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Best of Star Brooks

Gaming Guru

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Tahoe Thoughts and Theories

12 January 2001

It has now been 342 straight days of putting Lake Tahoe’s progressive jackpots on the It has been an educational time, a thought-provoking time, and probably the most fun I have ever had at one time. There have been obstacles, challenges, and the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears. Would I do it all over again? You bet! In a heartbeat.

Being able to maintain myself in one town for 15 years has allowed me the opportunity to observe the gaming industry as a daily "show", pure entertainment, and sometimes pure frustration. When I first came to Lake Tahoe there were no plastic player’s club cards, no mandatory random number generators, the corporations owning the casinos had not diversified, not spread out, they weren’t mega-corporations back then. Every gambler had a name, and not a number. Comps ran at 8-12% of what you spent, there was no cash back, and better yet, that 8-12% was figured on any denomination of coinage you selected... yes, there was no discrimination. Everyone that tracked their spending with the casino got something back, all we had to do was ask. If a player had a gripe, you had a choice of who could settle the issue for you, and it appeared that they all cared about their guests... all of their guests. Not just those at the top of the food chain.

By growing, and consolidating their management, and by sucking others into what I call the "Vegas Vortex" and expanding their properties into new states as gambling became legalized, they moved away from that type of guest relations. Comps fell to percentages of a percent, they covered all their properties in one package deal... and they started offering cash back. Woo, woo.... Let’s see, we can spend two grand to twenty grand, depending on what we are playing... nickels, dollars, what-have-you.... and if we spend it fast enough, like in a 24 hour period, we may get a monogrammed sweatshirt AND a ten dollar bill for our efforts. Ain’t that inspiration for you? I still get in trouble because I abhor the players card. I’m sure it has cost me tons of coffee shop treats... but I still see no need for that kind of program being mandatory in a small place like Tahoe. Maybe I am the ‘odd’ one, but I still think that if they are going to call me a guest, then they had better treat me like one first. They aren’t earning my respect by instituting policies and procedures that remove the fun stuff from my gambling experience. Personally, I liked being a name and not a number. I thoroughly enjoyed every meal and show that was comped to me. Life was good.

By the mid-90's that had all changed. Player’s club cards replaced my name, casino offerings fell short of the previous abundant supply, people who used to come to Tahoe from Sacramento and San Francisco quit coming and started going to smaller clubs that operated sans the card. Many quit coming entirely. Some felt that if they waited, the good life would return. Many of them died waiting. All have pretty much given up hopes of regaining their previous status.

When I started the it was to give the gamblers something. Anything. And to not charge them for the privilege. It was also to encourage the gamblers to keep coming. With visitor numbers dropping steadily, and the beginnings of Indian gaming in California, and Wall Street making drastic predictions of the financial impacts on the Reno/Tahoe area from Tribal gaming... somebody had to get out and do something. I chose to present a website that would give gamblers a chance to view the daily progressive jackpot amounts, along with all important weather conditions, road conditions, travel warnings, road closures, along with daily gaming news, and Tahoe casino information. The point was to get the casinos to visualize what could be done with a budget on a daily basis if one person with absolutely no budget could do that much by themselves every day. It has worked, though not as hastily as I hoped, nor to such a degree... I still haven’t succeeded in having all the casinos as sponsors at the same time, though I have had several, and promises from most.

Now I have an opportunity to expand the vision. The is going to Las Vegas this weekend as I have an appointment regarding the future. If everyone could collectively cross their fingers for me, you will have my undying appreciation. Traveling like my usual pauper self, it means a 10 and a half hour drive across the kazillion miles of Nevada desert, leaving Lake Tahoe during snow conditions, and driving all night, to stay who-knows-where, to meet someone who has already rescued me from certain web-death. It means traveling with less than a hundred bucks to my name, but is a meeting with my destiny. Let it be known, I would crawl there if I had to. So, there will be no progressive postings Saturday or Sunday, but I think things will return to normal on Monday morning. If things go real well, then maybe you will see us get "a round-tuit" and witness the creation of the and the, and if luck is extreme, then the will spring forth from the well also.

Meanwhile, Tahoe is getting snow as I write, Wednesday and Thursday (before this comes out) are telling us it might be the storm of the year, with footage for snow in some parts of the Sierra... there is snow, snow, and more snow in the forecast. If this doesn't thrill all the shredders and the skiers, ain't nothin' gonna stir those bones. Tahoe has that convenient gondola running up from a block west of the casinos.... heading up to Heavenly. Everybody has ski packages, but beware, this weekend is probably going to be packed! Check your reservations before leaving. There have been some hefty payoffs lately at all the casinos, in the tens of thousands of dollars, and one well over a hundred grand. They don't turn off the money here.