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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Disturbing trend in casino players clubs

22 November 2006

Players clubs were developed to provide casino operators with computerized tracking of slot play to create customer data bases for the purpose of issuing comps, but do you ever get the impression they have evolved into "carrot-on-a-stick" marketing ploys?

The first step toward that end was structuring the clubs in tiers, as many casino operators have done, starting with the entry level and progressing upward to two and in some cases even three plateaus. It provides players with tangible goals for which to aim.

The strategy was to show players that if they just made a few more visits and bet a little more, the next tier level and the benefits that went along with it was within reach.

This encourages increased play and brand loyalty, but rather than being rewarded for patronage that fits an individual's comfort level, in the manner of frequent flyer miles or retail purchases, gamblers began feeling the pressure.

It has gotten to the point that players at some casinos in gaming markets around the country, including Greater Chicago, are not even being rewarded proportionately on a dollar for dollar basis. Players who are members of higher tiers can earn cash back at an increased rate.

At Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino in Louisiana, if a player earns 6,500 points during an evaluation period, he or she ascends to VIP level and earns cash back at 1.5 times the regular rate. Earning 20,000 points vaults the player to Chairman's level where cash back is earned at twice the entry level rate.

At the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, members of the basic Screen Test level receive 10 cents cash back for every Star Point earned, but Marquee card holders receive 15 cents back for that same point.

Another disturbing trend on behalf of some gaming companies is direct mail solicitation that offers to reward players with a bonus only if they maintain their historical rate of play and not what may be comfortable for them during the rating period. In other words, the casino sets the goals and not the players.

For example, a player who has been tracked as a bigger gambler may have to earn 3,000 points to even see the minimum bonus amount kick in whereas a more conservative player will only have to reach half that goal for his bonus to apply.

Certainly upper echelon players are delighted with the perks that they derive from the system. It's a way of rewarding people who are inclined to wager larger amounts and who would be high rollers regardless of tiers.

If used wisely, club participation enhances the gambling experience by adding value to the money a customer wagers. The cash back and other incentives represent a return on investment that can be leveraged against the house advantage on the games. But it works only if you refuse to chase the carrot.

CASINO NEWS: More bad news for video poker players in the Chicago area. Argosy's Empress Casino in Joliet decided last month to reduce the deuces wild pay tables on the one dollar Game King machines from the so-called "Not-So-Ugly-Deuces" which return 99.7 percent with optimum play to the less desirable "Illinois Deuces" at 98.9 percent. Also, the full house payoff on the "Super Aces" games on the casino's one dollar Triple Play machines has been knocked down from 8 for 1 (99.8 percent pay table) to a budget busting 7 for 1 (98.7 percent pay table), slashing more than one percent off the expected long term return with optimum play.

Harrah's Joliet Casino Hotel recently celebrated the grand opening of its new fine dining destination, The Reserve. The accent is on prime steaks and chops complemented by a 150-item wine list available in a broad array of bottles including 28 half bottles and 25 Cabernet/Meritage options. The 120-seat venue, which has an open kitchen, features traditional seating as well as secluded booths located in nooks throughout the restaurant and a private dining area with seating up to 16. Entrée prices range from $26 to $40. The Reserve is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30 pm to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday from 4:30 pm to 10:30 pm; Sunday from 4 pm to 9:30 pm. Call 815-740-2467 for reservations.

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