You can’t keep a good concept down, as Dennis Conrad has discovered with his briefly retired annual list of the nation’s Best and Worst Casino Promotions



Well, to be honest, my yearly list of the Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions is not quite back quite by “popular demand,” unless you count one loyal reader asking me if I was going to do that “Mr. Blackwell thing” again this year.

I know last year I “retired” this Best (and Worst) article you are about to read. I really thought I had. Honestly.

But somewhere deep inside me, this emptiness started to well up. Kind of like how I imagine Dali felt when he no longer had a canvas, or perhaps a plumber who has run out of toilets to fix.

So here I am again, somewhat reluctantly and somewhat wistfully, compiling my Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions of the past year. Loyal readers of this feature likely recall that my Best (and Worst) list has no awards and only one judge-me. What I look for are the quaint, quirky and, yes, really crappy casino promotions of the past year. Those seeking a list of slick and successful “home run” gaming promos need to tune into the Romero Awards; I search for the underappreciated “singles hitters” whose consistent efforts merit a shout-out, and the errors and misplays that belong on the blooper reel.

What follows is my “All-Star” lineup for the 2012 Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions.



THE BEST

CONRAD IS WANTED!
Black Oak Casino (Tuolumne, Calif.)

I’ve received countless inactive mailers from casinos over the years, meaning “where the heck have you been, we miss you and your money!” But only once, in this flattering and effective mailer from Black Oak Casino, have I received an inactive offer in the form of a Wanted Poster. And the wanted person was me-complete with my name and a shadowy image that even looked like me! “Caution: Suspect Carries Loaded Players Club Card” it read, and it carried eight different $10 offers for various times of the month. Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse. I’m a wanted man!



CONTESTANT SEARCH
Black Oak Casino (Tuolumne, Calif.)

Speaking of Black Oak Casino (and I don’t mind since they have been a treasure trove of “Best” casino promotions over the years), they held a contestant search for the CBS show, The Amazing Race and announced it to their players club members, who no doubt told all of their friends about this chance to be famous and win a pile of money. There was a signup period at the casino on the day of the search, and wouldn’t you know it, The Amazing Race is also a machine game on the slot floor. Amazing!



AMERICAN HOT BUTTONS, EH?
Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

Caesars Windsor does a ton of business with Americans, who must not only cross the border, but also exchange U.S. money for Canadian currency-not the best of propositions, considering the current exchange rates. So to further entice these Yankees, Caesars Windsor did two separate offers; a 7 percent premium on the exchange rate for the American dollar (which also came with 570 Base Reward Credits) and a voucher that pays for the $25 border toll. That’s hittin’ ‘em where they live,

FISHING FOR CUSTOMERS
Topaz Lodge & Casino (Gardnerville, Nev.)

Got a lake outside your casino? Well, it just might help you fish for customers. Topaz Lodge & Casino held a Fishing Derby from January to mid-April and tagged some fish as “Topaz Lodge fish.” For every Topaz Lodge tagged fish caught, the fisherperson got $100 cash and 10 entries into the season-ending drawing for $1,000 cash and fishing gear. For every two pound plus trout caught, five entry tickets were earned for the season-ending drawing, and there was also $75 awarded for the biggest fish caught weekly. Get ‘em to the lake and then to the casino; not fishy at all.



ROAST THE HOST
Silver Legacy Resort Casino (Reno, Nev.)

Those VIPs just love their casino hosts and Silver Legacy leveraged that to create Arturo’s Birthday Roast in honor of Executive Host Arturo Mena. Guests were invited to an evening of dinner, games and prizes, “music from Arturo’s mariachi friends,” and, of course, a fun-filled roast. Attendees were even asked in the invitation if they wanted to help roast Arturo at the event. Muy caliente!



PEOPLE TO PEOPLE
Carson Nugget (Carson City, Nev.)

Now, you can use billboards, advertising and direct mail to promote your casino’s “stuff,” or like the Carson Nugget did, you can make your employees the stars of the show (and they really are, aren’t they?) In a clever and customer-connecting campaign, the Nugget featured its employees in their uniforms and work environments with touching copy like “Mother to some, daughter to others, friend to all. Katie Sergi, Dealer, at your service.” After all, they’ll remember your people long after your steak special or your fancy promo. Kudos, Carson Nugget!



COCONUTS ARE GOLDEN
Seminole Casino-Coconut Creek (Coconut Creek, Fla.)

First there were the Oscars and now there are the Golden Coconut Awards, the innovative brainchild of the ever innovative Seminole Casino – Coconut Creek. Deciding there was no one better to honor than its own customers, Seminole threw a first class blowout bash that made the Oscar ceremony look tame. Awards were given to Best Male and Female Table Game and Slot Players of the Year, Breakout Player of the Year, Player Development Choice and Lifetime Achievement. Guests were welcomed by Cirque du Soleil-type characters, and Seminole senior executives wined and dined their VIPs. Clearly Seminole Casino-Coconut Creek knows where its bread is buttered, or rather, where its filet mignon is aged. With its loyal players, of course!



BRUCE’S SUPPER CLUB
Morongo Casino Resort & Spa (Cabazon, Calif.)

There are casino VIP events and then there are branded casino VIP events hosted by the executive directors of casino operations. Well, there’s at least one, and it’s the Bruce’s Supper Club invitational events at Morongo. Whether it’s an entertainment affair with a cash giveaway or a St. Paddy’s Day blowout-where Bruce McClure, a main Morongo muckety muck, poses for pictures with invited guests surrounded by beautiful models turned into elves-these intimate gatherings have created a huge following of Morongo guests wondering “what will Bruce do next?” Personally, I’m waiting for the Bruce-In-The-Dunk-Tank-4th of July-Barbeque, with guests supporting a worthy Morongo charity by dunking Bruce. With Dunkin’ Donuts for dessert-sure to make a VIP splash!



ALL SHOOK UP
Carson Valley Inn Casino (Minden, Nev.)

What better way to shake up the post-New Year’s casino revenue blues than by having an Elvis Week in conjunction with Elvis Presley’s birthday. That’s exactly what Carson Valley Inn Casino did from January 4-8 this past year, complete with a Free Teddy Bear (for earning 125 points), Elvis impersonators in the cabaret lounge, free cake and champagne on Elvis’ birthday, and Elvis food specials in Katie’s Restaurant. Now that would love me tender, and help them get my legal tender.



CELEBRATION OF JOINING
Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel (Jackson, Calif.)

Casinos routinely celebrate their guests’ birthdays, the December holidays, Super Bowl Sundays and even sometimes wedding anniversary dates. But very rarely, like in this outstanding example from Jackson Rancheria, do they honor the anniversary date of when their players first joined the Players Club. The property throws a big shindig of appreciation and gives away a pile for each of their players on their Dreamcatcher’s Club Anniversary date. And what a great name for a players club-Dreamcatcher’s!



PARTY PITS
Various Casinos In North America

And finally, the casino party pit craze continues unabated in North America, and now I have two more party pitters to honor-the Rock Starlets in the Rock Star Pit at Illinois-based Harrah’s Joliet (for its sexiness and Rock Star cocktails) and the Harley Party Pit at Black Hawk, Colo.-based Fitzgeralds Casino (for its strong association with a powerful brand). I add them to the G-Girls at Golden Gates Casino in Black Hawk and Dancing Dealers at the Golden Gate Casino in Las Vegas as Dennis’ Officially Sanctioned Party Pits. And as places I’d love to consult with.



THE WORST

Well, there you have the Best of the Best. But as they say, to have some sun, a little rain must fall (or something like that). So here they are, the Worst of the Worst (not mentioned by name) who succeeded in raining on numerous casino parades.



NEED OF SPELL CHECK
Numerous Casinos

I admit, I spell pretty well and I wasn’t trying to be picky. But you’d think that in these professional casino organizations, so dependent on effective communication with their best customers, that someone would ensure that it would be written as “Blackjack” (instead of “Backjack”), “Anniversary” (instead of “Annivesary”) and “Win Up To $500” (instead of “Win Up $500”). But noooo… and I’ve got the proof, or more correctly, the lack of it, in these award-winning examples of casino typo trip-ups.



SOME MYSTERY
Unnamed U.S. Casino

I like mystery promotions, where casino guests don’t know what gift they’ll receive or how much money they’ll get from their favorite neighborhood joint. They pique interest, help response rates and may even help clean out casino marketing merchandise closets. But why any casino would promote “Mystery Gifts on Thursday” with a message of “Select a gift from a variety of items available in our Wine And Olive Pattern,” with pictures of the items, well, that’s the real mystery! So it’s no mystery why it gets my Wine and Olive Golden Raspberry.



VIDEO POKER CRAZINESS
Numerous Casinos

OK, here’s the deal. Like many casino players, I like video poker in a casino bar environment. I also occasionally like $1 beer (or cheap drink specials) at casino bars. But what I can’t stand are both at the same time, when cheap drinkers are taking up seats that should be reserved for video poker players at the bar and are sloshing their way to a cheap drunk, while your bar top players are slinking away to your competitor, where they can actually play at the bar! But what the heck, these many casino culprits get to enter the Hall of Shame for total indifference to gaming revenue. At least they can drown their sorrows at a casino bar.



NAUGHTY LANGUAGE
Various Casinos

Casinos, rightly or wrongly, are known as “naughty” places; completely understandable with all the drinking, smoking and gambling that occurs there. But what is not needed in casinos is “cute naughtiness” where you can play “Bull Craps,” or participate in a “Ballbusters Golf Tournament,” or do a crabfest event mailing that asks if you “Got Crabs?” While such award-winning crap might make some of your more blue collar guests smile, it probably makes others walk. Got Potty Mouth? Keep it to yourself.



DIABETIC DELIGHT
Unnamed U.S. Casino

I believe that you can responsibly promote Krispy Kreme doughnuts to casino customers. The Palms in Las Vegas does it with periodic dozen doughnut giveaways to its players club members. Simple. Easy. Players choose to have doughnuts or not. But when this unnamed casino culprit ran a Fat Tuesday promo where club members got 10 cents in free play for every pound they weighed, and Krispy Kremes were passed out at the casino to assist guests in maximizing the opportunity, well, that’s crossing the sugar-free line with award-winning piggery!



SAY THAT AGAIN?
Unnamed U.S. Casino

I see tons of casino direct mail copy. Some is good, some is bad, and some is testament to ad agency copywriters who think that “fantastic” and “fabulous” are the best words to use in writing to casino customers. But rarely do you see such garbled confusion as in the casino newsletter copy below:

Attention _____ Club members



Please be aware that in December, we will be adjusting the Comp Value on your _____ Club account to match the total cash amount of the December coupons you will be receiving in the mail from us, or it will be reset to $20, whichever amount is greater.



If you do not receive direct mail coupons from us, your Comp Value may be reset to a maximum of $20.



_____ players, as you already know, your Comp Value will not be reset.



If you have any questions, please see the _____ Club.




Now that’s clear. As clear as award-winning mud.

And there you have them, my 2012 edition of the Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions. And if you really think I should put this annual exercise of adulation (and scorn) in mothballs, I understand. I think that, too. I just can’t help myself. I think I’ll go have a Krispy Kreme now.



SIDEBAR: Worst To First-It Is Possible!

This year brings to the Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions a very rare example of a gaming facility that really made lemonade out of lemons and went from “Worst To First.” Special Best (and Worst) kudos goes to the Silverton Casino Hotel in Las Vegas for doing the right thing.

After an initial mailing to its Silverton Rewards Club members offering them a free pie (with a picture on the mailer that sure looked like a full-sized pie), Silverton players were surprised (OK, they were pissed off) to receive a mini-pie when they walked through the property’s doors. You know, about the size of those vegetable pot pies that your mother used to make you eat.



How could such a “Pie-Gate” happen? Don’t know. Don’t care. But what matters is that Silverton immediately sent out a mailing with “We’re Sorry!” in big, bold letters, with the tag “There is nothing worse than a small piece of pie.” On the reverse side of the postcard mailer it screamed “Please Stop By For Your Free Full-Size Apple Pie!”

But what really made Silverton’s “pie mea culpa” truly award-winning was the picture on the front of the mailer with a Silverton executive taking a (full-sized) pie in the face.

Congrats, Silverton team, you have proven that you can take a Worst Casino Promotion and turn it into The Best Recovery Mailing I’ve ever seen. Piece of cake, er, pie, right?