Look at casino slot machine advertising with skeptical eye

Sep 11, 2012 3:00 AM

As anyone who has read my articles before can tell you, I often advocate looking at casino advertising with a skeptical eye. Any casino can advertize generalities like “Our slots are looser” or “The most liberal paytables in town” regardless of how loose or liberal they really are. After all, they aren’t saying what they’re looser than or which of their paytables is so liberal.

As long as they don’t directly say what they’re comparing themselves to, their statements remain in that grey area of obscurity where they can’t be proven as false. Just because we can’t prove them false doesn’t mean they’re true though. It just means they can get away with saying it because they really aren’t saying anything at all.

Another popular form of advertising used by casinos to promote play is the point multiplier. In the past, point multipliers were used in limited form to lure players into a location during slower times. These point multiplier promotions were true free points for the players, and many operators continue to run multiplier promotions like this today.

Players understand their point balance is reflective of their play level. If a casino offers a two times point multiplier, all of a sudden the player looks like twice the player they really are. That’s why multipliers work – because players like to feel their patronage is worth more to the casino, and they really like the increased comps and offers that come as they get their play multiplied. If they need to play at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday to get a good multiplier, that’s what they’ll do.

The gaming industry catches on quickly, so when they see more play during multiplied periods, the tendency is to offer bigger multipliers or extend the multiplier periods. Multiplied points can typically be redeemed for free play, cash or comps, which all have a real and significant cost associated with them though, making this type of activity prohibitively expensive if it’s taken to an extreme. But if this is true, how can some places offer multipliers for days on end or for huge amounts of up to 20X or more?

You can answer this question for yourself if you do a little digging, and you might be surprised at what you find. The first place to start is the redemption formula. Find out how many points equal a dollar of cash and how many equal a dollar of comps (they’re often different) and compare it to what the redemption amounts were before the casino started giving away huge amounts of free points. If it used to be 600 points equaled a dollar and now its 1,000, that new double point offer isn’t worth much of anything.

Next to check are the limitations on the multiplier offer. Maybe the multiplied points can only be used for comps and not cash. Perhaps only certain games qualify for the point multiplier, forcing you to play penny slots if you want to get your points multiplied rather than your typical game of choice. If your usual game is video poker, playing slots can cost you more in payback percentage than the multiplier offer can offset.

The sneakiest one I’ve seen recently didn’t use redemption amounts or point restrictions to offset the multiplier cost though, and it was a huge offer of 15X points 24/7 any day of the week on every game. The offer was advertised directly on the glass of the machine too, so it was a long-running promotion that piqued my curiosity.

What I found was the multiplier wasn’t being offered on every game in the casino, it was being offered on every game on the machine. They hadn’t specified, so it was a bit misleading. Once I found this out, I knew where they had made up the difference – it was all in the paytables.

Extreme settings between video poker games range between about 92% and 101%, and keno and slot games can have an even wider gap between the tightest and loosest versions. Playing a game with a huge point multiplier and a super tight setting can easily cost a player 5% or more in payback, and payback is cash. Points are not. You can play for comps this way, but it will likely cost you far more in cash than the comps will be worth, even at such a high multiplier.

So be diligent and check out point multiplier offers. Some are great – free points with no restrictions on redemptions, games or paytables as long as you’re playing at the right time. Others just look great on the surface, but when it comes right down to it you might be getting a choice of either cash in the form of payback percentage or comps from the multipliers. If I were you, I’d take the cash.

You can contact Brad Fredella at [email protected].