Ten little-known, little-appreciated, and little-used ways for a casino to make more money

March 5, 2024 4:43 PM
  • Dennis Conrad
March 5, 2024 4:43 PM
  • Dennis Conrad

A casino can make more money in countless ways.

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It can cut expenses and reduce staff. It can increase the hold percentage on slot machines. It can require higher minimum bets on table games or have more restrictive game rules that succeed in taking a player’s money faster. It can charge for things that used to be free (parking, hotel amenities, early check-in, etc.). It can raise prices all over the property. These and other profit-enhancing tactics and strategies have been used extensively in the last decade, especially since COVID.

Of course, casino operators have counted on their customers not caring (or not knowing) about all of these profit builders. Maybe they’ve been right, at least in the short term, as many have generated record profits in the last few years. But it is the long term I worry about with casinos, in that casino-goers will start visiting less often, start spending less money, or heaven forbid, stop coming at all.

In this current environment, I doubt very many operators will take me up on my crusade to suggest they start giving more value to their players, instead of less, as a better long-term strategy.

“Sure Dennis, even if you’re right,” they’ll say, “you don’t have my CEO, or my board, or my tribe, or my shareholders pushing me to make my numbers this week, this month, this quarter. Plus, they feel that we already give plenty of value to our customers.”

Fair enough. So what if I give you 10 little known, little appreciated, little used ways to make more money? Try just ONE of them. If it works for you, great. You’ll drive some additional revenue and maybe, just maybe, you’ll see that the benefit in creating value for your players as a way to create value for yourself and your casino. Pick one, give it a shot, and count your money.

1. Text Messages at Restaurants at Busy Times – A few casinos already do this, notably the Palms in Las Vegas for its Wednesday-Thursday lobster buffet. The rationale is simple. Would you rather have players waiting in line at popular restaurants at busy times or text them so they can belly up to a slot machine while they comfortably wait for their call to chow down? Methinks there is certain revenue in that simple move.

2. Mystery Cash Load on Players Club Accounts – I actually saw this well executed at a tribal casino in the Midwest. Let’s say you have 100,000 players in your active database. You pick 1,000 at random (and don’t tell anyone who they are!), then load $100,000 in free play in varying amounts for one day only on their players club accounts, including the account of one lucky player who will be surprised to show up and see $10,000 in free play on their card. You might want to ensure every player gets a minimum of $5 for that day, with generous allocations of free play in the hundreds. Think you’ll have big slot revenue on that day? Bet me!

3. Shill Up the Electronic Crap Games – I used to hate the electronic crap games and their encroachment on live craps. No more! The games are well orchestrated, with wins and losses quickly and accurately tabulated. A player can have lower minimum bets than on a live crap game. And my favorite feature, especially on the single-player-station games: A player can control the pace of the game. But the embracing of electronic crap games by players has been slow to evolve. Shilling them up with players (especially live-game crap players) would have great revenue-generating potential. You can try things like an in-house instructor showing players how to play electronic craps; VIP parties where players get some free play on the games on a particular day; electronic crap tournaments; vendor-sponsored promotions to drive trial; bonus points on electronic craps at off-peak hours. In my opinion, these electronic games (somewhat unfortunately) are the wave of the future. Better to ride the wave than resist it. There’s revenue waiting there!

4. Lottery-Ticket Giveaway – I’ve seen a few casinos try to take advantage of burgeoning jackpots in the various state, regional, and national lotteries, but not many. Every time a lottery jackpot gets huge ($100 million or more), a casino should crank out its “Free Lottery Ticket Giveaway.” The number of tickets given is based on player worth, with a component to earn more on that day. Think I’d make a casino visit to pick up 100 lottery tickets with 100 chances at $100 million or more? You bet your casino revenue I would!

5. New Slot Game Party – Every casino buys new slot machines. Few casinos ask their slot players which slot machines they should buy. Duh! Which is why Dennis’s New Slot Game Party for VIPS would be a huge revenue day! Get a variety of slot vendors to bring some of their new games to an event room at your casino. Put them in demo mode, just like at G2E. Invite 200 VIPS to come play them, telling them you want to buy what they like. Give them $100 in free play and a nice hors d’oeuvres spread. Watch them play the games and ask them which games they like best (you’ll also be able to tell just by observation). Then be sure to buy some of the damn games your best players recommended. You can do this New Game Party with multiple slot vendors (they’ll balk at first, until they see their competitors participating) or with one very lucky exclusive slot vendor who should give you some concessions for it on your next slot purchase. Either way, big revenue day!

6. Instant Tier Upgrades – All casinos have them, new players who show up and play — just like one of the casino’s better players. What’s done with these players? Not much actually. Casinos usually look for multiple trips like this, where a customer plays like a Diamond, Sapphire, Black Gold, or Uranium player (just kidding about the Uranium tier), before they’re given that status with its attendant benefits. But why not make them the tier level they show you on that first trip? Immediately! I guarantee they’ll be super impressed (because few other casinos immediately “up tier”), play longer on that first visit, and return sooner and more often. Sounds like more casino revenue to me.

7. Video Keno Bar with Loose Paytables – I’ll admit I hate keno and video keno. Too mindless, too big of a house edge. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t noticed the hordes of players (especially younger ones) firing up keno on all of those IGT multi-denom games. Want more revenue there? Give these players their own video keno bar and a better gamble there (God knows there’s room in the video keno hold percentage). The “Rad Video Keno Bar. Best Drinks! Best Gamble! Best Jackpots!” You’re welcome.

8. 100X Points for New Slot Players on Their First Day – The goal here is to attract quality new players with an incredibly strong offer based on their play on the first day of players club signup. Okay, I LOVE an offer of 100-times points for its dramatic statement and player impact, but your CFO may not even let you do 20X. Still, I can guarantee that a huge point multiplier will drive more new players to your door and most will be REAL players. Who else would be interested in 100X points?

9. Come and See Me at My Casino – Every casino employee can, should, and will be a marketer for their casino, if we only give them the tools and encouragement to do so. Which is why every casino employee should have a business-like card saying, “Come and See Me at My Casino” to give to friends, relatives, even strangers who’ve never visited the casino. Make sure the card has a reasonable offer on it, set the guidelines for the program with the employees, and reward those who do it well. Your technology will tell you who your marketers are and who aren’t. Promote those who care and perform. It’s very democratic. Who can drive visits? Wouldn’t that be revenue?

10. No ATM Fees – I’ve saved my most controversial revenue-enhancing suggestion for last. Only a few casinos hat do this, but those that do have done so for years. Your CFO will tell you why you can’t do it and how many millions of dollars in ATM-fee revenue the casino would be giving up. I can’t tell you I know for sure the revenue-generating effect of no ATM fees, but I believe strongly there must be one. Do players make more ATM withdrawals (thus more slot play) when there’s no fee? Do players play more exclusively at a casino that doesn’t charge (or gouge) them to get access to their own money? Does it have to be part of a larger “player-value” formula where the player feels the casino cares more about them than the casino up the street? I don’t know. I just know that if I were still a casino-marketing exec, I’d immediately run a promotion of no ATM fees for three months and see what happens. Like all the other suggestions, somehow, I think it would drive more revenue.

Giving more value to players can be very powerful if you believe in it, stick to it, and do it right.

Earlier posts by Dennis

Reno is coming back

Emerald Island: A casino that gets it

Thank you, Richard Schuetz, Again

The all-time top-10 types of casino promotions

Imagining a discussion today with John Romero

A holiday weekend in Las Vegas

It’s okay, they won’t know or care!

Crazy ideas I fell for

The Blonde Elvis

How to stop gambling from being banned

What about these Electronic Crap Games?

Some overdue recognition

My top 10 casino pet peeves

Service you can trust. Really.

I Need Help!

Top 10 things casino players hate

Making lemons out of lemonade

David Kranes: The most unappreciated man in gaming

Two Dinosaurs Walk into a Bar

The magic of Barona

My Top 10 big-picture casino-industry trends

I am your customer

The Rad Bar — If I owned a video poker bar

Stop eroding player value

What? You’re still alive?