Casino slot clubs finally get it with gamblers

Nov 24, 2009 5:09 PM


Benefits should be on par with patron’s play!

It may have taken a recession to realize it, but casino slot clubs are finally recognizing that, in order to drive business and create customer loyalty, they need to offer rewards on par with a customer’s play.

That was the message at a panel discussion last week at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas.

"We found that most of our casino revenue was generated from a small, loyal group of players," said Sean Vestal, slot manager at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Washington. "But all the players were treated the same – there was one card, one level and the same benefits."

Vestal said the casino decided to "retrofit" the players’ reward program and re-launch the players’ club, in order to "move forward" and stimulate business, which had stagnated during the economic slump.

In re-vamping the rewards program, Vestal said the casino discovered several key factors that were important to their customers.

"The top players need to get the ‘juiciest’ benefits," Vestal said. "These benefits can range from higher point multipliers, to additional food and beverage comps and to benefits beyond rooms, food and beverage, such as points for merchandise or trips."

Vestal added the "juicier" benefits can include things that essentially don’t cost the casino anything, such as VIP parking spaces, additional drawing entries and courtesy services, like putting a favorite machine on hold when a patron wants to break for a meal.

"The customer also must feel like they’re in control," he said. "That is, they need to know what they have to do in order to acquire comps, and what it takes to move up the rewards’ ladder."

The new rewards program at Lucky Eagle has been in place since the start of the year, and Vital said the results have been rewarding for the casino – increased play from customers and greater loyalty to the casino.

The two other panelists agreed that offering additional benefits for the casino’s best players should drive business, but they offered differing experiences on what constitutes "benefits."

"Most of our players want cash back for points," said Helen MacMillan of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which operates nine casinos in Nova Scotia. "And they want a ‘transparent’ system so they can know specifically how they earn points."

Conversely, the customers of the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas are more interested in free slot play.

"About 95 percent of the club members take the free play," said Rom Hendler, the corporate vice president of strategic marketing for Venetian/Palazzo. "About five percent want cash back, but we’ve found that cash back doesn’t really create customer loyalty."

Instead, Hendler said, customers want "enhanced amenities," such as points for gift cards, comps or slot credits. They also want to be able to easily aspire to "gold" and "platinum" levels of the player’s club.

"Basically, people don’t like to have to ask for a free meal," he said. "But they don’t mind swiping their card after they’ve earned enough points."