Marketing: Show me the money!
by Dennis Conrad
May 14, 2008
There is a fundamental conflict in the casino industry: Our
customers are trying to get our money, while we try to get theirs. I know of no
other industry with such a tension between it and its paying consumers.
On top of all this, in this battle for each other’s money, it is not even a fair fight — the casino, in its various levels of mathematical edges, will make various levels of gambling profit from roughly four of every five casino customers daily. Only one out of five will leave a casino visit as a winner.
And with this overwhelming house advantage and absolute mathematical certainty, I find it incredible that casinos continue to sweat the money.
So, if you claim ignorance about what sweating the money is, or believe that your casino doesn’t do it, let me state this unequivocally: Sweating the money involves your casino executives and employees worrying that your casino customers will win, worrying while they are winning, worrying that they will win too much, and worrying that someone else (i.e., a senior exec) will worry that they got away with winnings.
Defining the sweat
My estimate is that 80 percent of casinos sweat the money to
some neurotic and counterproductive degree. And while I will grant you that
sweating the money occurs most often in the table games environment (where we go mano a mano with them), I assure you that it
exists in every gambling aspect of your casino. It occurs when:
—A phone call goes to the shift manager when a table game customer buys in for $1,000 or gets ahead of the game $1,000 or more.
—Three casino executives hover around a craps table, with frowning looks, waiting and hoping for their players’ lucky run to stop.
—We make our slot customers wait for jackpot payouts or make them jump through paperwork hoops to get paid.
—We have bill validators that won’t take $100 bills (sweating possible counterfeits). —Dealers will swipe a player’s buy-in currency at a game with a highlighter pen, looking to snag a counterfeit bill rather than welcome a new customer.
—Casinos put arbitrary requirements for gathering player identifications for various cashout amounts that are more stringent than federal, state or tribal regulations.
—Your casino employees just act like it’s their own money when they pay a winning gambler.
—Other policies, practices, attitudes and habits too numerous to mention.
Now, I understand that there is a natural human element involved when the house competes in wagering games against the players. Dealers do not want to be “losing” dealers (especially against nontipping stiffs). Slot managers don’t want to see their daily win or slot hold percentage impacted by too many jackpots. Cage cashiers don’t want to see their cash bankrolls evaporate into a pile of chips or cashout tickets. I get all that.
But, correct me if I’m wrong here, our casinos sell hope, possibility and a chance to win. So, when the lucky few are winning, or when they do win, why are we not celebrating these wins with a smile on our faces, paying them quickly, acting like (temporary) gracious losers and inviting them to play on and win more?
Being a gracious loser
I know it’s hard. But from a marketing perspective, the
strongest position your casino can have is to be seen as a place where your
players can win
and are made to feel good about it when they do. So, try some of these
—Eliminate every unnecessary policy, regulation or procedure that makes it appear you don’t want to pay your winning customers, or are paying them grudgingly.
—Eliminate all those counterfeit-checking highlighter pens at the table games. You may find a few counterfeits a year, but your hands per hour ratio is suffering and the message you send to your arriving customers is atrocious.
—Pay every casino winner quickly, enthusiastically and with a smile.
—When a dealer or table is “dumping the rack” (losing big sums to the players), cheer along with the players — and mean it. They do this at the craps tables at Paris Las Vegas (Harrah’s gets this anti-sweating concept and is starting to explore it).
—Quit clocking the drop at your tables (keeping track of how much money goes into the drop box). You’ll know how much the game wins or loses at the end of the shift (or counting period), and there’s a multimillion dollar surveillance system watching everything anyway.
—Train your casino workers in casino mathematics, so they understand the inevitability of the house winning and that players’ good fortune is to be expected (and congratulated) within the realm of statistical possibility.
And above all, to those of you who see the inherent wisdom of not sweating the money, remember that we should treat all players’ winnings as temporary loans. And if we are real nice to these winners, they will pay us back, with interest.
Dennis Conrad is the president and chief Relationship Officer of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at (775) 329-7864. Visit Raving’s Web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.
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