Casino comps

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Players still expect more for their play

I’ve been writing for GamingToday for about 6½ years now. I have no way of knowing how many people actually read my column. I guess I get some idea from the e-mails I receive and from book orders I get in response to special promotions. I don’t necessarily get a lot of e-mails from readers – but then again, since I’ve recently had some e-mail issues with both my GamingToday e-mail AND my Compu-flyers e-mail, I have no way of knowing how many e-mails went off into cyberspace.

One recent column about how casinos had cut back on their comps and cash back, and how they’ve made it harder to find high payback machines, did trigger several e-mails to me.

When the title of one e-mail through my GamingToday account stated “Cutbacks by casinos not acceptable article,” I thought at first it was my editors telling me that they wouldn’t run the story (perhaps I was too harsh on the casinos?).

Fortunately, it was an article from a reader who simply felt that he was being taken advantage of by the casinos. He felt his chances of winning in the casino had been greatly reduced so that his bankroll would not last nearly as long. To make matters worse, he felt that the number of points required for comps had risen so high that it was not possible to achieve these unless he was a local. He signed it “grumpy player.”

Another e-mail I received simply forwarded a post from a blog, talking about one particular Las Vegas casino (I won’t mention it by name as that is not my goal). According to this e-mail, the person had run 1 MILLION dollars through the video poker machines at this casino in the prior 90 days and when he asked for a comp for a dinner buffet for two, he was told he didn’t have enough points. Obviously, it is possible that the story is made up or that there is some human error involved (or even heaven forbid, a computer error!).

But, even assuming perfect play on a full-pay jacks or better machine, the casino would have an expectation of winning $4,500 from this player in the past 90 days. Of course this is only the average amount that we would expect the player to lose. He may have lost twice as much. He may have been a winner over that time. WHO CARES?

If I have a video poker player who is willing to put $1 million at risk over a 3-month period, I’m going to make sure they don’t leave. I’m going to make sure they invite all their friends and are treated like gold.

Why are casinos treating their best players this way? I don’t have an answer for this. I know there is a recession going on. I know that the unemployment rate in Las Vegas is over 13%. I know that casino revenue is down. Do the casinos really believe that if they withhold a $25 comp from a player that this will somehow make them money in the long run? The risk is that loyal players will go find other casinos to play in where they will be treated better. Or worse yet for the entire industry, they’ll go rent a $1 video from Redbox and stay at home!

I’m not one of the writers who has an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality. In general, I don’t think the casinos are out to cheat the players and I believe they have every right to earn a profit. They provide a form of entertainment and they should not have to provide it for free.

At the same time, I’m a big believer that the survival of the fittest applies to the business world as well, and as such, the casinos that treat the players with respect are the ones that will keep their players and get through this economic downturn.

Of course, the players have a responsibility as well. As the old saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. If you keep going back to the same casino that treats your poorly, why should they change anything they are doing. You can voice your displeasure, but if you want them to notice, take your money elsewhere. Feel free to send a letter to the casino and let them know.

If there are any casino executives or table games managers reading this, please send me an e-mail. I would love to be able to give the ‘other side of the story.’ In the long run, everybody comes out ahead when the casinos treat the players fairly.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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