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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Winds of Change for Player's Clubs

25 June 2002

Anyone who has gambled in a casino has at least one. If you've been to a lot of casinos, both locally and nationwide, you may even have a collection of them. Of course, I'm referring to player's club cards, those wallet-size rectangles of plastic that look like credit cards but which serve a purpose nothing at all like them.

Player's club programs are the vital link between the casino and its players. Players like them because they are rewarded with comps and other perks in return for their gambling action. Casinos like them because they represent a database that enables them to track their best players and put together customized direct mail promotions.

When you get right down to it, the programs are more important to the casinos than they are to the players. Why else would they invest so many marketing dollars in them? The programs themselves are costly to operate and maintain. Depending on the quality of the card itself, each one represents an expense. With players constantly losing them, leaving them in machines, or simply forgetting to bring them, there is a frequent reissue factor that adds up to significant money.

Each casino's rewards program varies in terms of comps and how you earn them, but they are all basically the same in intent and purpose: To encourage brand loyalty.

All player's clubs were pretty much one-dimensional when they began in the late 80s and spread like wild fire along with the explosive growth of casino gambling throughout the decade of the 90s. They were designed for slot players to have their play tracked. Hand records were kept originally, then the machines themselves were customized with "reader boxes" so that the cards could be read electronically.

Player's club card usage soon expanded to table games players. Today if you're a casino gambler who wants to derive as many benefits as possible in return for your patronage and play, you just can't leave home for a casino venture without one.

An e-mail question I received recently from Sandy Geske prompted me to investigate what could be on the horizon for player's clubs. Sandy writes:

"I've been wondering why the Grand Victoria (in Elgin) is the only casino I've been to that has a card to accumulate comp points similar to a hotel room key. A hotel room key is programmed to open the door by the various holes punched in the card. Can the card we use at the Grand Victoria be programmed to give you a win if you happen to pick the right machine?"

First of all let me clear up a common misconception among people regarding the use of player's club cards. They have nothing whatsoever to do with winning or losing while playing slots. The programs that monitor them operate completely separate and apart from the computer programs and random number generators that drive electronic gaming devices.

You do, however, bring up a valid question. Just why is the Grand Victoria the only casino in the Chicago-area and Northwest Indiana to use punch cards instead of cards with magnetic strips?

Fact is, the early player's clubs across the country all used the punch cards. When magnetic strip technology became available most casinos switched over to the new system.

A representative from the Grand Victoria informed me that the punch card system that's in use today is the same system that was instituted when the property first opened its doors in 1994. The Grand Vic just never converted to the magnetic strip card. But now with even more technology and multi-dimensional uses for the cards on the immediate horizon, look for a revolution later this year.

Casino marketing divisions will be able to integrate more of the amenities a property offers into the card, such as restaurants and snack shops, etc. The punch card now in use at the Grand Victoria is difficult to interface with readers other than the slot machines. When they switch to a bold new system watch for greater machine bonuses, more benefits, enhanced services, and many more features.

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