In preparation for my session at the 2014 Southern Gaming Summit, I spoke with lots of Casino Player Development experts and team leaders, and one subject keeps bubbling up to the top: host comps. Some properties have eliminated their hosts’ ability to issue player comps, and many people wonder exactly what it is that the hosts are supposed to do in that situation.
In my blog post entitled Player Development Doesn’t HAVE to Be Expensive, I cover this topic just a bit, but here’s a point I missed: hosts are predisposed to write comps because players expect them. We have created this expectation ourselves, because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Hosts know that players expect to be comped in addition to the direct mail offers and mass promotions the casino offers. Savvy players know they’re worth more if they’re hosted, and they (like everyone else) want maximum value for their gaming dollars.
I have done the math on some pretty high-worth players and found them to be unprofitable due to the comps they demanded and received. I have also found great players who almost never received a comp because they were satisfied with the offers they received in the mail, or they never knew they could ask for something more. (Sadly, the latter are a minority, particularly in this economy, where everyone feels compelled to wring every dime out of every possible source.) Most players, fortunately, fall somewhere in the middle: they understand the player rewards systems at their favorite casinos and receive benefits commensurate with their play. They receive these perks for a number of reasons, but at the core is one driving force: to secure their loyalty to a particular casino.
That brings us to another pertinent question: does comping buy a player’s loyalty? Steve Browne said years ago in a training session for Wheeling Island that players are promiscuous. He’s not wrong. I’ve spoken with players who were treated quite well by a host at one of my properties who were made the proverbial “offer they couldn’t refuse” because a competitor had an idea of the player’s worth…and they went for it. Whispering sweet nothings to me and the hosts the whole time, telling me how satisfied they were with our ability to compensate them for their play, they told me later about their visit to my competitor’s casino. Breathless with the brand new-ness of the property, describing with delight the free steakhouse dinner or entertainment or VIP lounge, they wrap up their description of my competitor by telling me how little money they spent there so they could spend some with me.
The reason hosts are expected to issue comps are numerous: to compensate a player who lost a fair amount of money, to get a return visit from a “lost” player, to supplement mail offers the player isn’t likely to use, to mark a special occasion in the player’s life (anniversary, birthday, etc.), or to placate a high roller whose service expectations weren’t met. Ultimately, the goal of a comp is to get a player to return to your property. All of the reasons listed above have that goal in common. The host, with the comp, is asking the player, “Please come back!”
But what if the host can’t issue a comp? My friends at properties who have forbidden comps tell me they’ve had to helplessly watch players walk out the door simply because the host couldn’t provide them with dinner. What is a host in this situation to do?
The answer is simple: Do Your Best. Don’t break the rules; don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t grouse about your inability to write a comp for a soft drink. Tell the patron how to get what he wants, let him know what you CAN do for him, and let the chips fall where they may. Be helpful, genuine, professional, and available to the guest. You are still an ambassador for your property.
Happily, the words, “Please come back” are almost as effective on most people as the buffet comp would have been.
If you are a host who CAN comp, thank your lucky stars, make the best business decisions possible, and never take for granted the tools you have been given to take care of your patrons.