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Ask the Slot Expert: My slot club account has been suppressed

17 March 2021

Question: I texted my host asking him if he knew when my offers would go back up because a few months ago they literally dropped off completely with no gradual decline.

He checked into it and texted me that my club card account has been suppressed. He said we would talk about it in person so he could explain it to me but we haven't had a chance to connect yet. Even though I have no monthly offers of free play, dining credit, or gifts he still loads my card with them when I ask, based on play.

What does this account suppression? He did say it has to do with win/loss. I tend to be in the black as of late.

Answer: History is divided into two eras: B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era).

Casino history is also divided into B.C.E./C.E. eras. Three, in fact.

First there is Before Corporate Era, pre-1967. In 1967 the Nevada State Legislature passed a law allowing public companies to own and operate gaming facilities without having to license each shareholder. That made it possible for widely held corporations to have casinos and it paved the way for Mirage Resorts, Circus Circus Enterprises, et al. It also made it possible for anyone with a brokerage account to own a casino -- or at least own shares in a corporation that owns casinos.

When I attended shareholder meetings back in the '90s, I was always struck by the difference between Circus Circus Enterprises' meetings and Mirage Resorts' meetings. Circus Circus Enterprises (later Mandalay Resort Group) put out a big spread for its meetings. Made-to-order omelets and other egg dishes, lots of fruit and pastries. Very impressive, especially considering the culinary achievements of the corporation's namesake casino.

The victuals at the Mirage Resorts meetings were coffee and cookies. I expected swankier offerings, but I suppose when the meetings were held made all the difference. Circus Circus' meetings were in the morning, so it made sense to offer breakfast. Mirage held its meetings mid-afternoon, so a menu consisting of just the sweets portion of high tea was more appropriate.

During the question-and-answer period at one Mirage meeting, a Mirage employee said that he was following in Steve Wynn's footsteps. Wynn had cashed in everything he had to buy a parcel of land near Caesars Palace, so this employee cashed out his retirement account to buy Mirage stock. Steve Wynn asked the employee to see him after the meeting.

I'd love to know what they talked about. I have a guess. I think Wynn told him that there was a key difference between what he did and what the employee did. Wynn put everything he had into an asset that he controlled. The employee, on the other hand, let it all ride on an asset that he has almost no control over.

MGM Grand had one of its meetings on the same day that I was playing in a slot tournament at the Desert Inn. Jay Leno had been at the hotel recently, so at the end of the meeting MGM showed all of the Jay-walking bits Jay filmed while he was there. It lasted almost as long as The Tonight Show.

I had to get back to the DI for my afternoon tournament session and time was getting tight. The meeting finally ended and I ran to the taxi line to grab a cab. I didn't plead with the driver to go fast like the racers frequently do on The Amazing Race. I just said I needed to go to the Desert Inn.

I don't know if the driver could sense that I was in a hurry or if she was just a fast driver. She flew up Koval Lane and got me to the DI with just moments to spare.

The second B.C.E. is Before Computer Era, when computers replaced the mechanical devices that ran slot machines. Computer control brought increased security to slot machines -- and also new ways to cheat them. Computer control also made large jackpots possible and enabled games to have scatter pays and bonus rounds and other features that would have been difficult, if not impossible to implement mechanically.

The third B.C.E. is Before Covid Era. Casinos in Las Vegas were already tightening their belts in terms of video poker paytables and club benefits before they closed for the pandemic. Some took advantage of the closure to reduce club benefits when they re-opened. At least none of the casinos I still play in removed any high-paying video poker machines -- yet.

B.C.E. I was able to play NSU at breakeven every day of the week. Two or so years before the pandemic, one chain eliminated itself as an option by decreasing points earned on video poker, but I still had other options. In C.E., the one chain that was my goto spot for breakeven NSU eventually eliminated the ability to play at breakeven. It also stopped giving a monthly dining credit -- at least to me.

I always thought that casinos didn't really care whether you won or lost, just how much you played. Moreover, if you won, they might offer you a free room or some other perk to get you back to give them a chance to get back some of your winnings. And if you lost, they might give you a few extra freebees so you don't have a bad taste in your mouth and curse out the casino. If whales can negotiate 20% rebates on their multi-million dollar losses, the casino can give me an extra buffet when I lose a couple of grand.

One casino I played in B.C.E. was notorious for cutting off offers to players who had a winning month. One of my friends even asked at the club desk why she didn't get a mailer one month. She was told that she had won a month or so ago.

It sounds like your casino has added a new check in its comping formula: If player won, comps=0. You're lucky that your host is still able to override the formula and give you some bennies. Friends have told me that their hosts have told them that hosts have no discretionary powers anymore. They can't give players anything beyond what the formulas say they are entitled to. And that was B.C.E.!

I'm hoping that casinos will be more generous once we return to more B.C.E.-like conditions, but I'm not optimistic. The arc of history is definitely towards casinos being less generous.

How does a slot floor improve its bottom line? By increasing prices (lowering long-term paybacks) or decreasing expenses (cutting back on benefits). The sad part is that the or is inclusive.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05    20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 
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