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The business of banning

Jan 6, 2003 2:01 AM

There’s been a lot of recent chatter about video poker players being banned from Detroit’s Greektown casino, and the subsequent complaints from those in Las Vegas who believe they are advantage players having their play restricted in one way or another at various casinos.

While most people who play the game could care less, the most vocal as well as those most consumed by the game seem to be taking this as if their favorite car were just stolen. Let’s see why.

One reported fact we know for sure is that a substantial quantity of players who look for the best pay tables at Greektown ”” and who play them frequently ”” have been told not to return. Are they pros who are hammering the machines to death? Is all the money going into their pockets? Do they have some special talent that makes the machines they play spit out more big winners than to the other customers?

Well, I’ve chatted with nine of these banned players thus far, and only one has admitted to being a profitable winning player. And the rest? Since they all claim to have a significant comp balance ”” and have for quite some time while consistently drawing from their accounts ”” it makes sense that this is the reason for all the trouble.

While no one who plays for the points other than the very lucky actually win, their accumulated comps and cash back appears to have placed these savvy players into a computer-generated group that does not fall within casino profit margin guidelines.

So they are gone, and because they will not return (at least in their current identity) this year-end belt-tightening, which is very common in the business world, has a high probability of improving overall margin into the future, albeit at a reduced revenue level.

I believe Greektown’s reaction was knee-jerk, and not at all well thought out. Casinos are casinos, and this one will survive all the negative press I’ve read from around the country. But mistakes are mistakes, and perhaps they would have been better off looking to the mega-gaming destination in the Nevada desert for guidance first.

Might it have been better judgment to simply restrict the slot club benefits of those singled out? Certainly, that is what some of the mega-resorts on the Strip seem to have been doing. Probably the biggest player in town has seen that happen at two major resorts, and I’ve experienced the same ”” although undoubtedly to a lesser degree ”” at two others.

What does this mean? To me nothing, because when this occurred in 2001 I immediately stopped using a slot club card along with making another personal adjustment. I still play wherever and whenever I want to because of them.

But to someone who relies on club benefits to theoretically put them over the top, it means the world, and without the positive EV games that are fairly plentiful off-Strip, continued play at these resorts is probably not going to happen.

One of the most discussed issues for advantage players lately has been about the several Coast casinos reducing the number of higher denomination positive EV games — at least during part or all of December, because of 2X or more points days. Again, most people don’t care, but those few who do make sure they’re heard.

I don’t usually go into those properties scouting for specific machines, so I have to rely on electronically supplied information to form an opinion. To the nervous group of players who scramble around town looking for only those machines that make them believe they’ll win because there’s a plus sign after the 100%, it means they’ll probably play somewhere else.

I’ve read where positive EV players believe there’s some sort of casino industry effort out to stop them from doing what they like to do. But here’s where common sense over fantasy comes in to play.

There are growing numbers of casinos that offer positive plays. The most successful casino in town has had the most machines that advantage players like to play for quite some time. Other than the Board of Directors ordering certain properties to increase their profit levels, who can really say why the casinos do anything they do? After all, if Greektown had no trouble in making its policy of banning players public, what do Las Vegas casinos have to fear?

For sure, we will see in 2003 shuffling of policies at properties that only top management can describe. Some writers can continue to blast these casinos when they not-too-long-ago praised them as sacred. I take a rather moderate stance.

In my first book I tell readers that after the good machines are all gone, mine will still be there, because it’s not what machines you play — but how you play them that makes all the difference. Yet, one would have to wonder how long higher-paying games can remain anywhere when there are writers out there claiming how hundreds of players are not only killing the machines, but are openly taking the casino for every comp, gift, and cash back/bounce back dollar available!

Whether or not the casinos are taking a bath with the benefits they offer through constant promotions is not the issue. If I had a moneymaking scheme that included the use of a play-tracking slot club card, I don’t think I’d be blabbing about it. Unless I wanted people to believe something that wasn’t true about me, or I wanted them to think they could paint the same picture of themselves as I do of myself if they buy my paraphernalia. Something to think about.