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Advice for the Owner of the New Golden Nugget in Atlantic City

26 June 2011

The Trump name recently came off the Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City. It will now become The Golden Nugget.

The casino owner, Tilman Fertitta, is a business and financial genius and certainly was well aware of the shrinking Atlantic City casino market when he agreed to purchase and renovate the aging Trump Marina. He surely realizes that the days of the casino oligopoly are over.

In the northeast, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and New York now have casinos. Other nearby states have or are pursuing slot parlors or racetracks with so-called "VLTs".

Competition for the gambler's action will be fierce. The Golden Nugget cannot just make cosmetic changes and think it will be successful in the long term. This is like changing the curtains on the Titanic. The Golden Nugget must have the foresight to see what makes a modern casino successful.

To stand out from the crowd I recommend the following:

Do Not Be Greedy

Give the average gamblers a chance to get their money's worth. Players are willing to risk their bankrolls as they flirt with lady luck, but they want to feel like they have a chance to come out ahead. Most players accept losses as the price for casino entertainment, but they do not want to feel like they were suckers.

The Pennsylvania casino executives were recently thwarted in their attempt to change the state's player friendly blackjack regulations. In their greed, hubris and arrogance they petitioned for permission to change some of the most player-friendly blackjack rules to run of the mill high house edge games, similar to those in Atlantic City.

If enacted these changes would have put Pennsylvania blackjack on the same level as many casino carnival games.

Fortunately, players protested and the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board refused to change the rules.

So, what is a good game? For starters let me suggest the following:

BLACKJACK: Give us 3-2 BJ with the dealer standing on soft 17. Use 4-6 decks, hand shuffled. Want to have a promotion? Keep the free can opener. How about offering BJ "early or late Surrender" one day a week? Vary the day. Do not advertise which day it will be in advance. Just advertise the policy.

Let the players know that surrender, may be available in your casino as he drives down the Atlantic City Expressway. Most people will not even properly utilize the surrender option, but they probably know that they should play where it is offered rather than where it is not. It is like the old story of the guy that moves from New York City to Arizona. A buddy calls him and asked how he likes his new home. He says he misses Broadway shows. His buddy says, "I never knew you went to Broadway shows." He responds "I didn't but it was nice to know they were there if I wanted to."

CRAPS: Give us 10x odds. Let us buy the 4 and 10 without a vig on a loss. Believe me, the hold will be up and the player will be happy.

ROULETTE: How about single zero wheels? It cuts the vig in half, yet the house still has a nice edge.

CARNIVAL GAMES: Did anyone ever notice every Pai Gow poker game is always 100% filled? So put in more tables! Sure, it is a slow game, but it is also a slow death for most players' bankrolls. The casino executive that understands that making a player happy is making him feel he is getting value for his gambling dollar. Everyone wants value in all aspects of his or her life.

TABLE MINIMUMS: These should be realistic for the novice player or the infrequent visitor. I have seen friends (occasional players) go to AC for their once or twice a year trip with a certain amount of money and not gamble at all because the minimums were too high. If the tables would have been reasonable, the casino would have had a pretty good shot at the person's bankroll. But the unnecessarily high minimum bet gave them a "scared money" complex, and they chose not to play. Who has not seen players unable to get on a lower limit craps table while the higher limit is ten feet way with no players?

Cut the Junk Comps

Casinos should cut out the nonsensical cheap enticement gifts. I get postcards offering me things such as tote bags, small appliances, coolers, etc. I have plenty of junk; I do not need more, so I never avail myself of any of these types of offers. Besides, who wants to lug this stuff around the casino all day?

Also I do not see how these offerings bring anyone other than the coupon-clipping bus people into the casino. Nothing against coupon-clipping bus people, (you have to say that now) God love them, but I believe the casino marketing executives are on the wrong track.

These offers are not attracting the discriminating player, the person that enjoys gaming as a hobby, the person that has discretionary income that is earmarked for entertainment and seriously the person that fits this profile does not want that junk. That is for the "come in and get a free pull of the giant slot machine crowd". That is the thinking of the past.

People want comps that make them feel like they are special. They want to feel appreciated. If they come down fairly regularly and they want to stay over, upgrade them to a suite now and then. Many casino executives are hesitant to give out the high-end suites. But if the room is going to be unoccupied, why not make the player feel important? After all, the room is sitting empty. The only cost to the casino is for housekeeping to tidy up the room.

Appreciate the Table Game Player

We all know slots are the bread and butter of the casino. The once lowly slot player is now a valued customer. The casinos entice slot players with slot tournaments. They also have contests in which only those actively playing slots are eligible. In addition, there are programs that provide "slot dollars" to players based on their play.

All this is great for the slot player, but the table game player is left feeling like the proverbial red-headed step-child.

Developing programs to recognize the table game player is essential, but more importantly dealers and pit personnel must be trained to make the player feel appreciated. The scowling miserable dealer -- and they are in AC casinos -- should be banished from the casino floor.

Dealers should be trained to gauge their player's personality. Some players want to play quietly, others like to joke and chat as they play. The dealers are in the service business. The service they provide is helping a player to have an entertaining experience.

The Golden Nugget in AC has the potential to be an Atlantic City "game changer." Doing the same thing that is sinking the other AC properties will doom the casino to a slow, agonizing financial death.

The Golden Nugget can hire all the "bean counters" in the world to do study after study, but I know empirically that unless the casino executives go back to the old Las Vegas thinking of giving the player a good gamble and a good time, the Golden Nugget will follow the other AC properties as they slip and slide into a third-rate destination.

If you do not believe me, look at what the greed of the tax hungry politicians and inept racing executives did to the New Jersey horse racing industry. Between taxes and the huge vig, they removed the allure for new race fans. Sure there are still a handful of wizened racing aficionados around. But you are hard pressed to find anyone in the younger generations interested in horse racing.

Follow this advice and you will find that the casino will still make plenty of money. The player will not feel cheated. He will feel he got a fair shake. The big thing is he will be back. Not only that, he will tell his family and friends about the casino that gives the player a fair shot. He and his friends will fill the bars, restaurants, and shopping areas.

Scan
Scan works in a top-secret government agency and he is therefore not allowed to reveal his real name or show a picture of himself. We’ve used a clip-art drawing to indicate his nature. Needless to say, he is an extremely bright guy. He is an active member of the goldentouchcraps.com private members-only Web site where he posts his thoughts and gambling theories on a regular basis.
Scan
Scan works in a top-secret government agency and he is therefore not allowed to reveal his real name or show a picture of himself. We’ve used a clip-art drawing to indicate his nature. Needless to say, he is an extremely bright guy. He is an active member of the goldentouchcraps.com private members-only Web site where he posts his thoughts and gambling theories on a regular basis.