Gaming revenue is down, the convention business is migrating and the demographics of visitors to the gaming capitol are skewing younger, said Rick Mazer, former general manager of Horseshoe Casino in Hammond who now oversees several properties in Las Vegas.
Mazer was the keynote speaker on Wednesday at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority's annual Tourism Week luncheon at the Indiana Welcome Center.
Mazer is the regional president of Harrah's, Flamingo, The Quad and Drai's/Gansevoort project in Las Vegas. He spoke about his company's efforts to address the growth in non-gaming entities and a changing consumer, a consumer who is "younger and better educated."
"We're trying to get smart about this," Mazer said.
The transformation of projects such as the former Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon into a more hip, boutique lifestyle hotel is geared to a younger, smarter demographic. The old Imperial Palace has been made over into The Quad Resort and Casino.
Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, spoke about "cathedral thinking" and how it can apply to tourism in Northwest Indiana.
Cathedral thinking, which gets its name from the way cathedrals were built in the Middle Ages, is a concept of how an ideal or vision of someone can continue to succeed long after that person is gone.
Batistatos said it was cathedral thinkers who turned a "nothing downtown" of 1970s Indianapolis into what it has become today - a host of a Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four.
"When you think about a cathedral you might think of a place of worship," Batistatos said. "It might be a gathering place. We need great gathering places. We need places to come together and interact."
Batistatos said Northwest Indiana can be a great gathering place but it requires cathedral thinkers.
"It requires us to not only to build our cathedrals in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Hobart, LaPorte - and to have that vision for individual cathedrals," he said. "But we must share in the vision of others. We must build a great cathedral that can be the South Shore."