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Keeping track need not be a distraction

Oct 7, 2003 8:41 AM

ON CASINO RATING! There is a boom of ­­brashness spreading across casino floors these days that is worthy of mention. In some clubs ”” ones that should know better ”” it’s an epidemic of bad ­­manners, not to mention not knowing much at all about casino gamblers.

"Would you like to be rated?"

Think back. How many times has it happened to you? Sometimes, even before a hand is played or a coin is deposited, a new suit or moonface hostess rushes to your side ”” like a bull in a china shop ”” and pops the question. Emily Post would turn in her grave at such a display of bad manners.

Depending on my mood at the time, I either ignore the afront or return the question:

"Would you like to be rated?"

As a casino player of long standing, I qualify to rate a floorman. I grew up in a gambling garden of grace where pit bosses and their aids knew how to break in on a customer. It was once an art.

The pit doesn’t know the player. They need to. Charm goes to work.

"What a beautiful ring you’re wearing!" That would be a good opening. The player ”” even if he knows the play ”” accepts the compliment with a smile. The smile tells the floorman it’s OK to go a little further. Remember, the only real quest is to get the player’s name. ­­Perhaps where he’s from and where he’s staying would be helpful. But, the name is a must if the casino is going to try to keep track of good customers.

Sadly, all that seems to be gone now. The suits who now run these joints seem to know a little bit about a lot of things, but very little about the gambler. They have figured a mathematical formula to help the new suits figure out if a player is a player and what he or she may be entitled to in the way of comps.

Play so many hours at a minimum bet of X and you’ve got a pass to the coffee shop for coffee ”” sugar and cream included. Double the amount of play and you may even get a slip to the buffet. Play non-stop ”” until you drop ”” and you can get almost anything you want . . . at Alice’s Restaurant.

What happened? Why do we need to put a stopwatch on a player to see if he’s a player?

There is an answer and it focuses on a common economic principle ”” supply and demand. The demand for casinos has grown so great that the supply of experienced personnel can’t keep up with the trend. Floormen who grew up in the gambling pits are few and far between. The new suits are mostly textbook types. They need a mathematical formula to figure things out. The zipperheads provided one.

It wasn’t too many years ago when a seasoned casino staffer could eyeball play for a short time and determine if the player truly was a gambler. Those days are gone. How often I hear of players walking up to a table ”” with cash ”” plunking down $5,000 on three spots, blowing all three bets and walking. Heaven forbid he should ask for a comp on his exit. He would be told his play was too short and didn’t warrant it.

What a pity. Is it any wonder casinos want to spread their wings like Vegas birds and make their money elsewhere: high-priced boutiques, gourmet restaurants featuring renowned chefs, pricey show tickets, spas . . . you’ve got the message!

Will it last?

Yes, for a time. Then some entrepreneur will go the other way and push replay. Days of old will appear. Service with a smile will return and the players won’t fret having to pay off their markers when they leave.

P.S. The next time the bull charges to rate you, let him know how you rate him.