Category Archives: Casino Host Goals

How Direct Mail and PD are different!

Here’s a topic that comes up a lot when I’m talking to new clients! How does the segmentation used in Direct Mail apply to Player Development? I don’t think it does.

Let’s say that the Direct Mail program at your Property uses these rules to classify players each month:

New – guests are New for the first month.
Active – played in the last six months.
Pending – no trip for six months
Inactive – no trip for twelve months.

(Each month, the Direct Mail team will pull a list of players, decide if they are Active/Pending/Inactive, and use the frequency of play and ADT to determine which offers to send out in the monthly mailer.)

We are often asked to configure our PowerHost software to match this same criteria but my argument is that these time periods are far too long for Player Development. Your coded players should be your best players and they should be playing frequently. Waiting six months without a trip for them to be considered ‘Pending’ is far too long in PD. A Host should be worried if they have not shown up for a month!

(I do realize this varies based on your location and market but the principle remains the same. PD works on much shorter time-frames than Direct Mail.)

I like to explain it this way…  Direct Mail is like a deep-sea trawler throwing a net over the side and catching several hundred thousand fish, big and small. Whereas Player Development is like fly-fishing. The expert fly fisher stands in a shallow river and closely watches the behavior of the big fish and notices what each fish likes and dislikes and realizes that a certain fish has not appeared when it should. PD should know when someone is NOT there and take action.

So, I recommend that Casinos keep the overall framework from Direct Mail, because we don’t need to create confusion, but add some extra classifications for PD.

Take a look at this diagram…










The column labeled Direct Mail shows that their segments are Active (1-6 months), Pending (7-12 months) and Inactive at 12+ months. The column labeled Player Development breaks this down into shorter time frames.

  • After a month without a trip, an Active player is considered Active-Due Back.
  • After 3 months without a trip, an Active player is considered Active – Fading.

The first three months without play are critical for PD because there is still an opportunity to place phone calls and find out what is happening. Is the guest unhappy with a service issue or gone to the competition? The Host can take immediate action!

We don’t want coded players slipping into Pending. (This is what Amy Hudson calls Pre-emptive Reactivation. Don’t let the player slip away, lose the loyalty, and then have to be re-activated.)

If the guest turns ‘Pending’, with no trip for 6 months, then the relationship between the Host and the player will have disappeared. Unless! The Host knows the guest is a snow-bird or is dealing with an illness in the family. A strategic Host will have found this out within 30 days and will be staying in touch.

In the picture, you see the Pending segment broken down into Pending and Pending Inactive. After 9 months without play, the guest is in the deep red zone and likely to fall out of the coded list.

I don’t understand why any coded list has Inactive players? If the PD program has been taking a strategic approach for a year or more then there won’t be.

I would love to see a manager have the courage to set this goal “Host will not allow any guest to go Pending without a recorded reason e.g. sickness or snowbird.” And have an associated financial penalty for every time that it happens.

With this goal in place, we would definitely all track our players that start to disappear (Active Fading) and try to get them back in!  And if we find a solid reason such as ‘This person lost their job’ or ‘This person has moved across country’ then we can lobby the PD Manager to decode the guest and clean up the coding list.

I doubt that I will someone be that aggressive… but it does make smile when I see a goal to reactivate Inactive players. (Because they should not be allowed to go Inactive! It’s like rewarding someone for catching the runaway horse instead of rewarding them for keeping the barn door closed.)  I’d rather see some retention goals such as ‘Contact 95% of coded players each quarter’ and ‘Drive 1+ trip from 80% of coded players during the quarter’.

Don’t leave the barn door open!

SMART Goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound

Every time you write a goal, you need to take a step back and ask yourself is it SMART? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Let’s look at an example:  “In this Quarter, each Host will increase Theo from Active players by 7% over the same quarter last year.”

Is this SMART?

• It does Specify ‘Increase Theo from Active Players’
• The Measure is 7%.
• Is 7% Achievable? You can check by asking for a report that shows the total Theo for coded players in the last six quarters. If most of the coded players have been increasing their Theo at 5% even before you set Host Goals and influence Host behavior, then it probably is Achievable to grow by 7%.
• Each Host is responsible for growth from their own Active players which is Relevant to the company’s objective.
• The goal is Time-Bound and compares this quarter with the same quarter last year.

In conclusion, this goal is SMART but only IF, at your Property, you can measure the growth for each Active Player, and provide the Hosts with daily and weekly reports on which player to contact, and why.

In many Properties, the Hosts are not told their Goals, or given their coded lists, until a month into the quarter. And they are often not told where they stand against their Goals until after the end of the quarter when IT or the Database Analyst can run the numbers.

This approach is completely demoralizing because the Hosts have no idea whether their daily efforts are bringing them success. And from a Management perspective, the Hosts will meet their goals out of sheer luck and not because they focused their efforts on the right players so why pay out a bonus on a lottery?

The Player Development team needs targeted information each day to make the correct decisions on whom to contact. Without daily information, the team is not making conscious decisions on how to meet their goals, so why even have goals? It will be sheer luck and not inspiration or perspiration that enables the team to meet their goals.

So! Make your goals SMART and then be smart about providing the Player Development team with all of the training, coaching, and tools that they need to succeed and exceed with their goals!


Available at Amazon. $21

Read this book, Casino Host Goals, and you will have a road-map for success as you create or improve your Player Development program, in the context of your Casino Marketing strategy. It belongs on the shelf of any Executive in Casino Management who wants to drive revenue from a strategic approach to PD. Just $21 from Amazon.

Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.

What is Your Annual Cycle? Gambling month by month…

When you write Casino Host Goals, they need to be SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Let’s consider the word Achievable in the context of Seasonality. You need to do some research regarding what is realistic for each quarter for your Property. It is unlikely that each quarter is the same, and it is unlikely that your Player Development team can grow play by the same amount in every quarter of the year.

For most properties, there is a seasonal factor based on the weather patterns. If you are in the mid-western USA, then Q1 is lower than other Quarters because snow and ice in January-March will deter players from venturing out. If you are in Arizona or Florida, then Q1 might be higher because of snowbirds escaping to your warmer climes.

Q4 is often slow because your customers have so many other Holidays and family commitments that need their time, and money, to enjoy. If Q4 is always slow, then you should you have a lower growth goal for Q4 than for the other Quarters.

Take a look at this chart… the data reported by State Gaming Commissions from across the United States shows a clear cyclical annual patterns in play based on annual life events such as tax returns, paying for Christmas gifts, and taking vacations in the summer.

You can see the same pattern across the USA for three consecutive years. March is high, June is low, July and August are high, and the fourth Quarter is low.

This analysis was created by Harvest Trends and described in 2012 by Susan Kesel, a Gaming industry executive, in an article in Gaming & Leisure Magazine.

Does this pattern still apply to your Property? Are you having a great March? Get ready for April! Or do you have a different annual cycle?

If you talk to the CFO, they will know the annual cycle because the Finance Department has to manage the cash flow throughout the year and not be impacted by this fluctuation in revenues.

And take this into consideration as you set your Casino Host Goals! This is why many goals are written as growth over the same Quarter last  year, and not as growth over the Previous Quarter.




Retaining Players – Don’t Churn, Baby, Churn”

The Importance of Avoiding Churn

If you do not measure Retention then you are at risk of enabling ‘churn’.

Churn is a term used across all industries that basically asks, “Are you busy generating new customers but losing so many existing customers that you don’t really grow?”

For example, an Executive Host acquires 20 new players during the Quarter but somehow 60 coded players slip away and do not play during the Quarter. Overall the Host is down by 40 valuable players by the end. But this won’t become visible until you measure it.

Why does this matter?

  • First, it is harder and more expensive to acquire new players than to retain existing ones. Your PD team spends more time and Comps on trying to attract or identify valuable new players, and have to invest in someone that may not become a loyal guest.
  • Second, there may be some underlying issues with guest satisfaction that you are not identifying and resolving. These were valuable enough players to be coded to a Host; so why have they declined? You need the PD team to reach out, find out what is happening, and get resolution.

So how you measure churn and give the Hosts a solid goal?

Here is a simple example of a Retention Goal. You must retain 95% of your Active Players”. If the Executive Host had 300 coded players on April 1st, then 285 of them must play at least once in April/May/June.

Why isn’t the Retention Goal set at 100%? Well, you have to make some allowance for the ‘inevitable shrinkage’ of guests moving away or  having dramatic changes in their lives.

If you think about your market, you can come up with your own logic. E.g. With 300 coded players, you might expect 2 Deaths, 10  move-aways, 1 becoming restricted, and 5 life-style changes e.g. loss of income. 2+10+1+5=18. So, you expect an inevitable shrinkage of 18. You can round it up to 20 and say the Host must retain 280 of 300 coded players.

This Retention Goal requires some support from the Database team or your Host Software provider. This is what you need at a minimum:

  • At the start of the Quarter, a list of coded players for each Host
  • At the end of the Quarter, an updated list of trips for each player on the list.
  • A way for the Host to know who has not played. This may be a weekly list from the Database team, or it may be built into your Host Software.

Advanced Retention Goals

Over time, and if you have the reporting capabilities, you might want to have a more elaborate Retention goal that uses trips and Theo to ensure the Active players are not only playing but playing at the same pace or better.

Here are two examples. The first definition ensures the Active players are not falling off in trips:

A host retains a player in a quarter if that player makes at least as many trips as in the previous quarter.

This second definition ensures the Active players are not falling off in trips and play:

A host retains a player in a quarter when that player makes at least as many trips as in the previous quarter, and total Theo is 50% or more of the total Theo in the previous quarter.

These goals have gone beyond measuring simple Retention to measuring whether Active players are ‘declining’ and the PD team is held to a higher standard.

This may be appropriate if you are in a highly competitive market, or you find yourself in competitive situation for the first time. However, this requires more sophisticated reporting from your Database team or from your Host Software vendor.

In conclusion, KISS, and keep it simple initially with something like Host must retain 280 of 300 coded players.


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2 Key Aspects of Goals; Effort and Results

When we first think about Host goals, we often think about measures and rules. For example, “a host must contact 60 people each week”, which is a measure, and “a host must not issue a comp for more than 15% of 30 day ADT”, which is a rule.

There is nothing wrong with measures and rules but a goal addresses the larger question of “what are we trying to achieve?

The Miriam Webster dictionary defines a goal as “the end to which effort is directed”.
What is the end that we are trying to achieve by having the host contact 60 people each week? Well, we are trying to make sure that the Host is busy. But busy doing what?

A cynical General Manager might suspect the Hosts are busy contacting the same 60 people that the Hosts always talks to, either because those players are pleasant or because they are demanding. Or the Player Development manager may fear the Hosts are busy talking to people that are already playing practically every day, instead of focusing on trying to get new players, or reactivate people that used to play a lot but seem to have fallen away.

It isn’t enough to measure activity, we need to write goals that measure the effort, and the success, of achieving a good outcome for the casino. We need to change the goal from measuring “the host is busy” to measuring “the host is busy doing the right things.”

After some thought, we create two goals. The first goal is “Contact 10 Inactive players each week” so the Hosts call people that haven’t played for 90 days but had high Theo when they were last playing regularly. (An organized Host will find time to call two Inactive players each day of the five-day week and 2×5=10). And the second goal is “Bring back 20 Inactive players this quarter” so the Host has to find ways to encourage the Inactive players to return.

Here are the two goals:

  • Contact 10 Inactive players each week. (Measures Effort)
  • Bring back (Reactivate) 20 Inactive players this quarter.  (Measures Result)

The first goal measures Effort; it measures whether the Host is trying to contact Inactive players. The second goal measures Results; it measures whether the Host is successful in getting those Inactive players back onto the Property.

Take another look at the Goals in place for you or your team, and see if they need a tweak?

Are they really just Measures and Rules? Or are they truly focused on rewarding Effort and Results?


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Available at Amazon. $21

Read this book, Casino Host Goals, and you will have a road-map for success as you create or improve your Player Development program, in the context of your Casino Marketing strategy. It belongs on the shelf of any Executive in Casino Management who wants to drive revenue from a strategic approach to PD. Just $21 from Amazon.

7 Steps For Hosts to Exceed Their Goals

No two hosts are exactly alike, and that’s a good thing. Variety among casino hosts means that any player can find a host with whom he or she can connect. It also means that each host is likely to have his or her own unique approach to working toward goal achievement.

Here is a generic approach that every host can follow to build momentum and keep the numbers growing instead of stagnating. (And if you are in Management, then you might want to introduce this approach to your team, and do some coaching.)

PRIORITIZE! Take an honest look at your goals and decide how hard they are:

  • Which goals seem more like low-hanging fruit and can be achieved most readily? Set aside a couple of hours a week on these.
  • Which goals will take the most work to achieve? Decide to spend a lot of time on these each week. An hour a day, every day, before you go out to meet guests?

Get started now on the hardest goals! A 12-week Quarter may seem like a long time but it will disappear in no time.

PLAN! Come up with an approach to each goal. This is where each Host will bring their unique ideas based on their experience and personality.

  • Is a Goal to increase Theo from Active Players by 10% over last Quarter? Perhaps you decide (1) target the highest-ADT patrons who are off pace for their usual trip pattern, and (2) target the people who were new last Quarter and could probably play-up now they know the property.
  • Is a Goal to re-activate 5 valuable Inactive players who haven’t played for six month? Maybe start by working the ones who live closest to the property? Maybe ask Direct Mail for the list of offers sent to Inactive guests and use that as the hook. Place a call and say “Hey, I’d hate for you to miss this Freeplay that you were sent. Let’s get you in to this Event next week and you can play on the House”.

If you are new to this approach, then ask your Manager and more experienced peers for some suggestions.

CLASSIFY! You’re going to be more successful if you focus on the right players at the right time. That’s easier to do if you know which of your players is the right one to call for each Goal. How do you do this?

  • Break player lists down into smaller groups so you can work more methodically.
  • Choose a set of criteria which matches your priorities. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe you should work on “Players within 50 miles” or “Guests who haven’t been here in 31+ days” or “Ones I haven’t met yet.”
  • If you don’t have a Host system, then put all the names into MS Excel and start to track when you last spoke to them. You can start by asking Database for a list of your players and their City/State, and when they last played.
  • If you find you don’t know much about a particular bunch of patrons, put them in the category of ‘Don’t Know’ and start making calls to ask questions and fill in the blanks about those players.

DISCIPLINE! Create a plan and stick to as best you can. Perhaps this is your plan when you first come on shift: (1) Make a list of 5 Inactive players to call right now. (2) Make a list of 10 Active players to call during the shift. (3) Carry this list around with you and make phone-calls between dealing with guests, or while you are standing around waiting for the Entertainer to show up. Be prepared and then you can maximize your time.

MEASURE! Understanding progress is key to keeping yourself on track. If what you’re doing isn’t working, wouldn’t you rather know early on so you have time to change tactics before the goal period ends?

  • Break your quarterly goal up into 12 weeks. If you have to re-activate 24 Inactive guests then you need 24/12 = 2 guests per week, coming back and playing. If you need to grow Theo by 240,000 per quarter then it needs to grow by 240,000/12 = 20,000 per week.
  • Database might agree to pull a weekly or monthly list for you that shows who played and their Theo this quarter. If this is hard to get for yourself then give a specific example to the PD Manager of what would help the team, and ask them to approach Database.
  • Some systems can tell you on a Daily basis whether your patrons played enough to keep your numbers on pace or whether an additional push might be necessary to achieve the goal for increasing Theo etc.

With this knowledge, you can make adjustments to call patterns, prospecting plans, or events bookings to bring the numbers back in line.

REFLECT! Whether a particular goal period was successful or not, you should take some time at the end of the Quarter, to think about what worked and what didn’t,

This is the time when all the variables need to be assessed:

  • Was weather a factor? Then maybe do a snow day special that gives patrons a premium for coming in within 7 days of the crappy weather.
  • Did a high number of valuable guests just not play? Maybe a personalized handwritten letter with a special offer is the way to go.
  • Are you having trouble getting prospects coded? Perhaps it’s time to rethink how you choose prospects…or it’s time to talk to your team leader about how to qualify them for becoming coded players.

DON’T GIVE UP!!! Be honest with yourself about what you did and didn’t do well. Improve your plans, your lists, and your approach. Talk to others on your team and to Management. Perhaps reach out to someone you know at a different, non-competitor, property and brainstorm with them about different approaches for different groups of players and goals.

Remember that there is rarely a single factor that dictates success or failure. Once you have a plan, it is daily persistence that works. Good luck!

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This post is brought to you by Harvest Trends. We specialize in Player Development (PD). Please take a look at PowerHost, a solution that helps you with everything discussed here. Or contact Paul Cutler at or call 561.860.2621  Paul will overnight you an informative package along with pricing.