War Stories: Cautionary Tales from ‘The Trenches’

Many years ago, I had primary responsibility for a big casino promotion. My bosses were at the big gaming show in Vegas (before it was called G2E; it was a loooong time ago) and I was launching a big 6-week extravaganza without them for the very first time. We had floor sweeps to hand out scratch-off tickets, offering a variety of prizes for matching symbols. Every ticket had the potential to be a winner, but the odds suggested we’d have only one or two “big” winners (of $1000, if I recall correctly) for the entire 6 weeks.   Non-winning tickets could be dropped into a big drawing drum for the grand finale: a pickup truck to be given away on the last night of the promotion. When the second and third “big” prize winners showed up within hours of the first floor sweep, I knew we had a problem. Someone had figured out how to cheat the scratch-off…and I was sure of it when the fourth winner of the night was the same person who had turned in the first winning ticket.

The GM and I wrote an announcement that I would read over the PA to suspend the scratch-off portion of the promotion, and we quickly printed out truck giveaway entries to be handed out until we could sort out the issue with the game tickets. It was with trepidation that I began reading our announcement, but security and a handful of sympathetic guests (regulars, but the good kind) were nearby to offer moral support. Only twice since have I been in front of a crowd so hostile. As I clicked off the microphone and took a step to leave, a handful of them surged toward me, blocking my exit route to complain about the provision that we would not accept any more “winning” tickets. A few of these had multiple tickets in hand, suggesting that they had picked up tickets others had left behind…it was a mess.

From this promotional War Story, I learned many things.

  • Have scratch tickets printed by someone who has lots of experience with them so it’s impossible for players to cheat.
  • Involve the Security Manager and Compliance department when doing promotional planning to help ferret out vulnerabilities in the conceptual stages.
  • Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for the honest guests, even in the face of some who are angry that they can’t take advantage of a vulnerability they found.
  • The NGCB had our back. Our rules were clear and enforceable, and they stayed in the loop with us as we navigated those uncharted (for us) waters.
  • The loudest voices you hear aren’t always the ones you should pay the most attention to. My GM was cool, calm, and collected as we worked through our short-term plan. Loud, angry voices had no place in that discussion, though we obviously thought through the effect we’d have on our guests.

Everyone who has worked with the public at all probably has some pretty good stories to tell; it’s likely they’ve got some that will curl your hair. Thinking about them for this post actually had me chuckling earlier:

  • The club rep who figured out how to cash out points belonging to inactive guests, but didn’t notice the transactions on a detail report the same rep ran each night for the manager’s review.
  • The angry patron who grabbed a supervisor’s tie to pull him over the counter and almost found himself prone when the (former military) associate instinctively drew back a fist. Fortunately, no one was harmed during this little episode.
  • The promotional attendant who set up a promotion to run with pre-determined winners…and didn’t see any problem with that.
  • The guest who called the company headquarters to complain that he’d been told his patronage wasn’t important…since the casino wouldn’t increase his offers just because he thought they weren’t sufficient.
  • The high roller who hung up on his host because the host uttered the word, “No” during a brief phone call. (The host called right back and said “It seems we were disconnected before I had a chance to tell you what I CAN do.” The guest was all ears.)
  • The small gang who gathered at the promotions desk to write down the winner’s names at nearly every drawing because they were convinced the giveaway was rigged against them.

Here’s the best part about these War Stories: every single one of them teaches us something. The club rep learned that there are checks and balances to prevent theft and that a few hundred bucks was all it took to lose a promising career in gaming. The patron learned that he would be asked to leave private property after assaulting an associate, with a minimum 12-month exclusion to boot. All of us who have worked with casino promotions have learned that people feel entitled to win and will always suggest that someone is cheating them if they don’t. The high roller learned that sometimes it’s better to be quiet and listen to the rest of the story before shutting someone down (particularly if it’s someone who can help you). The gang learned more than they ever cared to know about how electronic drawings work, as the executive responsible for promotions gathered them close and did a mini-workshop on the software’s capabilities.

So, tell us in the comments below: what are your favorite War Stories, and what did you learn from them? Any lesson is a good one, though the ones learned “the hard way” tend to stick with us. Those where we learn what NOT to do are even better, because we may not have to live through the awkwardness and difficulties ourselves (or only tangentially).

Share with us the stories that came to mind as you read some of mine. We can’t wait to learn from your experiences!

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About harvesttrends

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