Laments From a Modern Day Casino Host

(c)The Photo Group 2019

Somebody somewhere decided to buy the play from our guests

Yesterday I called up one of my players. He lives across the country. With the approaching onslaught of winter, it’s time for the snowbirds to start flocking to my area, and as a casino host, I know it is time to get busy selling them my property, my experiences, my games.

I asked him how he was, how his summer had gone, and if he had enjoyed his recent birthday celebration. He replied in the positive, said all was well, seemed happy to hear from me. After some small talk, when I sensed the time was right, I moved in for the kill. Wasn’t it time to start thinking about a trip, I asked? He paused (hesitated, really), and then spoke slowly and simply into the phone.

“Sure,” he said, “I’d like to come out. So, what are you going to give me to come?”

And it was at that moment that I realized just how wrong it has all gone. You see, we’ve been trying to buy the play from our guests for a long time now. Ever-increasing reinvestment percentages, ever-increasing give-backs and entitlements for our players. Times are tough, everybody’s hurting, so go out and buy the play. Give them whatever they want. Just get them in the door.

Do we really understand what we’ve done? Players are no longer loyal; they simply go where they get the best price. They are shoppers who flit from one store to another. And guess who taught them to do it?

That’s right. We did.

You see, I was taught that as a host, I am a salesperson, a business development executive for my property. And as a salesperson, I was taught to negotiate for guests. But while salespeople in other industries negotiate price, I was taught to never negotiate price, to only NEGOTIATE PLAY.

Play is what I sell. And the price of that play, what I am willing to give them, is an inducement that should be fixed, firmly anchored in the economics of my business model. It is how we make a profit.

So, I was taught to negotiate play, not price.

You can have anything we offer … that’s why we offer it. Now let me tell you how much you have to play to get it. It’s that simple. Or at least it was. Until we messed up the whole thing.

I no longer sell play to my players. The tables are turned. Players now sell their play to me, and I end up buying it with ever-increasing amounts of comps and free play and amenities. What can I get? What will you offer me over and above what’s tendered at the joint across the street?

You know, I didn’t get into this job because I wanted to be a buyer. I got in because I wanted to be a seller, to sell a product that I believe in and love; a product that is equal parts excitement and escape; a product that enriches my players’ lives, that makes them feel like, dare I say it, winners!

So, I am really having second thoughts about whether to keep doing this or not. I really don’t want to point fingers or assign blame, but dammit, somebody somewhere ruined it for all of us. Somebody somewhere decided our product wasn’t good enough by itself. Somebody somewhere decided that the only way we could be successful was if we bribe our guests to buy our gaming experience.

After my conversation with my snowbird player, I gave a lot of serious thought to the whole thing. And I’ve decided that maybe I’ll give it one more try. Maybe I’ll take one more shot at doing this job I love, of selling an experience to my players, an experience that enriches their lives with its equal parts of winning and losing and socialization and escape.

But I’m going to do it differently. I am going to break out of the mold. It’s a risk that I’ve decided I’m willing to take.

I’m going back to my roots, back to the sales skills I was taught so long ago; back to the fundamentals of my true calling as a business development executive.

I am going to start using the knowledge I’ve gained about my players to start creating experiences for them, adventures that have meaning to them over and above the simple offer of more points or free play.

I’m going to quit buying the play and start selling the experience (personal, focused, one-on-one) to every player in my book of business.

I’m going to call my snowbird back and have the conversation. I’m going to tell him that no, I can’t really offer him as much free play as the joint across the street, but you know what? I’ve got Garth Brooks and I know you love country … no, I know you love Garth Brooks, and I’m going to make sure you not only get to see him up close and personal, but I am going to ensure that you get to meet him as well, and I’ll be right there beside you when you do.

No, I won’t offer you airfare reimbursement or cash like the joint across town, but I know your wife likes fashion, actually, I know she loves fashion and shoes! And I’m going to create a trip for you that includes a fashion show just for her in our fashion mall featuring, that’s right, the latest in Jimmy Choo and Jessica Simpson shoes.

No, I can’t offer you discounts on your play, not like the joint around the corner, but I know the only thing you love more in life than your wife and children are your grandkids. And I’m going to offer you a chance to bring them along on one of your trips and put them in a room adjoining your favorite suite. I’m going to set up an all-you-can-eat spaghetti and meatball blowout at our Italian family restaurant and let them slurp down all the slippery noodles they want while getting their picture taken wearing one of those funny chef hats and standing right next to our Italian chef (who just happens to be the spitting image of that old rascal, Chef Boyardee).

Yes, I think that is what I will do from now on. I am going home, to my roots, to my true skill as a seller of adventure and excitement, as a seller of the feeling of being a winner.

“I’m going to quit buying the play and start selling the experience to every player in my book of business.”

Steve Browne
Steve Browne 3 Articles