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Slot Club Changes

29 June 1999

If you're a member of a slot club at most casinos, you're used to instant access to cash rebates.

Slide your card into a magnetic reader when you play slots or video poker, build points while you play, redeem points for a cash voucher at the slot club booth, exchange the voucher for cash at the cashier's cage. No sweat.

By now, Harrah's players both in East Chicago, Indiana, and Joliet, Illinois, will notice that things have changed. No more same-day-of-play cash back. Instead, Harrah's players will receive cash vouchers in the mail the week after they play. In addition, Harrah's will continue to mail bonus cash coupons. Players still build comp credits as they play, and they may still print out their own meal comp vouchers on the Total Gold kiosks in both casinos.

The goal is to boost return visits. Bonus cash coupons have been one of the most effective ways casinos have found in attracting players to return. The Illinois and Indiana markets in some ways are a test--Harrah's is still considering whether to make the change nationwide, although for now you can still walk into Harrah's Las Vegas, for example, and get cash back on the same day.

In Indiana, Harrah's is following a trail blazed by Trump Casino in Gary last year. Trump also sends players cash rebate vouchers each week instead of redeeming points on the spot, and it also mails bonus cash coupons.

In making the conversion, Trump also boosted its cash back rate, making it the highest in its market. It eases the pain of delayed gratification when the reward is double the cash you'd receive at most casinos in the region.

The vouchers Trump players receive each week return 0.5 percent of coins played on dollar slots, twice the 0.25 percent that's the average base rate in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois. Trump's rate varies by type and denomination of machine_quarter players get 0.28 percent.

Harrah's has no points countdown, and we can't calculate how much our cash vouchers will be worth. I asked at a Total Gold booth in East Chicago, and was told it will be more money than before. Let's just say players are likely to receive checks for something more than Harrah's old rebate of 0.25 percent of wagers, but something less than Trump's 0.5 percent.

That leaves a bit of a quandary for knowledgeable players who like to know where they stand before they play. Just as Empress steps to the plate with double- and triple-points days in June, Harrah's leaves comparison shoppers with nothing to compare. Empress competes directly with Harrah's in Joliet, and they're also close competitors in Indiana, where Empress Hammond is just a few miles away from Harrah's East Chicago.

The Empresses are offering triple points each Tuesday and double points each Wednesday. If your choice as to where to play is a close call, that can make a difference.

Let's say I play two hours of dollar video poker, at an easy pace of 500 hands per hour. That's 1,000 hands, and with maximum bets of $5 per hand, my wagers total $5,000. On a Tuesday, triple points mean I get 0.75 percent of that in cash back. I can go to the Empress Club booth at the end of the day and redeem my newly earned points for $37.50.

With the same play at either Harrah's, I have no points to redeem. I'm looking at receiving a voucher the next week, probably for something more than $12.50, although I don't know how much more. And I have to return before the voucher expires to get the money.

That's an extreme example. Not every day is triple points day at Empress or anywhere else. On most days, the voucher you'll earn at Harrah's will be about the same as or a little more than the cash back you'll get elsewhere.

And comparisons of a day's return by no means start and end with slot club cash back. A much bigger factor is the return on the games themselves. In northwest Indiana, that's a big plus for Harrah's. In April, Harrah's East Chicago dollar slots returned 95 percent, and its payback percentage on quarter slots was 92.1 percent. That's about 1 percent higher than other casinos in northwest Indiana.

It's a much closer call in Illinois, where in April's figures from the Gaming Board, dollar paybacks at Harrah's and its three closest competitors alll were within two-tenths of a percent of 95 percent, and quarters ranged from 92.1 percent to 92.8 percent. With numbers that close, the cash back situation makes a big difference.

That leave it up to the players. Do you want your cash back now, or is later OK?

Editor's Note: Harrah's in Atlantic City switched from same-day cash back to bounceback cash back mailings in January.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski