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Ask the Slot Expert: Marketing to locals versus non-locals

30 November 2022

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: Thanks for answering my question about the lack of Red Rock promotions.

Just to clarify, we were all there with comped rooms (three) and some free play, but my comment was aimed at the lack of any promotions (double points, etc.) while we were in residence. Prior to the pandemic, there were offers every day of our visits. We always made sure to go to the kiosk every morning prior to our gambling to sign up for the double points or whatever. Since the reopening, the kiosks had no offers or promotions for hotel residents. And, since Red Rock has discontinued the airport shuttle, which means an $80 cab ride for air travelers, we have decided to seek other casino options.

Speaking of the disappearance of the buffet, I wonder how many Red Rock buffet employees were left unemployed by what I consider to be a short-sighted action by management in closing such a popular venue.

Thanks for your informative and interesting columns.

Answer: Thanks for the kind words.

Your current letter is a good introduction to something I didn't include in my reply last week. There's a huge difference between locals and non-locals marketing programs. I know I'm stating the obvious, but room and food comps aren't as important to the local player as to the non-local player.

Both programs have the same objective: get players in the casino. Only the carrots are different. As my sixth grade math teacher used to say, "They're exactly the same, only different."

I know someone who took advantage of a promotion that came with a free room night. It was a package deal. You had to take the room to get the other benefits of the promotion. She and her husband checked in to the room, but slept at their home nearby. They wanted the comfort of their own bed.

Thanks for the clarification on the kinds of offers you were no longer getting. When I was a non-local, the comped room was the most important offer. If you're getting less free play and fewer multiple points days and dining credits -- well, welcome to the club.

Oh, I have to walk that back a bit. I just received a new mailer from one of my regular casinos. It upped my free play and -- wait for it -- gave me a dining credit again. Yippee!

On my way in to Suncoast this morning, I heard two old friends catching up and lamenting about how they're getting less free play now. One guy said he was getting better offers from a casino he hadn't been to in a while. That didn't surprise me. There's a saying in marketing that it's easier to turn a prior customer into a current customer than some rando off the street into a current customer.

I went to Red Rock the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. I was surprised at how empty the parking garage was. I guess I should really say that I was surprised that the garage wasn't more full. The garage was just as full as on a regular Sunday morning, not as full as I expected it to be on the Sunday at the end of a long weekend. I wasn't there very early, but early enough that I usually see many people loading up their cars for the ride home. Maybe people decided to get an early start, or maybe they didn't come at all.

A few weeks ago I wrote about bonus free play offers that I received from Red Rock. I thought I was special until I ran into one of my Red Rock friends and he said he and a ton of other people received the same offer. The only difference was the amount of free play people were given.

My friend said that there was only one reason that a casino would send out an offer like this one. It's not getting the traffic it wants, so it's trying to generate more traffic.

He predicted that slot clubs went too far in austerity measures and are going to have to be a bit more generous. His reasoning is that the core players have come back. Now casinos have to lure the occasional players back too. It's like candidates' being able to count on the base and having to appeal to Independents too.

I'm not so sure that will happen. Casinos have cut back and are reporting record profits. If they get more generous and stimulate more play, will the additional win offset the additional benefits? Will profit increase?

A few years ago I saw an ad for a casino management seminar called Die, Points Die. It sure sounds like casinos would like to eliminate points completely.

The situation is not so dire. The sub-title of the seminar is Refine and Reinvigorate Your Casino's Loyalty Program. The seminar's agenda shows that the seminar is not about eliminating points from a loyalty program. Rather, it's about how to measure your program against your competitors' programs and how to ensure that you're getting the desired results from your program.

On to the buffet. Red Rock's buffet was one of the best of the off-strip buffets.

I have many fond memories of the buffet. Like the time I spilled a bowl of split pea soup at the salad bar. And the time I was trying to cut an Italian sausage with my fork and the sausage went flying off the plate into my shirt, landing in my lap, leaving a trail of marinara down the front of my shirt.

In an earnings call about two years ago, one of the suits at Stations said that they lose money on the buffets. They're gonzo. For good.

As for the buffet workers.... There have been a number of items on the local news about how difficult it is to get food service workers. I know that my regular Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks occasionally turn off online ordering when they are short-staffed.

Nevada voters just voted to increase the minimum wage in the state to $12 per hour for all workers in July 2024. The news rolled out the usual suspects of doomsayers who said that this wage may cause some small eateries to close. A UNLV professor countered with the fact that the demand for food service workers is so high that most places are already paying well over $12 an hour today. He said that the effect on the food service industry will be minimal.

Red Rock, moreover, is opening new restaurants in some of the space that used to be the buffet and is opening new restaurants in other areas of the casino. The former buffet workers may be able to return to work in one of these new eateries.


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not total admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 11/29/22   98,481,551   5,561,791   1,075,779   861,746   285   11,624   307,187   27+,584   2,664   2,209   31   24 
 11/22/22   98,174,364   5,534,207   1,073,115   859,537   254   11,600   284,712   24,272   2,168   2,064   (2)   20 
 11/15/22   97,889,652   5,509,935   1,070,947   857,473   256   11,580   284,889   22,561   2,280   2,771   92   10 
 11/08/22   97,604,763   5,487,374   1,068,667   854,702   164   11,570   274,976   24,829   2,316   1,741   23   15 
 11/01/22   97,329,787   5,462,545   1,066,351   852,961   141   11,555   266,430   23,562   1,199   1,661   15   11 
 10/25/22   97,063,357   5,438,983   1,065,152   851,300   126   11,544   260,881   22,914   5,111   1,096   (12)   8 
 10/18/22   96,802,476   5,416,069   1,060,041   850,204   138   11,536   267,788   22,644   2,537   1,005   6   6 
 10/11/22   96,534,688   5,393,425   1,057,504   849,199   132   11,530   285,222   23,034   3,061   1,322   14   21 
 10/04/22   96,249,466   5,370,391   1,054,443   847,877   118   11,509   330,300   24,415   3,054   702   3   15 
 09/27/22   95,919,166   5,345,976   1,051,389   847,175   115   11,494   366,858   26,055   2,857   1,042   (28)   48 
 09/20/22   95,552,308   5,319,921   1,048,532   846,133   143   11,446   400,929   29,165   2,973   1,839   0   19 
 09/13/22   95,151,379   5,290,756   1,045,559   844,294   143   11,427   506,189   34,540   2,978   1,758   (40)   16 
 09/06/22   94,645,190   5,256,216   1,042,581   842,536   183   11,411   534,380   30,772   3,526   1,762   (8)   20 
 08/31/22   94,110,810   5,225,444   1,039,055   840,774   191   11,391   600,148   35,692   3,297   2,434   (44)   32 
 08/23/22   93,510,662   5,189,752   1,035,758   838,340   235   11,359   655,186   38,778   3,198   2,550   (51)   20 
 08/16/22   92,855,476   5,150,974   1,032,560   835,790   286   11,339   719,100   40,762   3,375   3,561   (92)   77 
 08/09/22   92,136,376   5,110,212   1,029,185   832,229   378   11,262   937,985   42,621   3,822   5,729   (69)   41 
 08/01/22   91,198,391   5,067,591   1,025,363   826,500   447   11,221   828,560   43,943   2,695   28,360   (5)   16 
 07/26/22   90,369,831   5,023,648   1,022,668   798,140   452   11,205   905,096   45,024   3,072   5,468   (61)   41 
 07/19/22   89,464,735   4,978,624   1,019,596   792,672   513   11,164   890,226   42,620   3,035   7,077   (20)   37 
 07/12/22   88,574,509   4,936,004   1,016,561   785,595   533   11,127   912,596   44,750   2,575   8,611   78   67 
 07/05/22   87,661,913   4,891,254   1,013,986   776,984   455   11,060   683,630   30,500   2,476   8,713   53   34 
 06/28/22   86,978,283   4,860,754   1,011,510   768,271   402   11,026   809,381   33,856   2,580   6,189   (8)   36 
 06/21/22   86,168,902   4,826,898   1,008,930   762,082   410   10,990   648,857   30,459   2,040   8,081   95   41 
 06/14/22   85,520,045   4,796,439   1,006,890   754,001   315   10,949   757,093   29,971   2,630   9,809   42   40 
 06/07/22   84,762,952   4,766,468   1,004,260   744,192   273   10,909   813,916   30,146   2,190   6,818   55   26 
 05/31/22   83,949,036   4,736,322   1,002,070   737,374   218   10,883   670,041   24,555   2,285   5,738   16   41 
 05/24/22   83,278,995   4,711,767   999,785   731,636   202   10,842   756,047   25,027   2,317   5,324   37   28 
 05/17/22   82,522,948   4,686,740   997,488   726,312   165   10,814   680,888   21,183   2,097   3,693   35   26 
 05/10/22   81,842,060   4,665,557   995,371   722,619   130   10,788   534,465   17,934   3,932   2,802   32   11 
 05/03/22   81,307,595   4,647,623   991,439   719,817   98   10,777   432,666   14,755   2,448   2,213   (6)   49 
 04/26/22   80,874,929   4,632,868   988,991   717,604   104   10,728   348,507   12,597   2,446   1,447   (22)   46 
 04/19/22   80,526,422   4,620,271   986,545   716,157   126   10,682   266,330   10,525   3,308   1,232   (37)   497 
 04/12/22   80,260,092   4,609,746   983,237   714,925   163   10,185   228,465   10,343   3,627   1,228   23   53 
 04/05/22   80,031,627   4,599,403   979,610   713,697   140   10,132   203,709   10,312   4,105   1,059   (52)   76 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

 

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John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots