The value of players club cards
By H. Scot Krause
I’m often amazed at the number of gamblers I see playing without a slot club card and hearing some of the excuses they give for not using one. So this month I’m going “back to basics” and reviewing what slot clubs are all about, why they are so valuable and dispelling some of the myths about using club cards.
Players clubs originated in Atlantic City over 30 years ago as a way to begin recognizing and rewarding the casino’s good players. Today, players clubs are the casino’s most powerful marketing tool and the player’s best benefit the casino has to offer. It’s the best of both worlds for both the player and the casino.
To begin, perhaps the word “club” is a little misleading, since there are no dues to pay, meetings to attend or any of the usual aspects associated with joining a club. You do get a players club membership card (also called a player’s card) which is your key to unlocking the benefits and rewards of the casino you’re playing in.
Typically, your player’s club membership card is a plastic card, with your identifying number on it that you will use while playing at any of the casino’s slot or video poker machines or while playing table games. It resembles a credit card, but only in its appearance, and is in no way an actual credit card. I mention that because there are some people who actually, mistakenly believe they will be inserting a credit card into their slot machine and play on credit, and therefore they refuse to get their player’s card and are basically denied any and all benefits they are entitled to!
So let’s start at the beginning and walkthrough the player’s card program, when and why to do it and discuss some benefits, rewards and perks. When you enter any casino for the first time, ask someone immediately where you can find the players club before you put any money into a machine. At the booth, you should find a rather friendly group of employees who will get you started, signed up and get your card for you pronto.
You’ll probably need to fill out a short application form or at least give your identification card to the clerk. It’s simply away to register the card in your name. You usually don’t need to give your social security number if you don’t want to, but always give your birthday and anniversary dates when asked. They help identify you with the casino in case others have your same name and many times the birthday benefits are nothing short of fantastic. Adding your e-mail address and signing up for text messages will also get you additional offers sent to you.
Always ask the players club personnel about how to use the card and any other current promotions or benefits in addition to using your card. There will usually be a brochure or literature available that you can take explaining all the club benefits. There may also be a sign-up bonus such as a free gift, free slot play or free points when you register. Be sure to ask. Sometimes an easily obtainable coupon may be required and the clerks can tell you where or how to get one. Finally, I like to request two cards when I join, and you might like to do the same. You’ll find that you may lose one, or want to play two machines at one time. That’s it! You’re on your way.
When you’re out on the casino floor, you’ll notice a slot on the machines that your card fits into. When you decide which machine you want to play, put your card in the slot and leave it in the entire time you play that machine. (Note: Take a moment to look for the card reader slot and not the bill acceptor. If you accidentally put your card in the bill acceptor you’ll probably strip the magnetic reader off your card and it won’t work).
Most machines will have some type of reader that will display your name; points earned or at least let you know your card has been accepted. It’s not a swipe card, and you must leave it in the machine while you play. It’s simply counting the coins, or credits, that go through the machine while you’re playing and giving you credit in the form of points for the amount of money that cycles through the machine. (Some casinos consider time on the machine as well as money being cycled, but that is a little rarer than in years past). Now, while you’re playing, you’ll be earning valuable points that become redeemable for anything from cash back to restaurant complimentaries (referred to as “comps”) show tickets, gifts, reduced room rates or free rooms, to almost any amenity you may want or require.
Check your card while you’re playing to make sure it’s working properly. If you sit idle for a period of time while you’re ordering a cocktail or chatting with your neighbor, the card reader may stop working and you’ll need to reinsert it. Be sure to keep your card in the machine until you have completed your play and cashed all coins or tickets out of the machine. Some clubs base their points on a coin-out system, rather than coin-in and some slot machines actually may pay a bonus when you cash out on certain games!
Your players club rewards are based on total play and your rewards may vary according to point formulas created exclusively for the casino at which you’re playing. I do caution you not to continue to play beyond your comfortable gambling range and budget just to earn a point level or comp. Let the comps fall in place as you play or when you return again in the future; which brings me to another interesting thought. I’ve heard players refuse to get a card because they believe they won’t return to the casino again. First of all, you never know what your future plans may hold. Second, you may earn enough points while you’re on this trip to at least earn a small comp or some cash back before you leave. You’ll at least get on the casino’s mailing list for future specials and events. You may win a jackpot that will allow you to return sooner than you originally thought was possible. And finally, with as many consolidations and buy-outs as there are in the casino industry today, the casino you’re playing at today may be owned by someone else tomorrow, who may in turn, be closer to your home, and you’ll be able to use your points with them. There’s just no good excuse not to get a player’s card at any casino you visit.
Here are a couple other tips when you plan to visit a casino and need to get a players club card. Sometimes you can apply or sign-up in advance by mail registration or visiting the casino’s website on the Internet. They will often mail you the card in advance or have it already prepared for you when you get to the casino. Call and ask ahead of time for this service and you’ll save time and won’t have to stand in long lines when you hit the casino floor. Sometimes, when you receive your card by mail or Internet sign-up, you’ll get additional offers, coupons, gifts and fun book offers along with it. On the other hand you may find a coupon or a rebate offer that offers a bonus if you sign up in person with the coupon in hand. Try to investigate a little before signing up as to which way may be the best way for you to enroll in the club.
Now, let’s take a little closer look at the benefits and reasons why you want to belong to these players clubs. Obviously, the casinos want your business and will go to great lengths to have you return. In addition to the points you’re earning while playing, which will entitle you to various comps as mentioned previously, your most valuable asset from joining the players club will be your mailing list advantage. Offers to players club members are mailed often and repeatedly for room specials, many times even free room offers, meal discounts (two for ones), and often other free offers. We’ve been mailed match play offers, double and triple point coupons (and higher),show and movie theater tickets, spa specials, gifts and gift certificates, drawing tickets, and a myriad of other offers.
The casino offers are based on levels of play, and better offers including lavish parties, Superbowl and New Year’s Eve invitations, free participation to invited guest slot tournaments, limousine services, and even free round-trip airfare are offered to the casino’s best players. Don’t rule yourself out just because you don’t think you’ll reach those levels of play to be awarded those opportunities. Everyone is rewarded in some way, even for nominal play. Just wait until your birthday rolls around and I can almost guarantee you’ll get some fabulous offers from the casinos to spend your celebration with them!
Next month we’ll look at some of the myths and superstitions some people have regarding using a slot club card and reassure you that the best deal going is to play with a card! All-in-all, I’ve never heard of one good reason not to join a players club. In fact, I hope I’ve given you enough good reasons to always join every players club at every casino you ever visit.
Good luck and happy slot clubbing!
Scot Krause is a gaming industry analyst, researcher and journalist. He is a former entertainment director and a 19-year resident of Las Vegas. Email questions or comments to Scot at firstname.lastname@example.org