Trip down memory lane stirs some warm thoughts about the old days in the gaming biz and unearths some ideas that may still be worthy today

It was a little discomforting a while back when I realized that I surely have become a “senior statesman” in the gaming industry. I don’t feel that old (which helps me understand why advertisers use “young” senior models in their ads). I guess that’s what comes with spending 35 years in a single industry. … And, please, spare me any “Happy Anniversary” wishes.

Anyway, after the shock wore off, it got me to reminiscing about my early days in the gaming industry and the early days of my casino marketing career. I guess that is what “geezers” (I have tried not to be a “dinosaur”) do. Reminisce.

The trip down memory lane stirred some warm thoughts about the old days in the gaming biz. It brought some smiles as I remembered some of the old marketing ways of the casinos of yesterday. Nowadays it’s stuff like CRM and data base management and ROI and new social media and player development and branding. We weren’t that smart back then.

Or were we? The more I reminisced about old school marketing the more I kept saying, “Hey, that was a good idea! I wonder if it would still have any value or application today?”

And you might expect this from an old guy, but I really think that some of the old can be new again. Heck, look at the mullet haircut.

So here are some of the old school marketing notions that I feel may still have value in the age of Twitter and Facebook:

• The Casino Owner Walking Around Handing Out Rolls of Quarters to Active Slot Players. … Yes, this was the first “player reward” program. It was targeted, it was personal and it truly felt like a warm, unexpected, complimentary gesture (unlike today’s entitlements). Somehow I think there would be a lot of wisdom today in a GM or a slot director or a tribal chairperson or a casino owner doing the same.

• The $1 Million Display … The old Binion’s Horseshoe in Downtown Las Vegas used to have 1,000 $1,000 bills in a horseshoe-shaped display behind sturdy clear plastic. Visitors could get a free picture of themselves in front of the display, needing to return four hours later to pick up their photo (one of the first “retention” devices). I haven’t seen this marketing tool until last year with the Seminole Tribe’s traveling $5 million “See $5 Million, Win $1 Million” promotion. Pretty powerful, don’t you think?

• Drink Clickers … At some of the casinos of yesteryear there were “clickers” at the gaming tables by which dealers could indicate that a player wanted a drink. Was the clicker sound a little obnoxious? Yes. Did it drive the cocktail servers crazy? Absolutely.  But did it make players feel like they got immediate attention to their request in a unique way? Oh, yes. Sounds like some customer-focused wisdom to me.

• The Carousel Attendant … When the old coin-spitting dollar slot machines were in vogue most casinos had carousel attendants, slot employees who worked in the circular (or rectangular) space framed by the configuration of these (typically liberal) dollar slots. These attendants made change, cashed in racks of coins, called for technical assistance - but most importantly they acted as cheerleaders and built numerous relationships with players. In the era of bill validators, credit meters, automated tracking and other wonders of technology perhaps it’s time to think about those old slot arrangements that had people.

• The Loss Leader Buffet. … It used to be hard to find a casino that didn’t have an embarrassingly cheap “pigfest” (in a good way) buffet. There are still casino buffets around, and many are high quality, but they now typically are designed to make a profit for the F&B department. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against casino restaurants making money. It just seems that we have turned one of the casino’s value-laden hooks, the thing that most hit a potential gambler’s hot button, the benefit most associated with the casino itself - the BUFFET! - and turned it into just another amenity. Marketers, can you do something about this?

• The Casino Floor Decked Out in a Cool Theme … Maybe it’s just me, but I recall most casino floors really being themed around all major holidays - Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, you name it. In fact, the theme was the promotion. (OK, maybe there were a few giveaways as well.) It just seems that now the cool themes and the different atmospheres they created are gone - replaced by, you guessed it, only the giveaways themselves. Sounds backwards to me.

• All Other Things That Are Now “Retro” … Old slot machines where you pull a handle, the game of “Chuck A Luck,” hand-held, low-limit blackjack games, afternoon lounge shows, keno runners, sexy cocktail servers and bartenders, and so much more. I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons why some of these vanished. It’s just that there might be some value, somewhere, in bringing some of them back.

Marketers, take note of these pre-senility thoughts from the “old guy”.