Casino Marketing: Making Everyone a Winner

kiosk

Over the years I have turned around numerous casinos. Many were at rock bottom when I was brought in, and some even brought me back more than once. There are two facts these experiences taught me: One, keep promotions simple, and two, be creative.

This month a casino sent me an email for my birthday, which I opened on my smart phone. It said just print this offer and bring it to the casino to receive your birthday gift. I thought that’s nice, but how do I print it? Since most things are going paperless nowadays, why ask me to find a printer in this era of bar codes and scanning? Or make it even easier by saying, “Use reward number XXX at guest services.” Sometimes our promotions get too sophisticated; keeping them simple is the key.

Over the holidays I noticed several businesses gave away gift cards with purchase. One restaurant I went to gave away gift cards with an unknown amount that were good after the holidays. The gift cards’ value ranged from $5 up to $1000. That was a simple, well-thought-out promotion that worked because it had that surprise element of what you would win, plus everyone was still a winner. That promotion got me back in the restaurant in January. Casino marketing managers should take note of what other businesses are doing successfully and adapt it to their business. They do not have to re-invent the wheel with every promotion.

Recently I went to one of the largest casinos chains in the world for a few days as their guest. One thing that stood out on this visit was the casino had a kiosk where you swiped your card to see if you won anything, but it was only on Tuesday, and as far as I could tell, everyone got the same message on the screen: “Sorry, you didn’t win.” The fact that we drove 100 miles to a casino property should be rewarded with something, even a hat. It’s simple: Make everyone feel like a winner.

Some marketing genius thought this would drive business on a slow day and since it is all automated, they could eliminate a host. I am sure he told his boss how he created something that saved money. What he did not realize was his bright idea created a dead feeling in the casino.

Besides making everyone feel like a winner, I discovered another marketing secret that will do wonders for any casino. It is as simple as going on the casino floor and inviting your customers (this has to be random) to a focus group and lunch with your management and senior executives. The customers are encouraged to give an honest assessment about what they really like about the casino and what they feel the casino can improve on.

This creates the most amazing feedback. You hear, “You are right, and you know what else…?” The customers feed off each other’s reactions. You can’t do this with surveys; it has to be done in group sessions.

Another problem many casino managers have is doing the hard work required to take a promotion to the next level. Once a marketing manager said to me, “We printed the flyers and placed them around the casino. Now I am going to do an email blast to market this event.” I thought, “Ok that’s just the beginning, but what’s next? That gets you from A to C, but what about A to Z?”

Let me explain what that means. To get to Z requires hard work and connecting with the customers both before and after the event. This is where most marketing managers fail.

To promote my billiard events, I would mail flyers to every pool room and pool bar in Southern California, then I would personally visit the pool rooms to talk to people every night. The result was these events always sold out. People could not understand why they were the most successful billiard events in the country. I did not want to fail and took nothing for granted. That’s the Z factor.

As I said at the beginning of the article, successful casino marketing requires simplicity, creativity and hard work. Marketing is the same whatever business you’re in. Everyone wants to feel like a winner. The kiosk that said, “Sorry, you’re not a winner” was funny to me because I always considered myself a winner.

The casino could reprogram that kiosk to give you the feeling that you are a winner, which would give you a positive feeling at the start of your visit. Marketing managers should always work toward the Z factor or what I like to call, “How can I make everyone feel like a winner?”

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino marketing expert. Robert is most well- known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002, and he also created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino both in 1995.

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing and managing group.

Follow Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. Robert Turner can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and teaching.

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Honor and Integrity in Poker and Gambling

Bicycle Casino

The poker world has been rocked in recent years by various scandals from the Absolute Poker super user and the collapse of Full Tilt Poker to the recent Borgata counterfeit chips scandal. This got me to thinking about honor and integrity in gambling and reminded me of the words a bookie in Alabama told me over 35 years ago.

Eddie was the life of our home poker games for years. Every Tuesday he would come by our game and settle up with the poker players, and then he would throw a little money away in the game. He was not really trying to win; he just liked to gamble.

This week was different. He owed around $25,000 and called to say he would need a week to settle up. This sent shockwaves through our small poker world. How could this happen?

When he stopped by the next week, I called him into a room and said, “Eddie, what happened? You have always been so honorable.” He said, “The truth is I didn’t pay attention to my business. I always wrote the parlays and teasers and put them in a cigar box and looked at them on Monday mornings because they were usually losing propositions. This time they all won, and it was for over $1 million. I got broke. I’m now poor Ed. Robert, you can only be honorable as long as you can be honorable.”

The mistake Eddie made took away his honor, but he had confronted the issue head on; he didn’t try to hide from it. The following story told to me by legendary Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro, now running the South Point’s Race and Sports Marketing division, demonstrates the opposite.

Jimmy was talking to a bookmaker friend of his that was having a bad season. He said, “Jimmy, it has all come down to an airplane game.” Jimmy asked him what an airplane game was, and he replied, “I’m going to the airport to watch the game. If my players lose the game, I’m back in action and have a bankroll. If my players win, then I’m catching a plane to who knows where.”

Poker in California was in a similar predicament at one time. For over 50 years, California had become the training ground for the best cheats in the world because everybody handled the deck in pass-the-deal games. This created games that were plagued by everything from petty cheating to full-blown organized theft.

However, when hold’em was legalized in California, it changed everything. George Hardie and Mike Caro were at the forefront of this change. As Caro says, “I realized that the old days of pass-the-deal and five-card draw would vanish.” He explains that this change would “lead to a complete rethinking of the California poker product with professional dealers and much safer and ethical games.”

After George Hardie cleaned up the games, I remember a couple of cheaters came down from Northern California and cheated the high-limit games at the Bicycle Casino with marked cards which they had managed to get a floor person to put in. This resulted in thousands of dollars being lost at the big game. Hardie instructed his management team to give the players their money back, which was over a hundred thousand dollars.

Hardie could do this because he had the money, and it protected the integrity of the game and the business he founded. He let people know he would do whatever it took to restore the honor of the game.

I faced similar challenges as the General Manager of the Horseshoe Casino in Gardena, California, as we transitioned from the old pass-the-deal days to center dealers. Changing the way people perceived the card room was my biggest task.

Today the new frontier is online gaming, and it is experiencing some of these same growing pains. Caro, along with his colleague Bill Handy, continues to advance ethical poker by working on a new system called COPS to detect online cheating. This shows how things change and still stay the same.

This takes me back to the words Eddie said at the beginning of the article. You can be honorable only as long as you can be honorable. And in the case of Borgata, regulation can only go so far; you can only regulate what you can regulate.

If someone is determined to cheat, he will find a way. We, as players, always need to be vigilant to protect each other and the game we love. That is the only honorable thing to do.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino marketing expert. Robert is most well- known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002, and he also created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino both in 1995.

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing and managing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.
Robert Turner can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and teaching.