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Best of Eric Rosenthal

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Comps 101: Hard vs. soft comps

29 September 2018

Unless successful at advantage play, most of us engage in negative-expectation gambling. I’m not an advantage player, but I do focus on maximizing the value I receive in comps to help make up for any losses I may face from my play. In order to be effective at this, it’s important to understand the casino’s cost structure for the comps you seek.

On a very basic level, comps can be broken down into two categories: hard comps and soft comps.

Hard comps come at an actual monetary cost to the casino. This may be at a discounted rate or even full retail, but the casino doesn’t control the asset and must pay “out of pocket” to offer you the comp being requested.

Some of these hard comps are fairly obvious. For instance, some casinos don’t have a hotel and will pay to put you up in a neighboring hotel. Also, tickets to concerts, fights, and similar events at nearby venues that the casino doesn’t control always come at a true cost. Since such comps come at a higher cost to the casino, expected play and average daily theoretical are much higher to cover the expense. You may be shocked by how much less you qualify for when requesting a hard comp relative to the soft comp you’re used to.

Soft comps are generally what most gamblers expect — say, a free dinner and maybe a free room. The catch is sometimes the casino or parent company has ownership in the restaurant or hotel and sometimes it doesn’t. It can be much easier to receive comps for meals at relatively nicer restaurants or stays in comparatively fancier rooms based on the ownership and corporate structure of the casino, hotel and restaurant in question.

Let me share two data points to illustrate further.

At Paris Las Vegas, it’s much easier to get a pit boss or your host to pick up the tab at Gordon Ramsay Steak, which Caesars owns, than at Mon Ami Gabi, which Caesars doesn’t own, even though GR Steak has far higher retail price points. In other words, at Paris, food comps offered for CET-owned restaurants tend to be much generous than those for non-CET-owned venues.

Properties like Baha Mar in the Bahamas offer great rooms and great restaurants, but the casino doesn’t own the hotel (it’s a Grand Hyatt). This raises the level of play required and/or requires you to lower your expectations for the comps you’ll receive.

While comps aren’t the only aspect to maximizing your gambling budget, getting your approach to earning them right can help balance the equation between money lost or spent and value received. In future articles, I will break down how to determine the best places and ways to get the type of comps and offers you are looking for from a casino.


Eric Rosenthal is a co-host on the Vegas Confessions podcast and is a featured speaker at ZorkFest.
Eric Rosenthal

Eric Rosenthal is a writer, podcaster, gambling and travel enthusiast. By combining his knowledge of travel and casino loyalty programs, he teaches people how to travel and maximize value for their gambling dollar. Eric is one of the featured speakers at the Casino and Travel Loyalty Conference ZorkFest, where he shares his passion for what he calls Comp Harvesting.
Eric Rosenthal
Eric Rosenthal is a writer, podcaster, gambling and travel enthusiast. By combining his knowledge of travel and casino loyalty programs, he teaches people how to travel and maximize value for their gambling dollar. Eric is one of the featured speakers at the Casino and Travel Loyalty Conference ZorkFest, where he shares his passion for what he calls Comp Harvesting.