MARKETING: Making fun of casinos
I’ll admit that casinos are, for the most part, fun. Sure, the mathematics of the business insure that most casino gamblers lose, but the casino environment and the gaming “ride” can fairly be called entertaining.
Many elements typically contribute to this casino fun. The games themselves have numerous winning events along the way (the “hit frequency”). The casino environments speak to fun-lights, noise, action, lively chatter. The package of amenities that many casinos now have (restaurants, shops, spas, hotels, golf courses) speak to a broader, all-inclusive fun not just limited to the gambling experience.
So I’ll grant that casinos are fun places. I’ll even admit that the criticism I am about to heap on this “casino fun” may well be influenced by the 36 years I have been experiencing these casino environments-what’s old and stale to me might be eye-popping and amusing to fresh, new casino customers. But I truly believe that casinos are experiencing a fun crisis that is worsening by the day.
Let me make my case by listing a litany of everyday casino occurrences that dampen fun for casino customers:
• A table game player whose buy-in currency is marked with a highlighter pen (looking for counterfeits) before the player is greeted into the game.
• Waiting in line at a casino restaurant that has numerous empty tables and too few service employees.
• Seeing the casino parking lot’s best spaces reserved for muckety-mucks, not customers.
• Watching casino security act like cops instead of service professionals.
• Hearing casino employees say, “It’s not my station,” “It’s not my job,” or “That’s the rule.”
• Waiting for two casino employees to finish up a personal discussion before serving an “intruding” guest.
• Hearing casino employees converse in a foreign language in front of customers.
• Enduring long check-in and check-out lines at the hotel front desk.
• Watching table game supervisors “sweat the money” when players are on a winning streak.
• Paying “resort fees” for hotel services never utilized.
• Participating in a casino promotion that has zero energy or excitement.
You get the picture. For places that should be more like “adult Disneylands,” casinos can often be un-fun. There are many contributing reasons for this, but rather than focus on them, I thought I’d describe a few casinos that “get” the fun thing and truly differentiate themselves on providing a lively time to casino guests.
MY FAVORITE CASINO FUN FACTORIES
Seminole Casino-Coconut Creek, Coconut Creek, Fla.-The master of crazy, Seminole Casino-Coconut Creek has given away a lease to an operating oil well; had a special event featuring the Chilean Miners; held a GM bobble-head doll promotion; bought two Bernie Madoff Rolex watches for a giveaway and went on Pawn Stars to try and pawn one of them; offered $1 million to customers if debris from a disintegrating Russian spy satellite struck the bull’s-eye painted on the casino roof. You think this place is fun?
Hamburg Casino at the Fairgrounds, Hamburg, N.Y.-Interactive promotions, welcoming staff, and do you think it was fun when they gave away packages of Buffalo’s favorite Wardynski hot dogs?
Bronco Billy’s, Cripple Creek, Colo.- Confetti cannons for jackpots, “woodies” for special video poker hands and a GM who makes and serves his special guacamole to customers in the casino restaurant-well, that’s uncommon fun!
Club Cal Neva, Reno, Nev., and Silverton Casino Lodge, Las Vegas- At these out of the box casinos, you might find a tomato fight in an adjacent plaza, an ugly sweater contest, dwarf wrestling, beer pong, an underwater Santa and who knows what else. But it’s fun just mentioning this casino craziness!
Barona Resort and Casino, Lakeside, Calif.- My standard for casino fun and customer focus. At Barona, you will not pay an ATM fee when you need more cash. You can eat right at the table game or slot machine on a roll-up table with white linen. A senior manager might stop by and put $20 in your slot machine because she noticed “you hadn’t won in awhile.” The party pit is actually a party.
Yes, when you are thinking about your casino and how exciting it is for your guests, don’t think about how much fun they are, think about how much fun they could be if only we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes instead of the CFO’s.