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A new place to WFH: Las Vegas

August 25, 2020, 10:00 PM UTC

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Tired of working from home? There is another option out there—if you’re willing and able to travel to Las Vegas. 

Earlier this month, MGM Resorts launched a new offering called “Viva Las Office,” targeted at people who have been forced to work remotely and want a change of scenery. The package includes up to five nights of accommodation at one of MGM’s Las Vegas-based properties and comes with an “office-ready” room and an executive assistant tasked with ensuring you have “everything you need during your stay.” Prices starts at $100 per night; upgrades include poolside massages and full-day cabana rentals. (You know, the kind of perks that help you focus on work.)

If this sounds a lot like a normal Vegas stay, it is and it isn’t. Yes, MGM is doing its best to meet the somewhat tailored needs of the WFH crowd. But the hotel and casino chain is also just trying to prove that it’s open for business again. “The halo effect is really powerful,” says Atif Rafiq, president of commercial and growth at MGM. “It gets people thinking about Las Vegas as a destination.”

Rafiq is realistic. He points out that conventions, which once brought in about 20% of MGM’s room bookings, are canceled for the foreseeable future. MGM has called off live entertainment, another Vegas draw, until it is legal and safe to reinstitute public gatherings. What’s more, many travelers are still skittish about jumping on a plane, let alone landing in a place known for attracting visitors from all over the world. Indeed, a recent ProPublica report, which analyzed smartphone data, showed Vegas casinos have likely become a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19. While the state of Nevada has not disclosed so-called “superspreader” locations, Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, remains the center for the state’s COVID-19 infections, with a case rate of 2,464.5 per 100,000 residents.

Still, Rafiq says there are an estimated five million people currently working from home in the state of California, and he is counting on at least some of them to drive, not fly, to their neighbor to the East for some R&R—oh yeah, and to get their work done. What’s more, “Viva Las Office” is just one of many new initiatives aimed at restarting MGM’s business. 

Las Vegas casinos shut down in March and then reopened in early June. (The Mirage, one of MGM’s Vegas-based properties, is still shuttered and will reopen August 27.) According to the company, MGM used the “downtime” to accelerate its “digital transformation” plans by six to nine months. “Believe it or not, there wasn’t really a mobile check-in for MGM resorts [before the pandemic],” says Rafiq, the former chief digital officer for both Volvo and McDonald’s. 

On June 4, MGM introduced a contactless check-in for guests. Phones can now be used as the key for both rooms and elevators. Since reopening, the casino chain has also launched “digital queueing” for its pools. And there’s a “knock and drop” service for food delivery, which now includes all of MGM’s restaurants, acting as a mini DoorDash within its properties. 

In the midst of all of these new offerings, it was recently announced that media and technology conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp would take a $1 billion stake in MGM. This move is likely to further accelerate MGM’s move toward a more digital future, and not just in the spirit of luring more visitors to Vegas with socially-distancing-friendly features like contactless check-ins. The real moneymaker may not require anyone to actually step foot on the Strip—think online gaming and sports betting. “That set of digital products can go really well with bricks-and-mortar,” says Rafiq. 

Whether or not droves of officeless office workers really do show up in Las Vegas, it’s clear that the pandemic has forced MGM to step up its mandate to diversify its revenue stream. “I think it’s driven a ton of clarity that we absolutely need to do it,” says Rafiq. “We don’t have the occupancy that we used to.” Not even the allure of a desk away from home—and poolside massages—can fix that gap anytime soon.