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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Gamblers tell casinos, slot makers what they want

27 November 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- For all the insider seminars at the recent casino industry convention in town - dealing with such topics as computer hackers, Eastern European gambling trends, new wireless technology and slot-testing standards - this hourlong session stood out.

"And Now ... A Word From the Players."

Imagine: Here was a chance for gamblers to sit down at a conference table with casino managers and slot machine manufacturers and unload a complaint or two.

And so they did, 40 or so regular gamblers, giving their two cents' worth of advice.

They told executives at the Global Gaming Expo that they want better freebies, more engaging slot machines and fewer junk mailers.

The players were a respectful bunch but didn't pull any punches in sharing their pet peeves.

Vivian Barning of Las Vegas called casino managers to task for offering such low-end comps as free sodas and cheap trinkets.

"When it costs you more in gasoline to get to the casino that what you get back (in freebies), I feel a little foolish," Barning said. "It leaves more of a negative impression than a positive one."

Casinos also are guilty of promoting "new" slot machines that have been on the floor for months.

"I'm looking for machines to change (themes) frequently," she said. But if those promises are made but not upheld, the casino loses credibility, she said. "I will assume you're doing other things to pull the wool over players' eyes, and I won't trust you."

Her husband, Frank, complained about an Andre Agassi slot machine with the "same boring bonus round" appearing most of the time.

Another boring activity? Slot tournaments that they described as exhausting and mindless.

Other annoyances included piles of mailbox fliers for one-time offers rather than monthly "calendars," outdated Web sites and offers requiring gamblers to rush to the casino at a certain time to get bonus points on their gambling cards.

One gambler predicted that many players will be suspicious of new technology allowing bosses to effortlessly adjust payback percentages for certain players and machines.

Dick Doria, a gambler from Milwaukee who frequently flies to Las Vegas for video poker, said he would be willing to try the machines but wondered if casinos would use them to take advantage of players.

"It sounds like they're trying to get people to gamble as much as possible," Doria said. "That's not going to keep me coming back." Other things such as service and bonus offers are more important, he said.

The industry people politely took notes.