Casino players clubs eye non-gaming members

Nov 25, 2008 5:11 PM

by David Stratton |

One of the recurring themes at last week’s G2E was that casinos need to step up their marketing efforts in order to maximize their business as patronage has slipped along with the economy.

"We’re in the era of marketing," said Randy Fine, managing director of the Fine Point Group, a casino consulting firm, "and it’s important to squeeze all the value out of what we have."

One of the ways to do that is to expand the scope of casino rewards programs to include non-gaming customers, who spend their money on non-casino activities such as dining, entertainment, retail purchases, spas and the like.

"A property may have four, five or six ways to make money," Fine continued, "and these non-gaming sources not only generate revenue but they keep people on the property longer."

Fine was the moderator of a conference session called, "Total Customer Value: More than just Gaming," in which panelists alluded to "total customer worth," and suggested that non-gaming customers should be cultivated along with casino players.

Toward that end, some casinos have actually started issuing "resort cards" in place of "player cards" through their rewards programs.

"When you reward the behavior, you get the behavior you want," Fine said, probably hoping his edict didn’t sound like something earmarked for Pavlov’s dogs.

During the course of the session, Fine said that the national average for benefits from casino rewards programs was about 25 percent. That is, for every dollar spent by a customer tracked through a rewards program, 25¢ is returned in benefits.

Although many of the conference attendees thought the number was too high, Fine was in a position to speak with insight on the topic.

Prior to forming the Fine Point Group, Fine served as Harrah’s vice president of loyalty programs, and in 2003 was the sole architect of Harrah’s Total Rewards, the gaming industry’s largest and best known loyalty program.

Nonetheless, in a random sampling of casino players in Las Vegas, the response to the 25 percent return in benefits ranged from "laughable" to "completely out of line."

"I spend about $1,500 to $2,000 a month in the casino," said a player at one of the city’s more popular locals-oriented casinos, "and what I get back in the form of food comps and free slot play is closer to 1 percent or less."

The issue of free slot play as a rewards program benefit was also a point of contention.

"I might receive $100 in free slot play in a month, but it certainly isn’t worth a hundred dollars," said the same player, who asked that his name be withheld. "My experience with free slot play is I seldom get back more than 30 percent or 40 percent of the slot amount after playing it off."

Despite the player’s cynicism, he said he considers himself a loyal customer and would welcome benefits for his non-gambling purchases.

Now, if only the race and sports books would follow suit.

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