Warren Davidson: "When promoting more visits by slots players, I find that cash is king."

Warren Davidson, director of slot operations, Coushatta Casino Resort, Kinder, La.:

When promoting more visits by slots players, I find that cash is king. Nothing works like cash giveaways to promote more and longer visits. To appeal to all budgets, we offer two ways to win cash. One is based on earned entry where the more a customer plays the slot machines, the more opportunities he has to earn cash prizes. The other aimed at more casual players is a random select promotion where at a random time one player on the floor is selected to receive a cash prize just for being there. The amount awarded varies, but several times a year we offer a $250,000 prize.

We also target the senior slots player by offering a slots tournament for them every Tuesday. In addition to cash and other prizes, seniors (those over age 55) get a special $5.50 price on the buffet. The seniors’ tournament has been very successful for us, attracting 600 to 900 players every week and keeping our slot machines busy.

Jeff Inman, general manager, Dancing Eagle Casino, Casablanca, N.M.:

One thing I’ve found is that it isn’t hard to bring customers in the door. What is hard is getting them to engage in lengthy slots play once they’re on premises. And for that we’re gone with a two-tier marketing strategy.

One strategy is aimed at the retail customer for whom a trip to the casino is an occasional treat. We use the basic marketing techniques like free play to bring retail customers out, and comps for achieving a certain level of play. To get these customers out more often, we’ve used premiums that are doled out over several weeks. Recently we offered a four-piece bakeware set that was presented one piece per week. Other incentives are offered to customers who come out mid-week (Tuesday through Thursday) when attendance is traditionally lower.

The other strategy is aimed at valued customers and loyal players. From talking with these customers on the slots floor, we find these customers expect a certain level of service, so we make sure they receive it on a personalized level. In addition to free play and a better level of comps, we offer complimentary food and beverage, but without making them achieve a specific level of play to earn them. Even loyal customers these days are budget conscious, so we eliminate the hurdles, because a player who drops only $50 a visit is worth $2,000 annually if he comes every week.

David Chavez, director of slot operations, Casino Arizona, Scottsdale, Ariz.:

All of our players at Casino Arizona have been affected by recent economic challenges. To ensure we are reaching the guests that have been the least negatively impacted by the recession, we have found success by reducing the qualification window for offers. By using the last three to six months theoretical win when pulling a list, we are able to identify these guests and make an appropriate offer.

Additionally, Casino Arizona guests have responded well to smaller, intimate events like prize drawings and dinners. Using these events to find out what the guest is looking for and communicating upcoming changes to them has been helpful in building loyalty.

Mike Crenshaw, vice president of casino operations, Pala Casino Spa & Resort, Pala, Calif.:

At Pala, we have slot promotions down to a basic science. We always make sure we have the collection of slot machines that our customers most want to play and with the most attractive price. We also make a big commitment to service and guest recognition. These strategies work no matter how good or bad times are.

Through ongoing communications with customers, we know that our players prefer high volatility, low-denomination games, with a good play time and a fair chance to win. We provide that by bringing in new products and rotating the slot floor on a regular basis.

For our players, the best promotion is our Privileges players’ membership card, which provides discounts for a full menu of our goods and services.