folks staying or playing at the hotel, and past that, there’s an opportunity to allow others to pay and park on the property. We’re more concerned about the overall experience being great. It brings a business opportunity and it’s a wonderful event, but we want to make sure people walk away with the impression that the whole thing was great and they want to come back. We’re spending a lot of time on logistics and thinking through people’s needs, whether it’s transportation or refreshment or taking a break from the activity to having more entertainment options after the concert. We want to make sure it’s something you want to come back for, again and again.