Table Rewards - Designing a Loyalty Program for Table Games


The basic premise for any casino-related loyalty program is that players "need" to be able to rationalize their purchase of an intangible product. Having lost $500 gambling, a player "needs" to feel that they received something in return. In days gone by the benefit returned was based on the knowledge of the player by a host or a Pit Boss. This might have been a "free" meal in the buffet, coffee shop or restaurant, depending on the value of the player and the relationship they had with casino staff.

As the size and complexity of gaming operations grew this early benefit system was replaced with computerized systems that enabled the capture of information such as the player's buyin, average bet, time played and win or loss. Calculations could then be made on the earning potential from the player and a policy applied on how much of that could be returned in benefits. This meant that a player no longer had to rely on the particular relationship they had with a casino staff member but rather knew that a consistent approach was being applied across various shifts and from visit to visit. These same principles were applied to slot programs with great success. Slots, though, had a great advantage. Firstly, they captured all information electronically and so the play history was "pure." Secondly, this was updated in real time as the player was playing, not at the end of a session. Thirdly, they could communicate to the player what they were earning as they played and what their total balance was via electronic meters.

Unfortunately, for table games most of the above is still not true. We still rely on staff to guess a player's average bet, input the time played and estimate the player's win or loss. This isn't updated until the rating is entered into the computer system (in some casinos the next day) and this value is hardly ever communicated to the player. The challenge, therefore, was to create a benefit system for table games that was easy to understand, overcame the above problems and provided the players benefits that they actually wanted.

One of the critical issues identified was the lack of transparency in pre-existing table loyalty systems. How many dealers anywhere in the world can actually tell a player what benefits they are earning and how they can use these within the property? The more educated might tell you the system is based on theoretical loss but then have difficulty explaining what you might expect to lose. So the first phase is designing a reward or loyalty program for table games has to be to establish how to define tables into categories. What players understand, and is displayed clearly to them, is the game type and minimum bet for the game they play.

Breaking games into four levels as follows provides a similar earning profile.

1 $1 Roulette, $5 Blackjack, $2 Money Wheel, $2 SicBo
2 $2 Roulette, $10 - $15 Blackjack, $5 Money Wheel, $5 SicBo,
$5 Baccarat, $5 Caribbean Stud, $5 Craps
3 $5 Roulette, $25 Blackjack, $25 Baccarat, $25 Caribbean Stud,
$25 Pai Gow
4 $10 Roulette, $50 Blackjack, $50 Baccarat, $50 Pai Gow

The other readily definable quantity is time. The longer a player plays the better and the more they should earn in benefits. For the design of Table Rewards, time was broken into ½ hour units. Then, of course, we needed to understand what an average player theoretically lost per time unit per level. For level 1 players this was $5, level 2 - $10, level 3 - $25 and level 4 - $50.

Next a philosophy was required to determine at what rate you should reward players. Are all players equal and therefore should earn the same percentage in benefits or do you want to look after your more valuable players who played on level 3 or 4 tables for longer periods of time? Next we wanted a reward unit that was easy to understand. The simplest unit in any society is cash. People might be used to points but they understand cash. But as we didn't want the cash benefits walking out the door, our reward was "Casino Cash." Casino Cash is essentially internal currency that can be used in any outlet in the facility on the purchase of any product. So players can use their rewards to buy any product on sale in the facility with "Casino Cash." To make this even more powerful, the product we knew they liked, and were purchasing most, was gaming. So "Casino Cash" could be used to buy chips. Not cash chips, though, as again the money might walk out the door. "Free Play" chips can be used on any game on any bet but can't be cashed out. They have to be played. When a Free Play chip wins it is paid in cash chips.

So "Casino Cash" lets players choose exactly how, when and where they will spend their rewards.

How do they get their "Casino Cash"? Accumulated and stored electronically on the database in their player account, which can be accessed, at any retail outlet or casino cashier. All computer systems are interfaced to make it easy for the customer to access their rewards. Also, in the design phase we knew we wanted our players to play more during off-peak times (for a local's casino like ours, Monday to Thursday) and to play for longer than our "normal" 2-hour average. So incentives were incorporated with double "Casino Cash" earned in offpeak periods and a "Random Cash" award for playing 3 hours.

Effectively, a transparent system has been created with benefits skewed toward off-peak periods and incentives provided for longer playing times.

An easy to communicate and understandable system with real rewards that players want. What more could you ask for?
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