United Coin ups the ante for players

Jun 2, 2009 5:10 PM
by David Stratton |

While the casino business is king in Nevada, the ubiquitous slot route operators are leaving a bigger footprint across the state as they expand to taverns, convenience stores, supermarkets and other locations.

Among the largest operators with more than 6,500 machines is United Coin Machine Company, whose Gamblers Bonus brand is recognized in over 400 locations statewide.

Those locations include 7-Eleven and Circle K convenience stores, high-profile taverns and restaurants such as Magoo’s, Bully’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Timbers, Village Pub and Doc Holiday’s, as well as small to medium-size casinos like the Gold Spike, Longhorn, Bighorn and Barcelona.

And, while a handful of machines in a 7-Eleven, Raley’s or Food 4 Less doesn’t sound imposing, the business they generate is significant.

On an annual basis, United Coin pays out about 33,000 taxable jackpots (W2-G required) worth more than $100 million.

Because the clientele is virtually 100 percent locally-driven, the game of choice is video poker.

But more important, the Gamblers Bonus rewards program, a cardless slot club, has cultivated a loyal following throughout the state.

"Gamblers Bonus really put United Coin on the map," said Steve Arntzen, the company’s chief operating officer. "From a corporate perspective, Gamblers Bonus remains our biggest seller and is easily our strongest and most popular product at local gaming establishments in the state."

Gamblers Bonus has always been on the cutting edge of rewards programs, especially as casino slot clubs consolidate their rewards into contests, giveaways and other events.

In addition to its fully-automated player tracking, payouts and bonus systems, Gamblers Bonus has a Cash for Play feature, which allows players to directly convert points for cash, up to $150 per day.

"We’ve got something unique with Cash for Play, it’s why our customers keep coming back," Arntzen said, adding that the loyalty factor is huge with Gamblers Bonus clientele.

"We’re very reluctant to change anything," he said. "For instance, it’s dangerous business to change the paytables on a video poker machine when you have a locals clientele – and we’re 100 percent local."

Locals players are also reluctant to embrace new games, Arntzen added.

"The demand for new games isn’t strong for us," he said. "Locals like to play what they played yesterday, they like what they played a year ago."

As he pointed out, video poker is the most popular Gamblers Bonus game, with about a 95 percent following. Video keno, however, has been making inroads.

"Keno is the big game in Montana, and it’s the biggest keno market in the U.S.," he said. "In Montana, about 80 percent of the business is keno, with video poker getting about 20 percent."

Arntzen should know the Montana gaming market well, as he also serves as COO of Montana-based Century Gaming, the leading slot route operator in the Big Sky state.

The two companies, United Coin and Century, merged in 2004 (UCMC is now a wholly-owned subsidiary), who combine to operate 11,000 machines in both states.

Meanwhile, back in the Silver State, Arntzen said Gamblers Bonus will take another big technological step later this month when it launches its latest program, Cash Call, a text messaging promotion for its customers.

"We have a customer database of over 70,000 people, and potentially every one of them is capable of receiving a daily prize just by sending a text message," he said. "The customer has a chance to win up to a million points every single day, with the minimum prize being a thousand points."

Arntzen added that there are other changes coming to Gamblers Bonus this summer, though until they are brought before regulators, they can’t be disclosed.

"I think there are some interesting new products on the horizon," he said.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: David Stratton