CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: When casinos discourage players from playing

9 January 2019

Not much changed the first two years I lived in Las Vegas. The video poker inventories at the casinos I play in stayed pretty much the same, as did their slot clubs. The floodgates opened this past year, however, and there were video poker changes (mostly downgrades but one upgrade!) or slot club changes or both at almost every one of my casinos. In many cases, these changes actually discourage people from playing.

I am specifically not referring to lowering video poker pay tables, changing how much you have to play to earn a point, changing how many points you need to move up the tiers, or changing multipliers for multiple-point days. I wasn't invited to the meetings the companies had when they decided on these changes, but I'm sure that the marketing folks did the analyses to determine how much business they expected to lose from these changes.

I am referring to actions the casinos could have taken — and could still take — to stay within the new philosophy and encourage players (well, at least me) to play more.

I'm not going to identify the casinos and casino chains by name because I was not in their meetings and I don't know the reasoning behind why they're doing what they're doing. Players might have a different reaction than shaking their heads and wondering if they had seen the analysis supporting the changes. Nevertheless, I think many people will be able to identify the players in my examples.

Chain A bought Casino B a few years ago. Even though you could use the chain's players card at Casino B, the Casino B's marketing was separate from the rest of the casinos in Chain A. Casino B had its own free play amounts and schedule and its own multiplier days. Casino B also had a very nice gift program. But you had to be attentive to the fine print on the Chain promotions. Some included Casino B, most did not.

At the end of the summer, Casino B got more fully folded into the Chain A family. Players like me who played at Casino B and another Chain A casino went from two mailers each month, one for their primary casino in the Chain and one for Casino B, down to one. I stopped receiving a Casino B mailer because they determined that my primary casino was another one in the Chain. Friends of mine who didn't also play at another Chain casino continued to receive a Casino B mailer, which was slightly different from the Chain mailer.

There's just one free play program now, one multiple-points day program, and one kiosk game program and you can participate in them at Casino B or any other casino in the chain. Casino B has become just another casino in the Chain.

Maybe Casino B's marketing could have remained separate, maybe it had to be subsumed into the Chain. In any event, I now have no reason to go to Casino B because it has nothing that I can't get at my primary casino in the Chain, which is much closer.

Well, maybe not quite no reason. Casino B did run a promotion over the summer for which it sent me an e-mail invitation. That got me to go back to the casino. And casino B did have a few Casino B-only gift days two months ago. I only knew about them because my friends who still received the Casino B mailer told me about them. Although I was no longer an invited guest who would get the gift without playing, I could play to earn the gift.

But Casino B kept that a secret from me. You'd think it would still send some marketing e-mails to players who used to get the invited guests offers in the past and not just forget about them. But I get the feeling that Chain A has decided that since I dated another casino while I was dating Casino B, I had to choose one and the Chain chose the other casino for me.

Given that there's nothing now that Casino B offers me that I can't get at my primary casino, is the Chain sure that I'm going to move the play that I used to give to Casino B to my primary? I used to play quite a bit at both to get good offers from both. Why don't I just take my Casino B play to another casino and use it to improve my standing there?

This is a decision that each chain must make: Is it going to encourage a player to play at more than one casino in the chain or just push one casino and accept marginal play at the others?

Over at Chain C, it completely revamped its slot club. The bottom line is that the changes made it easier for slot players to earn rewards and harder for video poker players.

I've written before that I think video poker players have flown under the radar the past decade or so. How does a casino raise its prices? Either by lowering long-term paybacks or cutting slot club benefits. The slot floor shifted from relatively high payback reel-spinning machines to relatively low payback video slots the last decade. The shift increased revenue from the slot floor. Now that the slot mix is where casinos want it, how can they increase revenue on the slot floor? Time to look at video poker.

One change the chain made was to change to the number of points you earned for each dollar played from a fixed amount to a small guaranteed amount plus some arbitrary bonus amount. When it's a multiple-points day, the multiplier pertains; otherwise it's the guarantee plus bonus.

The Chain said that this change gives them more flexibility in awarding points. It's even possible that the Chain determines the bonus on a player by player basis, though the limited documentation available does not indicate that. My bonus always seems to be zero or close to it. As a result, I earn fewer points playing slot machines in the new club than I did in the old one.

Reading between the lines (and doing the math), the changes were designed to bring some sort of correlation between long-term payback and the amount of play required to earn a reward. Slot players have a much easier time of it than video poker players. Chain B is trying to encourage less video poker play and more slot play. So why not give players (well, me) a bonus for playing slots? At least the same number of points I used to earn in the old club.

I fear that 2019 will bring more bad news. Some friends and I were excited to see that a particular casino was going to have some double points days on video poker, which it hadn't had for many months. Then we also found out that it doubled the amount of play required to earn a point on video poker, so you needed a double points day just to get back to what you earned on a normal day in 2018.

But we have to have hope.

I remember a scene in a documentary about problems dating an Egyptian artifact. Based on a city name in the artifact, the artifact should come from an early period. But based on other aspects of it, the artifact should come from a later period. City names don't go from A to B and then back to A, so the experts were perplexed.

Then someone pointed out that St. Petersburg became Petrograd, then Leningrad, and then went back to St. Petersburg. City names can revert. Maybe the artifact was showing us that the city name went back to its original name in the later period and should be dated to the later period.

A casino near me used to have good video poker. Then it became so-so for many years. But this year, it brought back some high-paying games. Video poker downgrades can be reversed. Any change can be reversed.

We have to have hope.


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