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Match Plays, Single Plays, Free Plays, Comp Bets.
by Andrew MacDonald

Marketing tools for Casino Table Games?

A "long" time ago a bright and inventive casino manager, or marketing person, surmised that if a potential customer was given some free chips to play with you could get them onto a gaming table to initiate a product trial. That same person probably also conceived that if just chips were given the potential customer had the option of taking these directly to the casino cashier and walking out with the money never having gone anywhere near a gaming table. Casinos then decided to conditionalise the offer to make sure the potential customer put their hand into their own pocket as well, and so "match plays" were born.

A "match play" is vouchers or tokens that only have value at a gaming table when they are matched with an equivalent, or greater amount, of gaming chips and placed as a wager. So, if I give you $10 in "match play" you have to pull $10 out of your own pocket to get value and then, only if you actually win. Not bad as a reward to an existing player, but perhaps a questionable method to get a new player started. Some casinos then further conditionalised the offer by removing the "match play" after the round of play, in order that it can't be used over and over again. Effectively it becomes a "single play / match play". To futher restrict use, the casino might only allow such vouchers or tokens to be used on certain games or on certain bets. Blackjack only. Even money bets only. By now the initial objective has probably been distorted beyond all recognition and we have no hope of getting the novice or potential customer to recognise value in the offer and use the prompt. By the time they've read the fine print, they'd probably only use "the thing" if they were going to bet anyway, or if they were people who wanted to exploit the inherent value.

There are reasons for all these conditions being imposed. First, it makes sure the potential customer doesn't just get free money but instead must trial a product. Secondly, it ensures that the person must have some propensity to put at risk their own money. Thirdly, it reduces the cost of the offer to the company from the face value of the voucher or token to something less than that value. Thus the apparent value offered can appear more to the customer than the actual cost to the company.

So what is the balance between these company objectives and over complicating an offer to a customer? Let's consider a scenario where a potential player is given $1000 in "match play" chips to play on a Baccarat game.

Face Value of Match Play Vouchers $ 1,000
Game played Baccarat
Even Money Only Yes
With exchange ( Y or N ) Yes
Tax assessed on drop ( Y or N ) Yes
Match play ( Y or N ) Yes
   
Percentage cost 49.029%
Dollar cost to the Casino $ 490.29

"Y" or "N" means Yes or No.
"With exchange" means that the voucher/chip is removed win or lose.(ie single play)
"Match play" means that the bet must be matched with an equal or greater cash bet.

So it would seem that a decision had been made that it was worth giving this particular customer something that would have a theoretical cost to the casino of $490.29.

Can some of the conditions be removed without dramatically increasing the theoretical cost? Let's remove the "match play" component and turn this into a "single play".

Face Value of Single Play Vouchers $ 1,000
Game played Baccarat
Even Money Only Yes
With exchange ( Y or N ) Yes
Tax assessed on drop ( Y or N ) Yes
Match play ( Y or N ) No
   
Percentage cost 51.374%
Dollar cost to the Casino $ 513.74

As can be seen the "matching" element does not significantly alter the theoretical cost to the company and may merely make the offer less attractive.

What happens if we let the customer keep the "single play" when it wins by turning it into a "comp bet"?

Face Value of Comp Bet Vouchers $ 1,000
Game played Baccarat
Even Money Only Yes
With exchange ( Y or N ) No
Tax assessed on drop ( Y or N ) Yes
Match play ( Y or N ) No
   
Percentage cost 97.655%
Dollar cost to the Casino $ 976.55

Now this is clearly more significant in terms of increased cost. However, the question that really must be answered is what does the potential player value more? Being given $1000 in vouchers that when they win still get taken and so are lost or getting given $500 in vouchers that are valid on any table game anywhere and when the player wins are still valid for the next game.

The inventive casino manager or marketing manager may like to test the concept of using various values of "match plays", "single plays" and "comp bets" to stimulate trial on their ta

Date Posted: 30-Apr-2000

Andrew MacDonald is a highly respected Australian expert on Casino Operations and gaming statistics. Several of his works are utilised by the University of Nevada Reno in their Executive Development Program. He is currently employed by Australia's largest casino operator, Crown Limited, as Executive General Manager, Table Games Operations and Development .
Andrew may be contacted at andrewmac@urbino.net.

 
 
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