Let’s face it, player points don’t work. What started as a good idea to simultaneously reward customers for their play and incentivize them to return has mutated into one of the worst practices in our industry.

Earned play point distribution is akin to the standard of tipping your server after a meal; while it may be a nice reward for the server, if you really wanted to ensure great service you would have given it before the meal. Like tipping, points have become an expectation rather than a true reward and therein lies the rub.

Adding to the pain, casino rewards are costly to administer, difficult to use and subject to inflation. Let’s be clear—player points and free play are not, and have never been, free. There is a real and definite cost to these tools that the average marketing manager doesn’t understand or chooses to ignore.

Even the term “free play” devalues the concept with our player base. Get into a discussion with your customers about their points and you will quickly realize they believe the term “free” refers to the casino’s cost. The average customer can’t understand why we are so stingy with the points we award, which absolutely defeats the concept.

We strive to give our better customers rewards that matter, yet award double, triple or five times points on days we want to push play. The issue with this is that we are attracting the wrong crowd on triple point Thursday. As a player, I avoid any facility on days they promote point multipliers. Why?

I know the odds of getting to play the games I enjoy will be greatly diminished by players who are coming in for reasons other than just playing. I also realize that service times will suffer because there are more people who are less familiar with the workings of the casino and will need more assistance.

Why would you scare away your better players to bring in these customers? Let’s recognize that volume will never make up for substance and take care of those customers that take care of us.

To make matters worse, many inexperienced finance team members push for a lesser points conversion value and champion the effort as a cost reduction. After all, points are a liability, so if we lower the redemption value the liability lessens, correct? Nothing could be further from the truth.

You may have reduced a paper-based liability, but when your patron base finds out you picked their pocket, there will be ramifications. Your patrons will just head to a different facility that values their patronage and doesn’t look for ways to steal value from them.

If reducing the value of the points you have over-awarded doesn’t work, how about raising the price of everything a patron can purchase or redeem for points? Our customer base is far brighter than many of us give them credit for. No one likes to be thought a fool and the sad truth is that many in our industry expose patrons to practices like these under the misconception they are protecting the bottom line.

Why do your regulars frequent your casino? It’s not to win, because as we increase the hold percentage to pay for the free play and points we diminish their chances. It’s not because of the scarcity of the games; they can play them almost everywhere. They come in to relax and forget their problems for a short time. They want to believe you consider them a friend and they want to be treated as such. They want a fair game, a safe environment and a square deal.

How do we accommodate their wishes? Well, we can start by providing players the ability to earn bonus spins on their favorite games. That’s what they really want after all, more opportunities to win. Base these spins on their average bet and time on device, and we can reward them during their sessions, not after the fact.

Give your players exceptional customer service by resolving their service needs quickly and letting them get back to their mid-week vacation. Treat them with respect and give them playing time. They know just as well as you that they are most likely going to contribute far more than they will take away, and as long as you treat them well, they will accept the trade off. Give them value for their catch-and-release play by letting them play longer and treat them with the respect they have earned.