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Howard Stutz
 

Slot points for spinach? Golden Gaming will try it - launching rewards club for grocery stores

30 April 2012

Slot points for steaks, seafood and spinach?

Golden Gaming, Inc. is about to make that possible by giving grocery store slot players their own rewards club.

The company, which is Nevada's largest tavern owner, became the state's biggest slot machine route operator in March through an asset swap with Affinity Gaming.

One of the business units acquired by Golden covers the roughly 2,200 slot machines operated in large grocery store chains statewide. The games in some 151 stores account for almost 25 percent of Golden Gaming's overall route of 8,500 slot machines.

"We figured we needed to understand the grocery store customer," said Golden Gaming Chief Operating Officer Steve Arcana.

On Tuesday the company will launch Checkout Rewards, a players club dedicated to grocery shoppers. Part of the launch includes a giveaway of $100,000 in cash and prizes over the summer. Plus, three people will win a year's supply of groceries when the promotion concludes Labor Day weekend.

"This is the first time that someone with the responsibility for our gaming route has created something of value for our customers," said Chris Middleton, area vice president of operations for Albertsons, one of three Southern Nevada grocery chains that will participate in the promotion along with Smith's and Vons.

The rewards program was created after Golden Gaming conducted focus groups and spent some time studying grocery store slot machine players, who have a slightly different gaming mentality than gamblers at Golden's tavern operations.

Arcana said grocery store gamblers are motivated by convenience as well as the nonsmoking environment in the stores, which are covered by Nevada's Clean Air Act. Most of the slot machine players live near the stores.

"They are very loyal to their brand, but they also want to be rewarded like any other slot player," Arcana said. "We found that being rewarded for play with free groceries is a good incentive."

Throughout the promotional launch of Checkout Rewards, grocery store slot machine players can earn cash, trips, grocery gift cards and other prizes. Each supermarket participating in the promotion will award three $100 gift cards monthly.

Affinity Gaming, when it was known as Herbst Gaming, acquired the slot machine routes from seven different grocery and drug store chains - Albertsons, Vons, Smith's, CVS, Safeway, WinCo Foods and SaveMart. In the past, multiple slot machine route companies operated at the different chains.

"The slot machines were really nothing more than just a convenience for our customers," Middleton said. "Hopefully, having a rewards program such as this will create new customers for our stores."

After the transaction with Affinity, Golden Gaming increased its stake in the state's slot machine route business to 45 percent. The company operates slot machines in 650 bars, taverns, restaurants, convenience stores, groceries, pharmacies and other non-casino businesses.

Arcana said Checkout Rewards is strategically designed for grocery store customers. There are no plans to try and convert those players to tavern gamblers. However, at some point, rewards and promotions might include taverns.