The Importance of Internal Relationships

During my casino years, I saw all kinds of relationships in various stages. We regularly had new players who were just meeting the people who worked at our property, so relationships began with the host assigned to follow up to retain the loyalty of those patrons. Other patron-employee relationships had been solidified for years; many of these have continued beyond the confines of the casino’s walls. Among the casino’s associates, there were romantic relationships, work-spouses, friendships, mentoring pairs, and (of course) difficult relationships among all sorts of people. This is to be expected, because the reality is that in any service industry, relationships are the driving force behind the business’s success (or lack thereof).

In Casino Player Development, one must obviously build effective two-way relationships with casino guests. (We discuss how in Relationships 101.)  That’s the biggest part of the job. With this in mind, It’s surprising how many hosts don’t intuitively begin building relationships with co-workers as well. These relationships enable a host to be as successful as possible. Imagine trying to get steakhouse or hotel reservations made and confirmed without the assistance of a co-worker…particularly when fulfilling those ever-present last-minute requests from a big player. Or think about how difficult it could be to enhance a patron’s visit when you plan to surprise her with a spa treatment, but they tell you they’re all booked up and can’t accommodate you. While it is certainly paramount to develop strong working relationships with patrons, the relationships built among co-workers are arguably more important, and are likely to last a lot longer, too. I am still in contact with several former co-workers and know I can count on them even today if I or someone important to me needs their help.sidebyside

Casino guests rely on a number of employees to make their visits go the way they expect, and when hosts can work together with those other employees, everybody wins. In many situations, guest satisfaction can only be achieved through teamwork. That teamwork must, like any other collaborative relationship, be built on a solid base of understanding and communication. 

In the post “A Highroller Told Me,” we learned that a good host works together with both the VIP patron and the associates in the departments the patron utilizes in order to provide the experience that player is hoping to have. This player’s host not only makes appropriate reservations to prepare for his visits, but she coordinates with fellow employees to give them a heads-up that he is coming in and remind everyone about his (and his wife’s) expectations. This host reminds and encourages her co-workers to provide the best possible service to their shared and very valuable guests.

How can you build this sort of relationship with the people who work with you? It’s really not that different than the way host/player relationships are built. Show your appreciation for their efforts. Thank them honestly and effusively, share appropriate gifts and perks, and tell your guests which of your co-workers contributed to their positive experiences. Learn something about them and use that information to refine your efforts to continue growing your relationship. Remember that in order to have a friend, one must be a friend. Find ways to help your co-workers’ jobs easier, make sure their supervisor(s) know how much you appreciate their assistance, and remember that you’re all working toward a common goal: return visits from satisfied, loyal patrons.

Relationship building is certainly important from both an internal perspective as well as from a guest-facing one. Make sure that all the relationships you build are solid. Show how much they mean to you in small ways and make that a habit if it isn’t already one you have. Praise and positivity are always welcome. Use them freely. Everyone will benefit, both in-house and those who visit you.

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Snail Mail 101 for Casino Hosts

Many years ago, in a casino industry vastly different from the one we live in today, hosts usually didn’t send much snail mail to their players. Player tracking was relatively new, so the marketing department did the lion’s share of the work in sending out mailed player communications. Much like today’s core mail pieces, they were often newsletter-y and mostly advertised the upcoming mass promotions, plus they offered free buffets and room rates to known patrons of worth. Hosts mostly glandhanded players on the slot floor and high-fived the familiar faces in the pit. They wrote comps and issued tiered cards to the property’s favorite frequent visitors. Sign-ups were the order of the day: get cards into player’s hands.

Hosts sometimes mailed those tier cards, or made phone calls to support the direct mail campaign for an upcoming tournament, but very rarely did anyone but the “old school” crew take the time to hand write more than a greeting card or thank you note to a player. It wasn’t the priority; relationships were built face-to-face while folks were playing or at VIP events. Loyalty was a lot easier to come by in those olden days. There wasn’t another casino just across the state line or even several from which to choose in the nearest big city, so there wasn’t a real need to send a piece of mail to each and every player the host took care of.

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In the current landscape, where a casino could lose a patron to a competitor at almost any time, those relationships are more important than ever. Making patrons comfortable in your casino is certainly the responsibility of every person who works there, but casino hosts are tasked specifically with securing the patronage of those guests from whom the property has the most to gain. It can be both tedious and time-consuming, particularly for a host who is attempting to do it right. And doing it right means you communicate with your players in multiple ways, using their preferences as a guide.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid when sending out snail (or even e-) mail communications to your hosted players. Obviously hosts need to build positive relationships with these folks to provide them an incentive to return to your casino… so the relationship-building can continue in person while that player is enjoying a visit with you. Doing these things may harm your chances to have that face-to-face opportunity again.

  • Failing to proofread thoroughly can cause serious headaches. How do I know this? Once, an Executive Host was going to send out a letter to his patrons, and I quickly read over it, then approved its release after suggesting a couple of minor changes. I assumed that the host had verified the property’s toll-free reservations number…and long story short, he had not. A string of angry voice mails greeted me the following week, because the prefix (888, 866, 877) in the phone number was wrong and had led the callers to a charge-by-the-minute porn line.  Does anything more need to be said here? Double-check everything for accuracy.
  • Addressing the mail to “Dear Sir or Madam” or anything like it is insulting to your high-worth and high-potential players. Use mail merge to personalize each piece of mail. Also, be sure to correct misspellings of recipients’ names and FIX ALL CAPS before merging the file. If correspondence is coming from a player’s casino host, it ought to be more personal than mail addressed to “…or Current Occupant.”
  • One-size fits all letters are for the Direct Mail team to send out. If you are writing a letter to your entire coded player list, please use mail merge and/or variable fields to include information that is pertinent to the individual who will be reading the letter. Don’t send a summary of every single event going on in the next few weeks. Track preferences among your players and use that to determine which upcoming calendar items will be of interest to which players, and create several versions of the letter to address common interests.
  • Always relying on a printer means your patrons won’t ever receive a handwritten mailer from a host, and that is a mistake. Think about how you feel when you receive a greeting card from your grandmother or favorite aunt. When you see the cursive script on the address panel, you know someone took the time to choose a card and handwrite a message to you. Doesn’t it give you warm fuzzies? You can send the same warm fuzzies to a casino player by handwriting a letter, greeting card, or other note and dropping it into a mailbox. Take the time. The positive impression you’ll make is totally worth it.  
  • Never sending snail mail to your players is a failure as a host, in my opinion. To make the relationships you share with your customers feel more real, you need to communicate with them in a variety of ways, including sending appropriate snail mail. Do you have a player who has been sick? Send a greeting card. Are there players you haven’t seen in a while and you aren’t sure why? Write a letter specific to that issue and send it to the players to say you’ve missed them and invite them back. At the very least, you’ll get some calls and learn why those players haven’t visited recently. Even better, some of them will return because of your letter.

Long story short, hosts should send personalized snail mail communications to their players every once in a while. A host who is responsible for 300 players should send at least 30 pieces of mail each week, meaning they’ll send each patron at least one mailer per quarter and additional cards and letters as appropriate for birthdays, anniversaries, tier card upgrades, illness, new member introductions, or for reactivation purposes.  Broken down this way, a host only needs to generate half a dozen pieces of mail each shift, which should take no more than an hour. That hour (or less) will result in return visits, incoming guest calls, reservations, answers, and increased revenue.

Trust me or test it. That’s my challenge to you. See how much revenue a structured host mail program can generate. Tell us in the comments how it worked for you!

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There Is A Better Way

Are you using MS Excel to run your Player Development program? I’ve been there! The database guy would send me a list of players who met a certain criteria (minimum number of trips and average ADT above $XXX in a particular time frame) and then I’d divvy them up among the hosts. This is how I had to build lists. The hosts would then get an excel file with their player lists, and the lists would be shared to the network so they could update them as they made contact with their players.

The extra time involved cut our efficiency pretty dramatically. Plus some of the hosts were a bit haphazard about updating their spreadsheets in a timely manner, so I had to badger them to fill in their activity so I could accurately assess their work. We didn’t always receive our weekly updates, so we couldn’t keep track of how the team was progressing to goal. There were even times when we didn’t know until a couple of weeks after a goal period had ended whether or not everyone had achieved their goals.

Sound familiar?

There is a better way! Using readily available (and affordable) software solutions, it can be really easy to find worthy players, supplement your hosts’ player lists, assign those patrons for contact, direct your host team to fill events, and see how well they’re progressing to achieve their goals. It can be really simple to find out which new players should be assigned to a host and track whether or not the hosts’ efforts brought those players back to your property. Finding out which players are overdue for a visit, getting daily updates on your team’s effectiveness, classifying patrons based on your business rules (reactivations, incliners, need more ADT to qualify for coding, and much more…it’s all a few clicks away.

If you have brand new hosts, it can be easier for them to get started if they understand what your expectations are. Communicating those expectations via email is fine, but having an interface where hosts can see their assignments every day is both easier for everyone to follow and simpler to execute. Seeing daily updates on which players have come in and what sort of revenue they generated is not as complicated as your database folks may think it is…with the right tools.

There are a lot of companies out there with simple-to-use and affordable solutions (think monthly fee instead of millions in capital expense) that can make your work life so much easier. Harvest Trends is just one of them, and we understand your frustration with “the way we’ve always done it.” We’d love to show you how easy it can be to build the Player Development program of your dreams. If we’re not the right fit for you, we can recommend other products that might work better…and via the RMSA, Harvest Trends is pleased to be able to team up with some of those companies to provide you a more robust and customer-centric combined solution.

Plan now for 2016 to be a more productive year. Ask us how.

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A High Roller Told Me

What things do casinos do that make their high rollers crazy?

I had the opportunity recently to become re-acquainted with a gentleman I’d met some months ago. His wife is my friend’s sister, and my friend kept telling me that her brother-in-law and I needed to have a chat about his casino experiences so that I could gain a deeper insight into the player’s mind. As a Casino Player Development pro, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

This gentleman is the sort of blackjack player most any casino would be happy to have. He’s worth millions in gaming revenue each year, and he is fully aware of the fact that the odds are in the house’s favor. He’s a methodical player who is willing to play a higher minimum per hand in order to keep less experienced players off his table. Let’s put it this way: if he loses, it might mean that table games hits their number for the day, but if he wins it won’t tank the day’s drop. He is looking for the gambling plus a high roller experience that he can share with people who are important to him. If the value is there, he doesn’t so much mind leaving some of his hard-earned dollars behind at the end of his visit.

We sat down in his suite at a Mississippi Gulf Coast casino last week, and after I’d given him a quick breakdown of my experience and my current role, I asked him what casinos do that makes him crazy. This man delighted me by answering that question and then following up with examples of things they do right. I was delighted because many of the things he says are done right are all foundational concepts in casino player development. Basically, this high roller confirmed what I believed to be true about how a strong PD team can contribute to a property’s bottom line.

Since this was where we started the conversation, it’s where I’ll start:

What’s Wrong?

  • Casinos send offers in the mail that aren’t remotely of interest to the player. This player only plays blackjack, but more than one casino sends him slot free play every month. He’s not a tournament player, but his ADT is high enough that he receives multiple invitations to blackjack tournaments. He’d love it if you’d send him something that is meaningful to him instead, and he knows the information necessary to make that happen is in your system somewhere, if you’d only leverage it.
  • Rewards programs veiled in smoke and mirrors. As a player who keeps track of his spend, this gentleman already has a good idea what he’s worth to the casino, and he expects that his rewards will be in alignment with his worth.  It should be easy to tell a patron how many points he needs to earn to advance to a higher tier, whether or not he can receive a comp based on his play, and what his average bet and time played are in the system. If it’s too complicated for your employees to explain, it’s probably too complicated.
  • Being made to haggle over comps. To his point, this guest understands how the system works. He told me about an experience at another South Mississippi casino where he had to make a case for getting a pack of cigarettes comped. He was frustrated by this because he’d just dropped roughly $15,000 at a single blackjack table in a few hours and felt like he was being made to beg for a comp he had surely earned. FYI: He doesn’t go to that casino any more.
  • Employees who don’t have access to pertinent player information. When this guy asks for anything, he anticipates that he has earned it and that his request will be granted. He expects that when a host approaches him, that host will know who he is, how much he’s played, and what rewards are available to him because of that information. He even suggested that hosts should have a smartphone app which would enable them to quickly access such information wherever they are in order to provide the best possible personalized service.
  • Casinos who forget who pays their bills. The casino this patron frequents near his home has recently made some changes that make him feel as though his long-term (and significant) patronage is no longer appreciated. He went from having an executive host who anticipated his needs to having a junior host who will have to call him back when he wants a room or show tickets. Remember, this patron is worth literally millions in gaming spend. But this property is apparently trying to attract even bigger players, and in the process is likely to lose many like this man, who would help to balance the scales when a bigger player wins.
  • Failing to get the details right. When I talked with this player, we were sitting at the dining room table in his suite, smoking cigarettes while we talked. He was staying in a non-smoking suite despite the fact that he’s a smoker…whose cigaretters are sometimes comped by the property. While the casino hotel operator in me cringed, I thought, if you know he’s a smoker and you put him in a non-smoking suite, shouldn’t you expect him to smoke in it?

What’s right?Featured image

  • Sharing the high roller experience with players of opportunity. He related a story from his “home” casino where he headed to the pool only to find it closed for a private party being held for a lower card tier than his. It was exclusive to those patrons who had that level of player’s card. He thought this was a good idea, because he saw the promise of aspirational play from those patrons who attended the party. He wasn’t even annoyed that he couldn’t use the pool because he understood the business reasons for having the party.
  • Hosts who understand and anticipate his needs. His wife isn’t a gambler, but she is definitely interested in the pool, the spa, some of the shows, and the restaurants at the casinos they visit. His host here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast does a pretty good job of keeping track of the things this player will want during a weeklong trip, and she even goes so far as to alert associates in other departments when he (or his wife) is going to be utilizing their services. The special personal touches this property provides mean this player will return again and introduce people in his life to the benefits his play earns. He may take 4 extra people to the steakhouse or ask to exceed the usual number of cabana guests, but his play warrants that and his host doesn’t make him ask: she offers what she knows he will want.
  • Protecting the player’s benefits from unauthorized use. On the flip side of the coin, the casino in question always asks for ID or a room key before anyone redeems or room charges anything. His wife kept her maiden name, so she is sometimes asked to provide identification to ensure that she is who she says she is. While I was with them, the service was exceptional and included accommodation when she didn’t have her driver’s license readily available. She told me about her first visit to the spa where a new employee didn’t recognize her. After a quick call to the player’s host to verify his wife’s bona fides, her request was handled efficiently and professionally, and she appreciated the extra effort required to ensure that her husband’s (and, by extension, her) benefits were being protected.

All in all, I’d say the casino where I talked with this patron gets about an 8.5 out of 10 for their handling of this high roller and his expectations. He agreed that they get it right more often than many of the other casinos he’s visited. That tendency to get it right more often than not has earned that property this high roller’s loyalty and repeat business.

If you aren’t sure you are providing this level of service and attentiveness to your high rollers, perhaps a technology partner would help you to enable your team to take care of your best players better than they do today. Harvest Trends has a suite of tools to help you provide more personalized service and keep players from falling between the cracks and potentially being lost to a competitor. A high roller told me that’s what he thinks the industry needs. Ask Harvest Trends how we can help you provide this experience to your best and up-and-coming players.

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Learn What Your Customers Want

My mom worked in a casino for a number of years, all in table games. She started as a dealer, but loves the challenge of a good math problem…so she ended up being a Pit Manager for a while before she retired. Craps was her favorite. When we spoke last, she told me the story of a patron she enjoyed seeing, while everyone else rolled their eyes when they saw him coming.

The patron, who we’ll call Tom, usually played about $250 per roll on the layout, and he bet a variety of hardways, so doing the math quickly was a little bit of a challenge. Tom made it tougher, though, because he wanted his bets to stay up (something that was perfectly alright to do), so when he won or lost anything, the dealer(s) had to figure out how to pay him or how much to collect to leave his bets on the table for the next roll. My mom enjoyed the mathematics challenge, and Tom liked playing when she was at the table in any capacity because the game moved faster when she was doing the math. He didn’t have to keep leaning across the table; he could collect his winnings and/or toss in what he needed to replace lost bets. Because of this, he would occasionally get in a groove and place a quarter bet for the dealers, also on a hard win so they did pretty well whenever he did. Win/Win, right?

Any person who works with the public should pretty quickly see the lesson in this anecdote: Utilize the strengths of the associates on your team to cater to your customers’ quirks whenever it’s possible and within the guidelines of the associate’s role. If the patron requires a little bit of extra work, and his spend is profitable, it’s worth the effort to make him happy and keep him spending his hard-earned dollars with you rather than have him shopping around.

Tom enjoyed playing his favorite game even more when he didn’t have to work so hard at it himself. The house and the other players benefited, too, because the game moved faster; and when Tom bet for the dealers, other players would too, sometimes. Tom would stay and play longer, the shift moved along faster, toke rates were good, and my mom’s brain enjoyed its math exercise.

How can you benefit from learning about your customers’ quirks and catering to them? Well, in most cases, very little separates one brick-and-mortar establishment from another. Stores have displays with merchandise, restaurants have food and a “system” for getting it to you, hotels have rooms in which you can rest; even online experiences are pretty much the same…you see where this is going, right? What makes one better or more special to a valuable customer are the little things your place does better for them than anyone else.

Personally, there is a local restaurant that I truly enjoy going to. There is outdoor seating, right next to the water, so the view is fantastic with a lovely breeze even on the warmest evenings. That alone is a pretty compelling reason for me to go there, but they also have great food and the staff is really friendly. We’ve had some hits and misses in terms of the skill of our server from time to time, but since everyone in our house who is old enough to have a job has waited tables at one time or another, we get that it can be a tough job to do well. We assume they’re new and cut them a little slack, because the food is really good, and there are little surprises from time to time. Simple things, like logo sunglasses from one of the beers they were featuring, the birthday girl’s name written in caramel sauce on the plate containing her free brownie a la mode, a visit from the chef (who came bearing balloons for all the kids).  All these things made up for the waiter who didn’t know what draft beers were available or the lack of a certain menu item that day.

Learn what your customers appreciate, however you need to make that happen. Interact with them. Try things to delight them and measure the response. Set up a tracking system so you know what they like and what they don’t. Play different music on different days, toss a free sample into a shopping bag, give a discount to people whose driver’s license number ends in 9, whatever. Heck, you could even send your customers a survey and ASK them what they like or wish you did to show your appreciation for their patronage.

Doing so might be the difference between you getting their available spend or having them shop around to find a new place to spend it.

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Communications in Casino Player Development

Casino hosts have a responsibility to develop working relationships with their players. In addition to this, they are often tasked with identifying worthy patrons who would benefit from a host’s service and beginning to build relationships with these folks, too. Then there’s the inevitable situation where a host has to mollify an upset guest…and all of these important host roles require effective communication.

To put this into perspective, imagine that you have moved to a new town or city. You don’t know many (if any) people there, and you need to start building a local support network. You are introduced to new faces and have to find some common ground in order to begin getting to know them and determine what place they may have in your “new” life. It works much the same way when you are a host, except you have to do this with literally hundreds of new people.

Getting to know you…

Learning about a person you don’t know is simple: ask questions and remember what you discover. Offer information about yourself that is relevant and will allow him to determine what place you may have in his or her life. Sharing anecdotes, discovering common interests, and listening to learn (rather than listening to respond) all indicate that you are investing something of yourself to build something of benefit to you both. This takes only a short time if you hit it off right away, but it might take longer if you don’t have a lot in common in the beginning.

Expressing an  ongoing interest…

By asking questions, you allow your new acquaintance to tell you all about his favorite subject: himself. When it’s your turn to reply, indicate your understanding by repeating what you’ve just learned in your own words, then inquire further to either gain more understanding or clarify that you truly “get” what that patron has shared with you. Then, in subsequent communications, confirm your interest by sharing only what is of interest to that individual.

In Casino Player Development specifically, that means not inviting a slot player to a blackjack tournament. Don’t send a mass e-mail to all your players with a listing of every single event that’s coming up. Instead, write a handful of variations that focus on topics of interest to a subset of your patrons. When you send out greeting cards or notes to your guests, be sure to include something that ensures the recipient will understand that you see her as an individual.

Take notes and reference them

One of the most legendary hosts I ever heard of was a gentlemen who had left my first property before I was hired. He was legendary because he remembered things about his players that most people wouldn’t. The story that I was told first about him has stuck with me for many years: he had a guest whose dog, Jake, had suffered a broken leg which had to be put in a cast for several weeks. This host sent the guest a handwritten card to wish Jake a speedy recovery and to express his dismay over Jake’s injury. Rumor has it that the patron refused to go to another casino as long as this gentleman was his host because he’d taken the time to send well wishes to the guest’s dog, who was the man’s four-legged child in a sense.

Since most of us aren’t equipped to remember this level of detail about several hundred people (and those who are important to them), it’s critical to keep track of the information you gather about your players. Whether you write it down, enter it into your CRM or CMS, create your own “database,” or do something else, this effort will endear you to your players because they will know you’ve paid attention to their priorities.

Always follow up

This may seem like a  no brainer, but it needs to be stated clearly: don’t drop the ball! (And when you do, own it and fix it as quickly and painlessly as possible. It will happen. Be an adult about it.) Whether it’s a reservation confirmation, the answer to an inquiry, or simply a reply to a guest communication, make your responses timely and accurate. Don’t leave your players waiting or guessing. Instill confidence in your service by being on top of the details and communicating them to the pertinent patron. Being dependable is one of your biggest assets.

Remember the basis for your relationship

Many hosts with whom I’ve worked have some players with whom they are close on a more personal level. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can go too far. Sharing things of a very personal nature is potentially problematic, as it changes the dynamic of your relationship. Spending time with a player outside the casino’s walls is sometimes a part of the job, though there are instances where a host can find himself “owing” a guest for the experiences shared elsewhere. Instead of having the patron see you as their personal casino “concierge,” they may begin to see you as a friend, and they’ll expect your relationship to feel like an ordinary friendship, even though there are some boundaries you might soon find yourself banging your head against (or breaking).

Always remember that the player’s first loyalty should be to the casino you represent and not to you personally. Keep in mind that you know this person because you are supposed to provide caring and consistent service to them. Don’t let a too-personal connection get you into trouble either personally or professionally. As in any relationship, things will go awry at some point and the host will be at a disadvantage when a team leader inevitably has to step in.

Keep it real

Another no-brainer, but I’ve seen it often enough to include it here: don’t make stuff up and don’t tell lies. The truth will come out eventually, and trust broken is extremely difficult to regain. If you don’t know the answer to a guest’s question, say so and pledge to find out and follow up with them (see that point above). Instead of speculating or guessing, demonstrate to the guest that you want to know the answer, too.

Patrons talk with one another and sometimes they know more than the hosts think they do…so always be honest. This doesn’t mean that giving someone proprietary information is okay, either; use professionalism and discretion to determine how to respond accurately and diplomatically at the same time.

For example, if a host is handling communication with a patron who is upset at her failure to receive an invitation to an ADT-based event, the best recourse is to explain that her play during the qualifying period wasn’t quite what it needed to be and give her a basic guideline for qualifying for future events in which she’s interested. Don’t tell her the ADT number; instead, tell her how many points she needs to earn in future visits to make it onto the list. This tactic works for those who are upset about card tier status, mail offers, and promotions as well.

Communicate based on the patrons’ preferences, not your own

So you don’t really text very well, or maybe you don’t like to talk on the phone. That’s something a host needs to put aside because the best way to communicate with a guest is the way the guest prefers you to. If I’m your player and I tell you I’d rather you text me, then text me. I’m going to be annoyed if you insist on making a phone call or if you send me an e-mail when you have something to share with me. When one form of communication goes unanswered, choose another method to inquire as to the most convenient way to get information to that patron.

If you take away only one thing from this post, it should be this:

It’s not all about you

Keep this key concept in mind, and remember to communicate with patrons based on their preferences and interests. (Reading that sentence, it seems this post could have been a LOT shorter, because that sums it right up.

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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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