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Ask the Slot Expert: How Covid precautions affected a casino promotion

4 November 2020

Casino marketing is a black box. We know the inputs that go into the box and we know what comes out in comps and free play, but we have no idea what goes on inside that box.

Which inputs are used in the calculations in the box? Certainly the amount you play and the games you play take part in the formula. But what about how frequently you play and whether you play during busy or slow times? How about whether you collect all of your free play or just some of it per month? Do you pick up almost every free gift? Did you win last month?

If we were in a lab and we could try different inputs to see how they affect the output, we might be able to shine some light inside the black box. But we can't do that. The best we can do is compare our offers with our friends' offers and guess why they're different, remembering that what made a difference this month may not be relevant next month.

The black box has morphed into a black hole in the Covid era. I know a small player who hasn't gotten a mailer since March. Another who gets fewer multiple points days offers than I get. One casino didn't send me any offers for October, yet he has gotten a mailer every month from that casino. Another casino ghosted me in September then sent me a mailer for October. It was much easier when we were only comparing free play and dining credits.

Other players have mentioned having mailerless months. It looked like the two casinos I frequent now might alternate months in sending me mailers, but then I received mailers from both for November. I'm not complaining. Just wondering why I fell out of favor one month. I suspect the casino's answer would be "it's not you, it's me."

I received a postcard to participate in spooktacular Halloween promotion, the kind of promotion I didn't think we'd see again for quite a long time. Present the postcard at the promotions area to draw a card from the drawing box. The color of the card you draw determines how much cash you win, from $5 to $50.

I had to go to that casino to use a dining credit that was expiring that day, so I checked out the promotion. After they verified your eligibility to participate, they gave you a glove to wear when you drew from the box.

I was going to say that I didn't need the glove because I always have a couple of sanitizing wipes in my hand when I'm in a casino and I would wipe my hand right after drawing, but then I realized that the glove's main purpose was to prevent me from infecting the cards in the box. The security guard keeping a watchful eye on the box encouraged me to draw a green card. I drew a yellow card, good for $8. Better than the minimum.

My free hot pastrami sandwich cost me only $72 -- the $80 I lost playing a Quick Hit machine, less the $8 I won in the drawing.

Once I was talking to Jean Scott's husband, Brad, about a movie ticket promotion. If you played a certain number of points, you qualified for a free movie ticket.

He asked me, "How much did that ticket cost you?"

"About $300," I said.

Most people would find that insane, but we just laughed.


Question: My vacation from March will now take place in November, first week. When I rebooked airline, hotel, car, etc., I thought things were getting 'better', both in Las Vegas and Chicago area, where I live. Unfortunately, literally within the past 7-10 days, the whole country 'ballooned up' with Covid cases and deaths. This caused more angst, again, and brought another important decision to the forefront.

Despite concerns, we are proceeding with our trip, there will be 4 of us. Others who were coming with us have decided the risk was too great. I am rationalizing that all the steps to protect ourselves and others will be taken, so we all can call this a vacation. Yes, we will miss some of our favorite eats, shows, and other entertainment. But we know enough gaming will keep us busy, while weather is the other big plus. We will gain roughly 25-30 degrees coming down to LV, versus staying at home. As I had mentioned in past letters, gaming in the greater Chicago area just is not the same as Las Vegas.

Answer: I too have been bitten by the "postpone--things will get better" hope. In April my doctor wanted me to have some tests done. There was no hurry, he said, so I could schedule them in June when we would have a better handle on the virus. Things were worse in June. I postponed a dental hygiene appointment in July to avoid the summer surge only to go a few weeks ago in the beginning of the winter surge.

Come now, there's no reason to believe that things will get better in the next few months. Mask usage is nearly universal in Las Vegas. I never see anyone in the grocery store, Starbucks, Dunkin, and food outlets without a mask. Players in casinos wear masks, but some use their pack of cigarettes or water bottle as an exemption to not wear a mask even when they're not smoking or drinking.

Airplane travel seems to be relatively safe, despite being in an enclosed area, probably because of the way air flows down from the ceiling in the cabin to the floor.

On 10/25/20, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that "we are not going to control the pandemic." (https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/25/politics/mark-meadows-controlling-coronavirus-pandemic-cnntv/index.html)

Really? Tell that to Australia, which recently reported no -- zero, nada, goose egg -- new Covid cases one day. And a total of 907 deaths. Total. Since the pandemic began. We frequently have more deaths per day now. If we had done as well as Australia, we would have a little over 10,000 deaths, not 230,000.

South Korea had the first confirmed case the same day as the U.S. South Korea has 472 deaths. If we had done as well as South Korea, we would have about 3000 deaths.

Maybe the virus can't be completely controlled, but other countries have shown that it can be slowed.

In the Mark Meadows interview I referenced above, Meadows indicated that the administration is all in on vaccines and therapeutics. He didn't specifically address the mitigation efforts scientists have been recommending for the past six months.

"What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don't die from this," Meadows said.

Um, how about mitigating the spread of the virus?

I know a 100% effective method to not die from Covid-19. Don't get infected.


Question: The following may be of interest to you. https://dangoodspeed.com/covid/total-cases-since-june

Answer: It was very interesting. The page contains an animated chart showing how the states' rankings in cases per capita changed from June 1 through the current day. The bars on the chart are drawn horizontally. The length of the bar indicates the number of cases per capita. The higher the bar, the more cases per capita that state has compared to states lower on the chart.

Each state's bar is color coded based on its political leaning. The blue bars gradually sink towards the bottom of the chart while the red and pink bars rise to the top.

The creator of the chart, Dan Goodspeed, has this comment at the bottom of the page: "The results suggest a strong correlation between a state's political leanings and its ability to employ proven science to slow the spread of COVID." Linsey Davis said this on ABC's election night coverage: "Our analysis is showing that the redder a state is, meaning the more support they have for Trump, the higher the number of hospitalizations per capita in the past two weeks."


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots