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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Anatomy of the Biggest Players Club in the World

15 March 2006

The development of computerized tracking of the money that people gamble in casinos through the use of player's club cards was perhaps the most significant contributing factor to the explosive growth of the gaming industry across the country.

Players clubs enable casino owners to analyze their customer bases to an extent that was never before possible and allowed them to craft custom marketing strategies for specific player groups.

This isn't to diminish the fact that player's clubs can be invaluable for gamblers as well. The benefits that players derive from using their cards and the judicious use of them contribute toward cutting into the house advantage on slots, video poker and table games.

Case in point is Harrah's Entertainment's Total Rewards, which is available locally at Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel in Illinois. Next month, when Harrah's completes the process of converting the Caesars properties that it purchased last year to Total Rewards, its data base will swell to about 39 million individuals. Of that number, approximately 13 million will have been active within the past year.

David Norton is the Senior Vice President of Relationship Marketing for Harrah's Entertainment. His responsibilities include formulating direct mail strategy, VIP marketing and the Total Rewards loyalty program. According to him, if you happen to use your Total Rewards every time you play at a Harrah's property, you're not alone:

"Clearly a vast majority of our gaming revenue, approximately 78 percent, is tracked with Total Rewards cards," Norton revealed. "That's pretty amazing."

Total Rewards is a four-tiered program that begins with Gold at the entry level and progresses to Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars based upon individual play. The percentage of players who are members of each category will give you an indication of how much you have to gamble to progress to the next level:

"Well under one percent of Total Rewards players are Seven Stars," Norton revealed. "Diamond level includes a couple percent of active players while Platinum is slightly more but still single digit. The rest are Gold."

The mechanics by which Harrah's players build equity in their accounts is a sophisticated system that is based upon a simple premise: Slot players earn one base reward credit for every five dollars they bet, whereas video poker players must bet twice as much to earn that same credit. At the present time, table games players earn credits based upon average wager and playing time. The more base reward credits the higher your tier credits.

"Tier credits have no monetary value but rather are the metric by which players get to higher tiers," Norton said. "A player's reward credit balance is tied to the number of tier credits, which is used to calculate comp balance. Tier credits can only go up. Reward credits go up and down as you use them for food and merchandise."

All of the information goes into a central data base, which is accessed by the individual properties and their marketing divisions to formulate direct mail strategies dictated by a framework created on the corporate level. Specifics of the offers that are sent out are based upon the dynamics of the market in which the property exists.

Many loyal Horseshoe Hammond players have expressed concern over how Total Rewards will affect the property's popular Winner's Circle players club.

"We've taken a little bit of a conservative approach toward it," Norton said. "It's in a hybrid state right now. Publicly it's called Winners Circle, but if you've been to a Horseshoe property you'll notice that they have the three tiers now, Gold, Platinum and Diamond, so it's got elements of Total Rewards and there's a degree of portability for the customers as well.

"We're finalizing our plans right now but we want to have the best of both worlds. For all intents and purposes, Horseshoe Winners Circle players have the benefits of Total Rewards but we're not taking away anything that's been so successful in the comping philosophy of the Horseshoe."

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp