Don’t be suckered by promises of free sweepstakes

Oct 17, 2001 1:58 AM

It was early 2001, I received a special delivery package from a major Strip resort that I wasn’t expecting. As I opened it up and unfolded this giant card, a huge cruise ship jumped out at me. I remained confused until I saw the words “Marketing Department” in several spots on the card. As I read on I discovered this was an invitation to slot players to play for a summertime Alaskan cruise ”” very tempting indeed. It was then that I located the nearest wastebasket.

Late in 2000 I realized that all of these tournament/sweepstakes invites are for one reason only ”” to separate you from as much of your money as possible, and to sugar coat the experience enough so whether you win or lose, you’ll be back for more as soon as they want you to be.

Not everyone sees things this way ”” at least they didn’t at the time of the invite. Because the top 50 players (based on the amount of money played through the machines during the several months of qualification) would receive a “free” cruise for two, this was sure to be a rousing success for the casino. Those who would rather spend their retirement accounts chasing giveaways, those who have been forced into the desperate situation of applying a tiny percentage to any tournament in order to justify their claim of only playing “positive” video poker machines, and those who simply have a ton of money to burn would certainly make up the majority of players. It was sheer casino marketing genius at its finest, and I commend those responsible for this no-nonsense promotion for their vision.

When it came time to crown the winners, it came in the form of IRS form 1099 for $6,000 per couple before they set off to sail. It immediately triggered a series of complaints that I’ve read about on various Internet sites, because some of these “VIP’s” felt a 1099 was inappropriate. Apparently none of them took the time to ask what now seem to be significant questions on the subject up front.

I find this rather puzzling ”” at least in the case of several of the self-proclaimed video poker experts I’m aware of who earned enough points to “win” this cruise ”” because we’re always told of how irresponsible it is of any player to get involved in any type of gambling without complete knowledge of the rules of the game. I would think this policy to be exceedingly critical, simply because they always come up with some kind of phantom “adder” percentage to make the negative expectation games appear to be positive. But I can see the problem they’re facing. Probably a bundle was lost to begin with, and now this tax liability. If they had only listened to me. When this piece of dream mail arrived, hands started sweating, hearts started pounding, and they couldn’t get to the phones fast enough ”” one of the key areas of concern in compulsive gambling ”” something I was very familiar with until five years ago.

Not satisfied with one side of the story, I talked to the Director of Slot Marketing for the casino resort. He supported their issuance of the 1099’s as proper for a sweepstakes giveaway such as this ”” similar to other property’s policies. Since he has received no such complaints directly, it’s safe to assume that those who take issue with this procedure have not only paid the piper once ”” they’re going to have to pay twice! Lessons learned? Let’s hope so, but just what was that tiny percentage that made this a positive expectation play?