As operators of gaming enterprises, adjusting to this new world, we can confidently say that “what is paying the bills” is our gamblers, and they really do matter.
For ten years, all we heard was “non-gaming revenue, non-gaming revenue, non-gaming revenue.” In that time we’ve seen Black Jack payoffs go to 6-5, the rake in poker going up to whatever you could get away with, and penny slots with payback percentages at 85% because they were penny games. Never mind players are spending $1 to $2 a pull.
Non-gaming was not much better, $40 resorts fees, $10 beers plus a service charge for ordering a drink at the bar, and $500 to go see a show.
Oh, how the times have changed.
I saw an ad on Twitter recently that a Strip property was giving away $75,000 in cash on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I can’t say that I have ever seen that type of promotion on the Strip which shows the desperation. So, how do we all survive this crisis and bring back the true gambler?
Here are three examples of who a gambler is and what they want.
Improve the experience
More than anything, the gambler hates waiting on anything. It could be drink service, dinner reservations, standing in line at the cage, or any other line for that matter. How can you streamline the process so everything is at their fingertips?
- Many places now have drink service available to be ordered from your gaming device.
- Cash transactions can be completed at many of the kiosks including ATM services, cash advance transactions, and even check-cashing.
- Cash services will be available right at the gaming tables.
- Apps on your phone will become even more prevalent for making dinner or show reservations. Checking into your room where your phone becomes your key means never having to step in line.
- Train your team to be able to provide answers to common questions they are going to get. What times are your restaurants open? How do the promotions work?
- Maybe the most important training is how to be positive. With everything going on, the last thing guests want to experience is negativity and that starts at the top of management.
Define your marketspace
Knowing where your gambler is from and how to get them to your casino is now critical. Certainly, those markets that require extensive travel have found little success.
- Identify a 75-mile radius and target that group who is willing to come more frequently.
- Target a younger than normal age demographic.
- Define your marketing spend to strategically control expenses.
- Use a direct contact method as much as possible with a specific message in mail, email, or social media asking them to buy.
The older demographic has been a more difficult target to engage. The fear of preexisting health conditions has kept a large portion of those gamblers at home.
When creating value to a gambler, it is basically just giving them a fair shot. How we price the game influences the ability to not only attract the gambler but to bring them back. Somewhere along the way that became less important as the non-gaming revenue seemed to take a more centralized focus. I remember a casino executive in an article a few years ago that stated that a dollar was a dollar regardless of where it came from. The problem to me is the cost of goods to generate that dollar in the non-gaming is not the same.
Now that non-gaming revenue has disappeared, we’re back to where it began, sitting at the tables and slot machines.
- Time on device was almost a forgotten term because 10% or more hold percentage has become the expected norm.
- Casinos with 92%, 93% and 94% payback are still making money … maybe more.
- Penny games aren’t penny games. Stop setting them with 87% paybacks or less.
Table games also has opportunities. Understanding your market and what you have in front of you is key.
- What should your table limits be?
- What is your game mix?
- How do you utilize side bets? Is house advantage more important than participation?
- Don’t be afraid to raise the table limits on your side bets or think that they have to be equal to your base bet.
- Do you target your high-end players or are you looking to build mass?
All of these fit into what you need to do. Almost all table games directors would agree that adding side bets have increased the overall hold percentage of the game as well as the win. What you want is actually a wager that is getting played instead of theoretical win projection.
The one thing that is consistent with a gambler is that over time they will give you their money. But they want to have some time to enjoy it. Gamblers play because they like to play, give them a reason.
Understanding the lifetime value of a player is much more important than what I win today. Many years ago, an old boss of mine had a conversation with a player who was looking for an extension on a line of credit. He responded to him with, “Tom, don’t get me wrong I want all your money, I just don’t want it today.” Today. that is the key. Let them enjoy their time in the casino, give them a reason to come back because now the gambler is more important than ever.