Let me tell you a story about how our industry is doing a very poor job estimating what individual customers have lost (or won) in a casino during a calendar year 

The subject of win-loss statements in a marketing column? You probably think that I have lost my mind. Well, trust me on this – win-loss statements are one of the most important communications that you can have with your casino customers. Especially your best customers.

And I can tell you from experience that our industry is doing a very poor job with win-loss statements.

Before I tell you the story, I probably should clarify what win-loss statements are. They are estimates of what individual casino customers have lost (or won) in a casino during a calendar year, based on player tracking information of the casino, and designed to assist casino customers in their annual IRS filings. They are not meant to replace detailed “gambling session records,” which casino customers are supposed to keep (and hardly anyone does) and must be requested of the casino by the customer. The casino does not guarantee the accuracy of these win-loss statements, as it depends on customers using their players club card when gambling and (in the table game area, usually) manually estimated recording of player wins and losses by casino staffers. But the information is helpful to the casino customer who needs some evidence of losses to offset documented winnings that were reported to the IRS, mostly for recorded slot jackpots over $1,200 during the year.

And this past year, I was lucky (or unlucky) to have recorded jackpots that required me to request win-loss statements from all of the casinos where I had played last year. Sounds simple right? Wrong! Here’s my story. 

I called Casino A (in each case I used the telephone number listed on the players club card).  It rang to the players club this time, which was a rarity in my saga.  I was faxed a form to fill out (which needed “manager approval” to send), and I filled it out and faxed it back.  I was not told when I would receive my win-loss statement.  Grade: C-

I called Casino B and got no answer on the 800 number listed. Two days later I got through to a main switchboard, was put on hold and eventually transferred to the players club. I was required to fax them a copy of my driver’s license (no form to fill out). I was asked if I wanted the win-loss statement mailed or faxed (hey an option!) and it arrived in a few days. Grade: D

Casino C had a “hotline” phone number listed on its players club card. Not! The phone call went to the main switchboard and was transferred to the players club. The players club rep was friendly, verified my contact information and asked if I wanted a statement for my wife as well.  He informed me that the statements would arrive by mail, and they did, in a timely manner. Grade: B

My call to Casino D got me to the main operator. At least I was asked if I could be put on hold while the call was transferred to the players club. They also double checked my contact information (a seemingly good opportunity to update the casino database), but then I was told that “it might take a couple of weeks, we process these requests in the order they were received and they’re starting to get backed up.” Geez! Grade: D-

I expected great things from Casino E, because it was one of the casinos from a company I admire for its marketing. I was put on hold at the players club; asked again “if I could hold further because I am with a guest” (and what the hell am I?); had my account numbers transposed by the rep (causing a delay in finding my account information); was told that it might take six weeks; and that I should probably request the win-loss by going online to the corporate Web site. Which I did, allowing me to download a win-loss statement form that I had to get notarized before they would process my request! Grade: F

I think you are getting the picture of my win-loss statement-seeking saga. Other grades given for my experience were D-, F, C, B, F, B and D. I experienced employees with accents that I could not understand; accessing of the wrong account (why they had me possessing multiple player accounts, I’ll never know); being told “we haven’t started processing win-loss statements yet;” calls that went to room reservations; and one situation where I was asked “to show up in person” (2,000 miles away).

Thank God there’s Harrah’s to show the way! The Harrahs.com Web site had a convenient link for win-loss statements with a screaming headline of “Win-Loss Statements Now Available Online!” Information was available for all Harrah’s properties where I had played with a cumulative win-loss amount as well. I was cautioned that player tracking information was not intended for tax reporting and that the IRS recommends a daily diary of gaming activity with suggested pertinent information. There was a “Frequently Asked Questions” section regarding win-loss statements, giving me yet more information. And to top it all off, through all of this comprehensive, simple-to-access, win-loss request process (that was generally a pain in the ass at nearly every other casino) I was told, “Thank you for playing at Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.”  Grade: A+

So how would your casino stack up in the win-loss statement game? Are you win-win or lose-lose? Because “being easy to do business with” when your best customers ask for your help is one of the strongest marketing “statements” you can make.