Random rewards with a gemstone twist turn up the excitement level a few notches for slot players at M Resort hotel-casino

With M Resort only open a couple of months, the Jewelry Box slot area already has proven itself a player favorite for its random bonus awards.

When M Resort CEO Anthony Marnell III opened his $1 billion casino in March, he made sure to include a little bling on the slot floor.

But this bling comes in the form of a special slot area that resembles a jewelry box dripping with oversized faux gemstones.

“The idea of the Jewelry Box was to create a real buzz and excitement on the slot floor around certain types of product,” Marnell said of the exclusive slot area, part of the 1,847-machine floor that uses Aristocrat’s Oasis 360 casino management system. Certain jackpots trigger dazzling visual celebrations, Marnell noted.

The Jewelry Box area features 124 reel slots with gemstone themes, such as Double Diamonds, and the area is sectioned off into rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. 

“Basically what happens is when a certain type of jackpot hits, that person will win – everybody who is on a machine in that area can win, and it’s a random thing on a progressive, and it goes all day long,” he said.

“The mystery gets triggered when a certain level of jackpot is hit on any one of the sections.” That, he said, can trigger its own jackpot for players playing in that section of the Jewelry Box. “So if you’re in the Emerald Section, and you hit the Emerald Jackpot, you can win a certain prize. But if you hit the upper jackpot or somebody else hits the upper jackpot, that sets off the diamonds, and the diamond show comes out of the Jewelry Box, and then everybody can be a winner,” Marnell said.

So far, the Jewelry Box is attracting plenty of play, he said. “It’s gotten a lot of excitement. It’s definitely one of the upper areas of the slot floor as far as activity.”

That’s only one of the ways Marnell is hoping to win loyal play from customers.

The M’s iMagine Rewards Club has one of the most liberal and flexible points systems in the Las Vegas market. Player points can be redeemed for cash, comps or free play as soon as they’re earned, and 333 points equals $1.

“You play for it, you get it right then. And you can use it any way you want right on the spot,” Marnell said. “They like it because they don’t have to wait six weeks for their coupon book to show up.  And they don’t have any restrictions on when they can use it. “[There’s no] you can use it on Sunday through Thursday from 2 a.m. to 6 p.m., but only if it’s not raining and it’s about 72 degrees. We’re not doing any of that, and the better players, they’re getting the comps right on the spot, they’re getting past the lines” at the restaurants.

Asked why he thinks players are attracted to M Resort, Marnell said, “I think they want the service and value. I think they have long memories and they know all the places that they didn’t get it over the last five years. And I think that’s why you see a lot of customers at the M. They like it, and they keep coming back.”

Customers also enjoy the hotel itself, he said. “Architecturally, they love the elegance of the hotel and the warmth of the hotel. And the locals really feel like we put a Strip product in their back yard, and they really like that. You hear all the time, ‘I feel like I’m in Wynn’ or ‘I feel like I’m in Encore.”

The role of customer service can not be underestimated, he said. “The team members have been unbelievable. They did all the things we asked them to do, and trained them to do. And I think they realize that when you do things this way, they’re making a better living than they expected,” Marnell said. “I get compliments every single day [from customers] about ‘I can’t believe how well I was treated.’”

Customer Joshua Kerrigan, a 34-year-old Oceanside, Calif., resident, said he has visited the M Resort numerous times since its March 1 opening.

“It’s perfect. I can’t say enough nice things about the M,” Kerrigan said. “It’s where I stay almost exclusively now.”

The main differentiating factor is M’s staff, he said. “It’s the friendliness that’s really won me over. They go out of their way for me,” he said. “Every experience from the time I walk in is top-notch,” from the valet to check-in to the casino to the spa and restaurants.

The hotel’s architecture and design also is pleasing to Kerrigan, who is on the casino’s player advisory panel.

 “It’s beautiful, very classy, and it smells good too,” Kerrigan said, noting the casino is not smoky the way many are.

A video poker player, Kerrigan said he likes the five-play dollar and quarter poker machines, and that the players club is the best and the fairest in Las Vegas.

Many players apparently share some of Kerrigan’s sentiments.

Another player Karen Lotspiech, who lives not far from M Resort in a Sun City Anthem, Henderson, said she also loves the building’s “absolutely beautiful” architecture with its elegant-yet-warm style, high-ceilings and open design with lots of windows.

“But the thing that I’m most impressed with is Anthony Marnell’s commitment to the locals market. He seems to be very sincere in catering to his customers,” said Lotspiech, who called the employees  “unbelievably friendly and accommodating.”

She noted that M Resort already is adding more of the video-poker machines that she and other video poker players love to play. “The paybacks are the best you can get, and that is very, very important for locals,” Lotspeich said. “We were very glad to see that he’s listening.”

In the first month of operations, he said, M Resort signed up some 125,000 players to its loyalty club. And he said in mid-March that out of the people signed up, “the number of people who have come back two, three, four times, five times is enormous.”

Customers also see that their voices are heard when they make a suggestion or complaint. “When they complain, we listen and we fix it. And they appreciate that,” Marnell said. “They see a team of people really trying to earn their business, and they like that.”

“I think the key to any business is you’ve got to talk directly to the customers. If you talk to them and listen to them, then you start to really see it through their eyes,” he said.

Marnell said the property has been quick to make adjustments after hearing from customers. “Our slot bases had corners that had very hard edges on them, and some of the seniors were hitting their legs on them. Within five days of opening, we had heard the complaints, we saw it happen and immediately ordered $40,000 worth of end caps for slot bases where all those are rounded out.”

 When some high-limit slot players requested a wall around the high-limit slot area, Marnell accommodated that wish too. Marnell also invested in a nonsmoking slot section as well as a high-tech ventilation system to keep the smoke M is on the far south end of Las Vegas Boulevard is bigger than many believed. “There are a lot of people up here who were looking for a place to go, and the happiness letters I get…they’re wild. You’d never think you’d get a thank-you letter for opening a hotel. And there are hundreds of them.”

The Southern California market also appears deeper than even Marnell thought. “And surprisingly there are a lot more people from out of market who have come by and signed up for the club from all over the country. A lot of them were old Rio customers who remembered the days of the Rio [the hotel-casino built and operated by his father, Tony Marnell and later sold to Harrah’s Entertainment], and wanted to see the next Marnell hotel. We got a ton of letters to that effect – ‘Glad to to see you guys are back, ate at the buffet, reminds me of the [Rio] Carnival World buffet, and we’re staying with you next time.’”

Marnell expects more success in the future.

“We haven’t really begun to turn our real marketing machine on,” he said.