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Best, Worst Casino Promotions Honored

20 September 2002

by Rod Smith

LAS VEGAS--The Global Gaming Expo which wrapped up Thursday showed even the gaming industry has a sense of humor.

Much like Mr. Blackwell's annual awards for the best and worst dressed list, G2E attendees were presented with the best and worst promotions of 2002.

Dennis Conrad, president of Reno-based Rave Consulting Co., hoping, like Mr. Blackwell, that people would look, listen, looked and laugh, named the honorees.

Among the worst promotions for 2002, Rave fingered Harrah's Entertainment for its in-room bottle water charge.

Harrah's has a sleeve on the water bottles in rooms reading: "This bottle is provided as a guest service." However, it continues, "If consumed, $4.50 will be charged to your room."

Harrah's was named, he said, because the blooper is so out of character for a company that regularly wins kudos for attentive guest service, Conrad said.

A spokesman for Harrah's declined to comment because he felt the story would not reflect well on the company.

Conrad, a fan of Harrah's, however, also named the casino company's Party Pit Program one of the best promotions for 2002.

"Harrah's Las Vegas is the only successful party pit program I've seen, because Harrah's understands the key to success is giving ownership to the dealers," he said.

The award for the worst promotion of all went to an unnamed Midwest operator for its casino olympics.

"Customers hated it," Conrad said, "and were forced to spend more time waiting to play than they spent gambling. Do one good turn for the industry. Drop it."

Birthday offers best also not be sent to customers' deceased parents and should be personalized rather than from the staff, like the wishes sent to Conrad from a casino he frequents.

Similarly, a prime rib buffet program was fingered for being hard as nails to be served and tough as leather once it got there.

"If you're going to do a promotion, you need to spend at least a little time thinking about quality," Conrad said.

Black Jack Mania was another loser.

"Do your math. These guys stole a competitor's card and lost tens of thousands of dollars before they figured out that 6-7-8 of any suit is nearly a sure winner against the house," Conrad said.

The very worst of the worst for 2002 was a rumor mill contest.

"This was a classic. The casino awarded cash prizes to customers for "the best, worst and most outrageous" rumors they either brought in or made up.

"I can't imagine how it could happen," Conrad said. "They're paying people to do what they want to keep from happening."

The top best promotion of 2002 went to the Chicken Tic Tac Toe program at the Tropicana operations in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Indiana.

"Sometimes there's just no telling why something works. Somebody said go with the chicken and, combined with a $10,000 price, it's been working magic for three years," Conrad said.

On the more sober side, Harrah's also got best promotion notice for its responsible gaming ads. Harrah's chairman and CEO Phil "Satre talks into the camera and says Harrah's does not want customers who can't handle gambling."

"More companies should be doing this because it's the right thing to do," Conrad said, "but it also gives Harrah's image a tremendous boost whenever (the ads) appear."

Also winning kudos was a Santa Fe, NM, Problem Gambling Treatment program for customers. "Hopefully, this won't open up a Pandora's Box," he said.

Serious lessons, Conrad said, are to the learned from all this.

"First and foremost, whatever the general manager and the tribal chairperson want doesn't count. the only opinions that count are the customers', the employees' and the communities'.

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