Trolling for ‘guppies’
in Colo. casinos

Sep 18, 2006 5:22 AM

Forget about "whale" hunting in the Las Vegas desert; let’s go guppy fishing in the mountains.

Player development in most casino markets is a dance of one-upsmanship.

Colorado casinos do not and cannot maintain the same arsenal as the big boys. No jets, villas, one-on-one meet-and-greets with celebrities. So they make do with less phenomenal bait used to attract schools and schools of guppies.

From my latest grand tour of the properties, following are my favorite casino marketing/fishing gimmicks and promotions.

In a $5 wager limit market, pit boss Paul oversees $1 black jack and $3 minimum carnival table game play at the Century Casino pit. During my visit, the tables were packed with Ace/4 stand against a dealer’s 6 — "I use my intuition" players.

Predictably, pretty dealers (like Toby) sporting low cut, well endowed cleavage-baring black uniforms scoop away the dollars from these Rain Man (without the card counting skill) players.

Also, in a touch of irony with casinos being the only exempted Colorado business locales from the smoking ban, the Century Casino is boasting of offering the only non-smoking poker room in town. It’s like fighting for the right to vote, then not showing up at the polls.

Multiple properties are taking a page from the Vegas playbook and offering subsidized meals including a smattering of $1.99 breakfast specials. The Richman casino has a $3 grill where, you guessed it, the made-to-order grill items are a mere three bones. The Red Dolly has a taste for price proportional $5.99 prime rib special.

Not to be outdone, the Black Hawk Station has a $1.99 prime rib special (now that’s some whacky loss leading). The real winner in the bargain food wars is Dostal Alley serving actual homemade style and scrumptious pizza for $1.50 a slice and fresh in-house brewed beers and root beer. Cheap food offered at any casino never ceases to bait the fish on to the line.

Hands down my favorite promotion and apparently an effective one is Wild Card’s ultra-casual spin-a-wheel promotion. This homemade looking wheel is chocked full of prizes. I have won twice the "5"; five nickels that is. The catch is at the back of the Wild Card is a little depaneur/bodega where the cashier pays out the five nickels to the lined up "winners."

I challenge anyone to walk out of this charmingly intimate property, where the soft serve, fountain soda, and shelled peanuts are plentiful and free, with those nickels in hand. On my two trips, I purchased butter rum lifesavers and aspirin respectively. This nickel ploy may be the most effective promotion of an ancillary revenue earner in the Colorado markets.

Central City’s Doc Holiday’s, where the last known slot club based on time played on machines without regard for such relevancies as denomination and/or machine hold is in place, has as a promotion a David Bowie impersonator as a pit boss. Leaning against the wall, he pulls on a finger, then another finger, then his cigarette”¦ (he is) a rock n’ roll suicide.

Okay, I don’t think this guy is intentionally attempting to channel Ziggy Stardust or the Spiders from Mars; this dandy is just hopelessly out of poser fashion. Anyway, if you like to play black jack against surly dealers who left their smiles at the dentist office, be surrounded by loafing employees using the pit as an ad hoc break room, and personally long for awfulness a la John Waters, this is the desperate and sad place.

Finally, I’ve been beating up the Isle of Capri in some recent columns, so out of respect for fair and balanced coverage, I wish to relay a couple of innovative efforts at IOC Black Hawk. While I am not sure if there is any significant time savings with this method, the IOC has a self-serve valet ticket scanner. One of the more frustrating aspects of valet can be going to the staging area and not being able to turn the claim ticket over to one of the attendants. Through the scanner, the anxiety is minimized because one knows he or she is in queue to have the car brought around. Does this machine located ten feet away from the valet counter save any real time and/or labor costs? I don’t know, but I do know that the angst of the wait associated with valet is mitigated.

For some reason, casino patrons are gob-smacked by televisions in unusual places. When I worked for Isle of Capri in Bossier, LA, the most talked about feature of the hotel room was not the Jacuzzi, but the television in the bathroom. It’s like having a phone by the toilet; it is something the patron does not have at home. (Then again, how many individuals have a Jacuzzi in the middle of their bedrooms?)

Anyway, in the men’s rest room located on the second level of the casino, a television is fitted into the mirror above the sink. For as long as it takes to wash one’s hands, one may be TV entertained.