Introduction to Rewards Clubs
Slots enthusiasts typically spend all jackpot winnings and perhaps an additional 10% of those winnings from their finances. So, the food, gifts, and trips can become all it takes for players to break even, or come out slightly ahead. When visiting casinos, join their rewards clubs.
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Making a Case for Rewards Clubs
At the beginning of my gambling experience, I was not a fan of players club programs. I didn’t see any value in attending tournaments, drawings, or significant dinner events in the casino ballrooms, even though I did once get to meet The Temptations. I was a top-tier member of the local casino’s players club program. I simply hadn’t yet begun to appreciate complimentary gifts, i.e., comps, from the casino reward system.
But I would soon learn to enjoy them. My naïve attitude towards the players club changed when I learned of an upcoming promotional drawing from a mail flyer. When reviewing the event details, I couldn’t help but notice that I appeared to have tremendously good odds of winning.
I’d learned the casino was holding a drawing to pick ten individuals to win $2,000 in cash and ten individuals to win $2,000 in free slot play. Drawing entries per individual would equal the individual’s total number of taxable jackpots combined over the last three months. Given the number of entries I would receive, I drove to the casino that night for the drawing and proceeded to sign in at the Promotions counter.
The casino staff member slid my club card through their computer, at which point I heard him say, in a slightly puzzled voice, “54 entries?” They looked at their co-worker and said, “54 entries!?” Then they looked at me and said, rather loudly, “54 entries!!”
I won $2,000 in free slot play, which I turned into $1,980 in cash later that evening. But I only won once at that promotion. It turns out, that was one of the rules. Knowing the rules is good.
The Casino’s Perspective
After joining a rewards club, mail flyers and other promotional offers are routinely sent to the address provided at sign-up. If your goal is to earn your way to the top or second-to-the-top tier, and you’re successful in doing so, then many more become available. Mail flyers contain offers ranging from dinners, free slot play, small electronic gifts (for example, I got a very nice electric skillet last weekend!), drawings to win a new luxury car, all expenses paid trips to other casino properties, and the list goes on and on.
These offers are attempting to get the recipient to come to the casino. For the casino, mail flyers from players clubs get more people to the casino. They know free stuff is difficult to resist.
And they’re right. What do casinos get from players clubs? Well, why do they do anything?
Because, in the end, they make money doing so. For every dozen people standing in a long line for an electric skillet is one or two individuals spending hundreds of dollars playing slots. These individuals are only at the casino because of that promotion.
In addition, other people in line feel more optimistic about the casino. And feeling more positive about a casino means they are more likely to visit again. And that too is how a casino makes money. If these promotions didn’t make money for the casino, they wouldn’t have them.
They couldn’t afford them. Their goal is to get people into the casino, then let nature takes its course.
The Player’s Perspective
So, getting a player to a casino is the goal for that casino. But what do players get in return? What are the advantages provided by players clubs?
Mostly, it comes down to convenience. I encourage players to use the coupons provided by the casino whenever possible as they are part of the reward for playing. However, I caution players to play on their terms.
If the coupons are not valuable to them, either directly or as a gift to others, then there is no point to spending time that could be used more productively. And remember that gifts from the casino are taxable. The IRS requires you to note each gift’s free-market value for annual income tax purposes.
Rewards Clubs Advantage #1: Free Slot Play
Free slot play is usually the first gift from the casino after signing up for a players club program. It’s usually already loaded onto the card. You’ll need to apply it to a specific slot machine after sitting down at it.
Go through the various options available on the players club interface on the slot machine. As a member of most players clubs, you’ll receive a monthly booklet. This can sometimes be hard to notice alongside all the mail flyers for promotional events at the casino.
But watch for it. It usually has more free slot play, suitable for specific days or weeks. How much regular free slot play you get depends on your tier level and how much you play. Remember to stay focused on your gambling goals: Don’t feel pushed to advance in tier levels if it is not part of your goals for playing.
Non-regular free slot play can be won at various casino promotions. If you are interested in winning this free slot play, watch your promotional mail flyers. All free slot play is time dependent.
Regular slots play from a coupon booklet is only good on certain days. Non-regular slot play won at a promotion could take as long as an hour to get loaded into the system and may only be available for a month or less.
Rewards Clubs Advantage #2: Shorter Service Lines
Members of the bottom tier in players clubs have long lines when there are a lot of people visiting the casino. These lines are at cashier cages, promotional counters, restaurants, and during events. Have you ever noticed these shorter lines?
These shorter lines are for players club members not in the lowest tier. Shorter lines are the #2 advantage of players clubs because they are incredibly convenient. Here’s how they work.
The person at the head of a lower-tier line goes first if nobody is waiting in higher-tier lines. If someone is there waiting for service, they go first. Furthermore, some promotional events have the same situation but can be harder to notice.
Rewards Clubs Advantage #3: Complimentary Gifts
Casino employees in charge of players clubs promotional events try to make complimentary gifts enjoyable. These “comps” can be just about anything, from free alcoholic drinks to free trips. I especially like dinners aged-steak dinners. Also, casino buffets are often the best you’ll find anywhere.
Sometimes the comps can be innovative, in part to avoid too much repetition. For example, I’ve gotten gas cards during times when fuel prices were high. Those were quite popular when I gifted them later to my family!
Some comps make great gifts to friends and family, as the careful thought casino players clubs put into coming up with these great ideas also make them wonderful re-gifting ideas.
Remember that these gifts are often taxable. Again, the IRS requires you to note each gift’s free-market value for annual income tax purposes.
Rewards Clubs Advantage #4: Slots Tournaments
Many of the mail flyers from casinos as a member of their players’ club program will be invitations to slots tournaments. I place this advantage as #4 on this list because, well, this way, we get to play slots for free. Casinos operating systems now include the ability to run slots tournaments.
Once, they were much more difficult for casinos to administer. And a lot could, and often did, go wrong. With better operating software, however, it’s become far more manageable for casinos to offer.
You’ll need to visit the casino, check-in at the tournament counter, and receive a ticket with a specific time to participate in the tournament. The times are usually 10-15 minutes apart. The slots tournament will be held at a carousel, i.e., a grouping of slot machines with the same game theme.
It’s usually located in a roped-off area on the main floor. Just before your designated time, find your way to the slots tournament. Arrive a bit early if you want to watch how the game theme is played – there will be no advance practice!
The organizer there will collect your ticket and assign a specific seat in front of a slot machine. Once everyone in your group has been seated, you’ll play your machine free of charge as quickly as humanly possible, along with everyone else. After your group’s round is completed, look for a large screen showing your final ranking in your group.
If your score is high enough, you’ll go on to another round usually scheduled for later the same day or even the next day for more slot tournament fun.
Rewards Clubs Advantage #5: Travel
Even the lowest-tier members of players clubs will get offers for free travel to casinos. These casinos are usually sister properties of the casino operator. These other properties often, but not always, have the same players club program.
Most offers will be to another casino and may include travel and hotel accommodations. Some of these other casinos can be nearby, such as an evening bus trip to a nearby casino property. Other offers will involve airfare.
Other travel offers will be for a free cruise. These are very popular and very common. Check the brochure of your players’ club program, or perhaps its website, to see if a free cruise is something to expect.
Most trips are a +1-guest situation. So, if both you and your spouse each get a free trip due to both of you having the same tier level, you can consider taking another couple with you as guests. If you’re single, I recommend taking the cruise if you are at all interested.
Many standard cruises have a minimum 2-person stateroom requirement, so a single individual must pay for a second individual when traveling alone. But this extra fee doesn’t happen during free cruises from casinos!
Rewards Clubs Advantage #6: Hosts
Casinos have employees whose specific job is to be a host. These are hosts for members of players clubs. Hosts can be personally approached to provide comps. However, the more valuable the request, the greater the required tier status and recent amount of play.
Hosts must turn away many people because some requests exceed that player’s status and recent play. However, players can be very persuasive – or very insistent. I’ve seen some rather difficult-to-watch conversations.
I mention these deliberately difficult player-host conversations because casinos have found a solution of altogether avoiding them. In only the last few years, players clubs have been adding kiosks for customer service. Hence, careful persuasion or arguing by players has become limited by this player-machine interface.
With this technology, comps formerly always requested via hosts are now done through this player-machine interface. The machine checks the player’s gameplay and tier status and then provides the player that which they are eligible. But even with new updates to casino operating software, casinos still have hosts.
There is often a host station or office not too far from the casino’s high limit area. You can always check with these hosts for any casino issues, questions, or attempt to request comps.
Rewards Clubs Advantage #7: Events
So many invitations! So little time! When I first started getting the offers, I tried to attend every event, whether a tournament, dinner, drawings, or some other exciting promotion.
Be sure to make a serious attempt to understand the gifts and promotions provided due to specific tier status in the players club offered by a casino. It can also be difficult to attend every event or promotion. Attending every event can quickly become exhausting, so pick and choose carefully, those events are best for you.
Remember to pace yourself! To organize the many offers from players club, I’d suggest making lists. I’m a big fan of lists, as they help break down large, complicated projects into small, manageable pieces.
Make lists of the available events, perhaps even noting them on a personal event calendar.
Benefits for Upper Tier Members of Rewards Clubs
Lower tier levels will have a minimum amount of convenience offered by the casino. But, as higher tiers are earned, this convenience will increase until it gets a bit extreme. At least, it seemed that way to me when I did it year after year.
Here are some extremes for top-tier players:
- Free slots play: There’s usually a maximum in slots play that can be earned. I’ve gotten as high as $250, twice a week.
- Shorter service lines: There’s usually nobody else in the short line, no matter how many are in the other tier lines. And the eyes of the people in the lower-tier lines follow you….
- Pro-Tip: At casino promotions, make sure to ask a casino employee if it’s okay to go to the head of any promotional line. And arrive early at the promotion so that you can go in advance of most others.
- Complimentary Gifts: Frankly, I hope you have a spare room where you live for all the free stuff. They make great holiday re-gifts. Or sell them on eBay?
- Slots Tournaments: Meh.
- Free Travel: Top tiers generally get a free 7-day cruise, although airfare isn’t usually included. Plus, a 3-night annual trip to Las Vegas is usual, with airfare included a $500 room credit, eight $100 vouchers, and more. Did I mention the limousine from the airport? Second-to-top-tier players get a 3-day cruise and fewer extras for the annual Las Vegas trip.
- Hosts: Top-tier players have a host show up about 30 seconds after they put their players’ card into a slot machine. They want to help you. What do YOU want??
- Events: Invited to everything, and always front row seating.
Another Pro Tip
If you are a top-tier or second-to-the-top tier player in a rewards club, be sure to mention that when signing up with a new players club program. Other players clubs will partially honor other players club programs. So, remember to bring your other players club cards! New player club programs will often provide a provisional tier status for top-tier players from another players club.
The tier provided, typically one tier less than that of the other players club, will expire if a certain number of credits aren’t earned over several months.
Summary of Rewards Clubs
Casinos give away free stuff to members of their rewards clubs: free slots play, shorter lines, comps, travel, hosts, and events. The higher the tier level and the greater the recent play, the higher the value this free stuff will be. But is it anything you want?
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