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Picking up the pieces from the DM Program

Nick Ippolito initiated a conversation on Linked In about the Direct Mail program and how a Host can get stuck with a guest that is unhappy with their offers.

It is not easy to craft a direct marketing strategy that meets the goal of driving more trips without having bad side effects on some guests. Have you heard of the Law of Unintended Consequences?

In our imaginary world, the Sandy Palace Casino has a simplistic approach and bases offers on ADT (average daily theo) over the last 3 months.

The Consistent Player. Colleen plays every Friday night because that is how she relaxes at the end of her stressful week. She has a budget in mind and plays consistently. Each Friday, her Theo is around 300 so her ADT = 300. The Direct Mail team sends her an offer in hope that she will add an additional trip at 300+. In reality, she takes that free play and uses it next Friday. She won’t ever add a trip.

As a Host, you are unlikely to hear from Colleen about her offers because they are consistent.

The Penalized Player. Robin plays on Fridays and Saturdays with her best friends. She also has a budget in mind and her Theo varies from 300 to 350, so her ADT would be 325, similar to Colleen. However, Robin decides to take her free play offers and her F&B coupons and make an extra trip on Monday and Wednesday evenings on her way home from work. She eats for free, doesn’t play for long because she has to get home and maybe puts an additional $25 into the slots after she has burned through her free play. Robin is now penalized by her behavior because she has dragged down her ADT from 325 to (300+350+25+25) / 4 = 175. In January, she just plays weekends and receives February offers for 300+ ADT. In February, she adds her small trips on Monday and Wednesdays, and her March offers drop because they are based on 175+ ADT.

As a Host, you will hear complaints from Robin because her offers will vary based on her behavior from month to month. As an ethical Host, keeping the casino’s business objectives in mind, should you really coach Robin on how to play ‘to beat the system’?

The Disappointed New Player. Bill is unhappy with the competition and he comes over to try the Sandy Palace. You are assigned to groom Bill because he is a 300+ player. Bill plays for a few weekends and he is pretty happy with his offers based on 300+ ADT. You keep working on building a relationship with Bill and he decides to move his play from the competition to the Sandy Palace. Overall, Bill now brings a lot more total Theo. But, unfortunately, like Robin, this means he is also bringing some smaller trips to your Property and suddenly his offers drop in value and he is mad and threatens to go back to the competition. Especially as the competition now considers Bill to be a ‘fader’ and they will bump their offers up to lure him back.

I believe your role is to share what you hear about specific players so the strategy can be improved but do not present your feedback in a critical way. The relationship between Direct Marketing and Player Development needs to be a constructive give and take.

That said, you can talk to your manager about what you see as the adverse side effects of the program and empower them to speak to the Marketing manager with detailed examples. We are all in this together!

8 Tips for Cold Calling

Part of your job is to cold-call players. There is a big difference between engaging a person with your eyes and smile, and placing an outbound call to someone who might not want to hear from your right now. The trick is to mentally climb down inside that phone and stand right in front of them!

In a recent post, we talked about 7 Reasons to Make a Call. Now, let’s explore 8 Tips on how to make those bound calls:

Make a Plan. Be clear in your mind about your Reason To Call, and the outcome you want to achieve. Are you calling to touch base, to get information, or to close their commitment to an Event? What are you going to say if they decline? How will you respond if they are irritated at the interruption?

Be Ready For Voicemail. Decide ahead of time whether you are going to hang up or leave a voicemail. If you are going to leave a voicemail, then plan what you are going to say so you are not recording any ‘Ums’. Write this message down so you are ready to roll when you are dropped into voicemail.

Rev Yourself Up! You don’t want to get into the phone with over-the-top crazy enthusiasm! But your voice and words had better convey some passion about what you are describing. Literally standing up is a good idea because your voice has more energy if you are not slumped in a chair. Plus, you will tend to walk about and be more animated.

It’s Not About You. Put yourself in a mindset that begins and ends with the player’s best interests at heart. If you can focus on how you are trying to help them, they will hear that tone in your voice and respond well. Even if they are not interested in your information, they will be grateful that you cared. For example, they may say, ‘I am not interested in this concert but please keep me in mind next time.’

Compare these two approaches…

“Kim, we are having a great Fireworks event and I would love to book you in….” (all about you)

“Kim, I am calling because I think you would really enjoy this Fireworks Event. I know you get a lot of mail and I didn’t want you to miss this offer. Are you going to join us on Saturday for the fun and excitement?” (all about Kim)

Grab Their Attention. Don’t start with a tentative ‘Am I interrupting you?’ because they will think Yes! Even if they don’t say so. Use their name and quickly get to what you hope will interest them. Practice your opening line and hook them with something interesting. ‘Kim, this is Sam, I have something really cool to tell you…’

Make Them Feel Special. Use their name, mention the names of their family and friends if you have those Notes, ask open questions and listen hard, and be sure to thank them for their time. “Kim, before I go, what happened with the car problems. is everything taken care of now?”

Pace Yourself It is exhausting to make a lot of calls plus you will start to be bored with repeating your ‘pitch’ so be realistic about how many calls you can make in a row. Pace yourself and make 5 a day for 5 days instead of 25 calls on one day.

Stay hydrated (with water not caffeine), eat a light lunch, stretch, stand up to call, walk around the outside of the building at lunchtime, take the stairs for extra exercise, and breathe deeply before you call to focus yourself. All of these techniques will convey healthy energy in the quality of your voice.

And finally, practice practice practice. The drive to work is a great opportunity to talk out loud and imagine that you are making calls! Who cares what the other drivers think of your crazy antics.

8 Ways to define a strong Work Ethic?

This morning, I was listening to Gary Vee talk about having a strong work ethic, and that all successful people have, to quote Gary, worked their face off‘.

I was thinking about that. I don’t want to work my face off, if that means working 18 hours a day, every day.

I want to have time away from work, I want to enjoy all aspects of my life, and I want to be healthy physically, emotionally, and socially.

But I’m not lazy. I do have a strong work ethic.

So what do I mean when I say that I have a strong work ethic? What is my definition?

  1.  Each day, I complete whatever has to be truly done that day. This means that I have to be very clear about ‘importance’. (If I tried to finish everything on my ToDo list then I would never stop working; just like the washing up, those new Todos pile up as quickly as I put the old ones away.) So I am brutal about deciding what has to be done that day and I will work late into the night if necessary.
  2. Each day includes the weekends and holidays. We work with Player Development teams across the three time-zones. And Casino Hosts work on weekends and holidays; they don’t all take off on July 4th, or Dec 25th, or Dec 31st. So my work ethic does include being available to our support team, and to our clients, when they truly need me, 24 x 7. Notice the word truly!
  3. I do everything that I don’t want to do. There are many things, large and small, that I don’t want to do. Like a toddler! I don’t want to! But I have learned to recognize that feeling, let myself be unhappy, and then buckle down and get them done. If I procrastinate and put them off, then they are living in the back of my mind and making me miserable. If I step up and get them finished, then they are gone. (I didn’t expect so many positive aspects of Yoga. I think the regular practice of Yoga trains the mind to understand the emotion, and then move beyond it.)
  4. I am fearless. Part of a strong work ethic, is to be able to ‘do what needs to be done’ regardless of one’s fear. Back in my 20’s and 30’s, I used to live with a lot of  fear, and I made a mess of so many situations. But now I live by the rule ‘Challenge your limits, don’t limit your challenges‘. If I fail at something then it doesn’t matter because certain people still love me. And, of course, if I make a mistake then I will say so, and own it, because integrity is key in business.
  5. I am disciplined. Four months ago, I decided to start writing articles and books, and sharing much of what I have learned from working with some fabulous Player Development professionals over the years. I decided to write one article a week; and here I am writing this. I don’t always “want to” but I do it, because that is my weekly discipline. And I managed to write my first book, Casino Host Goals: a Strategic Approach to Player Development, by carving out one hour a day for what seemed like forever!
  6. I am organized. I maintain three Todo lists. One is for my personal life, one is for Harvest Trends now, and one is for Harvest Trends future. Each morning, I review each list (and yes, these are hand-written on paper, using my Dad’s Parker Pen and real ink. People are often amazed that I don’t use a software tool but, because I knock these things out, they don’t grow into long lists.) I pick 3 items to be completed today; that way, there is plenty of room for the other tasks that pop up during the day and must be knocked back. I think of incoming tasks/emails as if they were ping-pong balls, and I am an Ace table tennis player! I want to knock those little white balls back over the net as they arrive, and not have them all land on the floor around my desk.
  7. I am constantly reading, listening and learning. To me, part of having a strong work ethic, is to work on myself as much as my ‘job’. I multi-task this into my life. For example, I listen to motivational speeches while I am getting ready in the morning, or if I am working on a task that does not require much mental attention. And I am always, always, always thinking. I will see an article on a completely different industry and I will be thinking about what it means to Player Development. So, yes, I am a little obsessed in that way!
  8. I work a lot of hours. And yes, I do work a lot of hours. Ha ha! But I don’t work my face off so I won’t become a billionaire and that’s just fine.

How do we transform the Gaming Industry, Gary Vee?


Jimmy Compton, PD at 7 Clans, started a conversation in the Player Development Association about millennials and what will attract them to Casinos…

…I reluctantly went to the Cinema last night (Book Club) for the first time in 5+ years.

Why reluctant? I hate having to get there early to be sure of a good seat alongside my friends, and to avoid being stuck between strangers. I don’t want to drink a soda in the evening, I want a glass of wine. And I hate having to scrunch into my seat to let people go by.

I’d rather sit at home and obsessively watch Gary Vee videos on YouTube with a glass of Tempranillo. (More of Gary Vee later…)

What a surprise! My friend had purchased our tickets on-line and we had assigned seats. There was a bar in the foyer! And my seat was as comfy as a first-class airline seat, and even reclined. If you are thinking ‘of course’ then you can appreciate how long it has been since I went.

After the movie, I started to relate this experience back to Jimmy’s questions and to our Casino industry…

The Cinema of my youth had lines around the block and could cram the audience into small seats, narrow rows, and a large auditorium showing one movie. ‘Going to the Movies’ was THE exciting outing, and the Cinema did not have to compete with other forms of entertainment; in fact it closed down a lot of live entertainment.

Now we have so much choice of entertainment and even from the comfort of our own home. So why go out at all, and why pick the cinema? Why go out, and why pick the casino?

I was impressed how the cinema has been re-envisaged and transformed. Smaller auditoriums, multiple choice of movies, comfortable seats, alcohol, and assigned seats.

How are we going to re-envisage the casino experience? I don’t mean add more amenities and provide free wifi. How will we transform the casino experience?

How do we capitalize on Gamers that will go online and book a time-slot in an amazing 3D technology experience with their friends, and pay for additional virtual experiences while they play? Isn’t the Casino the natural venue for all kinds of amazing 3D and VR technology that is too big for my front room?

Where are the fun robots that roam the floor and you can interact with them? Not to replace the staff – but to add some buzz!

How do we tie into the anticipation of the new Marvel film and not wait for a themed slot machine emerges? A millennial will not be excited about a Marvel slot machine. But they might have come to an event with costumed actors who will pose for photos, while you play the free trailers on big screens. Perhaps you install a small but amazing auditorium and groups can rent the space?

I went to see the Book Club which is aimed at the 50+ female market that maps really well to the demographic of a slot player. How do we get small groups of women to come to the Casino and re-live the movie in a VIP event? Set up an area with video clips playing from the Movie and serve wine and Tapas?

It’s not just about millennials. Why did I go to the Book Club? Because of video clips on Facebook that were targeted at me based on my gender and age. Everyone is on social media, and staring at their phone.

Which leads me to Direct Mail; I know that you go home, throw away your physical mail, and then pick up your phone. Part of this transformation of our industry will be to abandon the postage stamp, and throw ourselves fully into Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube, and whatever comes next. Is your casino doing that? I don’t mean dabbling in social media, I mean throwing away the postage stamp, and going 100% into social media.

And if Player Development is supposed to be a 1:1 relationship with the guest then social media is even more important! But do you have handcuffs on how much you can use Instagram and Snapchat as an Executive Host?

(Someone should please invite Gary Vaynerchuk to speak at G2E! Gary Vee is making his fortune explaining to industries like ours that we are completely missing the boat on social media. Here’s an intro. Put up with the profanity and listen to the end.)

And how was the Book Club? It was good but it failed to take full advantage of some amazing actors.

And will I go back to the Cinema? Absolutely!

You can join the Casino Player Development Association (C-PDA) via Linked In. Connect with me and I will invite you.

Join the Casino Player Development Association!

You are interested in Player Development so join the new, and growing, Casino Player Development Association (C-PDA)!

Together, we will:

  • Provide a support mechanism for all Player Development  professionals.
  • Share education, ideas, challenges and solutions.
  • Find out about new opportunities.
  • Promote Player Development as a Profession.

The C-PDA has started as a group on Linked In. This is just the first step in building out a professional association, so you will get in from the start.

On LinkedIn, please connect to JZ or Jackie, with a note that you want to join the C-PDA, and we will invite you into the Group!

Jatonia Ziegler (JZ), PlayerSoft

Jackie Parker, Harvest Trends

Be a part of PD Nation!

Download Casino VIP Host Interview Questions

Do you need some questions to ask a Casino Host during the interview?

(If you haven’t read this related article, then take a look at 6 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A CASINO HOST NEW HIRE The interview questions are based on the ideas in this article about what to look for when hiring a Casino Host. So read the article to see if you agree to why you would ask these questions.)

You can download this in MS Word format and change it to meet your situation:

Host Questionaire MSWord

Or you can download in PDF format if that version of MS Word does not work for you:

Host Questionaire v1

P.S. Do you want to become a Host, and  you are doing research?  Take a look at this information.




What’s your style? Delta or Virgin Atlantic?

Do you dress like the traditional Casino Exec, or do you add your trademark polka dot tie or scarf? Is there a correct and only way to dress, to behave, and to connect with the players?

I fly across the Atlantic a couple of times each year. The Delta crews are immaculately groomed with a permanent soft smile, and a calm, quiet way of moving around the cabin. To the British side of my brain, this is cold and impersonal but I believe they are so well-drilled and competent, that they would handle any emergency mid-flight.

By comparison, the Virgin Atlantic crews appear relaxed, even casual, and share personal stories and jokes as if I were a friend.  Yes, they wear a uniform but it will have a jaunty adjustment and perhaps a small personal addition. To the American side of my brain, they can appear dis-organized and I worry that they would not find the defibrillator in time!

(In the US, we expect customer service to be delivered with the quiet efficiency shown in Downtown Abbey. In contrast, the Brits know that anyone delivering customer service will be as personal and jokey, as if they had just met you in the pub. Despite the stereotype of the British ‘stiff upper lip’, the British guest may find the Delta crew to be aloof, and the American guest may find the Virgin Atlantic crew to be unprofessional.)

I always enjoy these contrasts in the culture of the flight crews as I hurtle in a silver tube between my native land and my adopted USA home. It reminds me that there is no right or wrong way to dress and behave. But! It is very easy to put off a guest who has a rigid expectation of any kind. So, you might want to experiment with lightening up, or tightening up, your style to see what response you get. (While still being sincere to your true nature!)

You may say that your style is fine because your numbers are great and your players all love you. But what does your manager think?

Are you the manager? Have you told Jenny to change her wardrobe, and have you asked Andy to cut out the jokes?

I remember a Director of PD with excellent numbers, and high customer ratings, who was refused a promotion to VP because the GM thought their style was unprofessional. Had the GM ever said anything? No!

As managers, we can believe our expectations are so obvious that any individual who does not conform must be deliberately defiant, or stupid. But no, as a manager, you must be clear if you are expecting Delta, Virgin Atlantic, or any other airline! And, as a PD professional, you should be sure to ask your manager if you are meeting their expectations.

At the end of the day, you only have one Captain of the crew, and they control your flight path to promotion!


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Lovely Reminders to Ask Questions

The phrase Emotional Intelligence is thrown around a lot in articles about Player Development. The intelligence to accurately recognize another person’s emotions through their words, body language, and facial expressions. And the intelligence to respond appropriately with our own words, body language and facial control. You can see how appropriate this is to hosting Casino guests. (And if you want to try your hand, then take this quiz!)

Of course, there are tremendous cultural variations in our behavior, that can completely throw off one’s Emotional Radar. I am British, I’ve lived in the US for over 30 years, and I am back in England to take care of my 86 year old Mother after a stroke. As I walk around the town and navigate the shops and the Hospital, I realize every now and then that I have done something slightly inappropriate! I have a strong enough Emotional Radar to pick up on their reaction, but I don’t know my mistake because I have forgotten so many details about how to interact in this culture! Even though I visit twice a year.

However. There is another important component of dealing with others, and that is Respect. I’ve seen how my Mother was treated in the Hospital and now how she is being treated in the Rehabilitation Home, and that is with a great deal of Respect. So the attached picture from Facebook really struck a chord with me. Take a look at this lovely way of using photographs to distinguish between how a person is seen, and how they see themselves.

Many of our most valuable Casino Guests are in the demographic of these pictures (and 20-30 years older than our Hosts!) These guests will greatly appreciate our respect as we take the time to ask about their lives, to hear their stories (perhaps repeated), and thank them for all they bring to this experience of being alive.

(This picture is from

Hustle beats Talent when Talent does not Hustle

I drove past one of those bright yellow signs with black lettering and it read “Hustle beats Talent when Talent does not Hustle.” It really caught my attention and I looked to see what kind of business it was. A Dentist! Now, I am not sure I’d want to go and see a Dental Surgeon that was relying on their Hustle over their Talent, but I still like the phrase.

We can have all the talent in the world but it doesn’t count for anything unless we roll up our sleeves, get to work, and hustle!

This probably struck me hard because I was on my way to a County planning meeting to try to persuade them to make a zoning change so that I could start a new business. I had not thought of myself as hustling, but I was! Putting myself out there and trying to make my vision become a reality.

At Harvest Trends, we have to hustle to get the word out. We might have the best solution for Player Development and we might have passion, but unless we hustle through our marketing efforts then no-one will ever know.

And Player Development professionals have to get out there and hustle every day. A Host can have all the talent in the world; a wonderful way with people, a natural charm, a grasp of every detail of how to analyze and grow a player, and an encyclopedic knowledge of everything gaming.

… but Hustle beats Talent when Talent does not Hustle.

I usually talk about the Strategic Host and the need to take a strategic approach to Player Development. The need to have a PLAN of how the Strategic Host is going to achieve their goals by dividing up their time and acting consistently on the right priorities.

Yes, we have to use our Strategic Talent to analyze our goals, divide up our players into different ‘types’ or ‘segments’, and decide how we are to go about growing their trips and play.

But it is the Hustle that makes us execute our plan!

It is the Hustle that forces us to make those out-bound calls to missing players, to make sure we send 30 letters each and every week, and to start each shift with a list of 3 Key Todos for that day. It is the Hustle that leads us to network with the Pit Boss, the F&B Manager, and the Front Desk so that we can pull strings for our guests. It is the Hustle that gives us the courage to ask our Manager, “Where can I improve?”

Let’s take our Talents and add some Hustle this week!

Drive, and, Host Defensively!

I want to share a story that has been rolling around in my head about Casino Host ethics, integrity, and not crossing the invisible lines.

In the last article, 6 Reasons People Gamble; and Why a Host Should Care, I wrapped up with this thought: ‘Are you a friend? Of course not. Don’t get too friendly or you can easily cross a line that leads to no end of trouble for you.’

An Executive shared an old story with me regarding a Host who crossed a line and ended up in trouble. It involved a Host becoming ‘too friendly’ with some guests and going off-premise to join them for food and drinks. Because, of course, the Host could not drink on property. An F&B Manager was aware of this, and even ended up joining the group off-property! The story did not end well, and it raised all kinds of HR issues about Who Said What, and Who Knew What, and What Really Happened.

In my own professional life, I have found myself in a bad situation where it was all about ‘My Word against Their Word’ but it was a fellow employee and not a customer. If you are the employee and ‘they’ are the customer, then you are immediately less likely to be believed.

And even if you are believed, there is still the terrible PR issue of the customer’s complaint. The Casino must take responsibility for your actions, or perceived actions, and the Casino must clean up the mess. So, you are going to be in big trouble.

Let’s go back to this story.

tsaThe F&B Manager should have known better because a Manager must be even more Squeaky Clean than an individual contributor.

The F&B Manager should have told the Host to cut it out and, if the activity continued, the F&B Manager should have told the PD Manager.

As the TSA poster says, ‘If you see something, say something”.

Both the Host and the Manager should have thought a little more deeply about why they cannot drink on their own Property. It is not to be mean. It is because alcohol removes inhibitions and even if the employee can hold their drink, it doesn’t mean that the customer can. You drive defensively, watching out the other idiots who may run a light, not give a turn signal, or text and drive. As a Casino Host, you must work and live defensively, watching out for customers or fellow employees who might cross a line and drag you with them.

  • How might it look if you are drinking off-property with a VIP customer?
  • How might it look if you are up alone in the Penthouse with a group of guests drinking? Take someone with you!

Here’s the brutal reality. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, it matters how it could be interpreted.

Of course, on property, you have the added protection of cameras so if a customer, or employee, accuses you of impropriety then Surveillance might be able to pull the tapes. Off-property, you don’t that extra layer of protection.

And what about off-hours? Does the Casino own your entire life and so you cannot go bar-hopping or dancing? Well, for one, it probably depends where you live and how likely you are to run into your Coded Players! And what about friends? Can the Casino tell you that customers cannot become friends? Lovers? Of course not, and of course it is going to happen in some cases.

The point is that you must Host defensively. Tell your Manager as soon as there is any reason to do so. Just so they are not taken off-guard and, perhaps, they can re-code the guest. I remember being told “I cannot tell my Manager because this high value player is a married woman’. Well, don’t be having an affair with a married woman, let alone the best slot player!

And as for friends… We all have friends, and we might have friends that play in the Casino. But if your fellow Host meets a bunch of party animals in the Casino and follows them off-site to hang out with them… then those are not their friends! The motive was not friendship but a good time, and parties can go sour. If you See Something, Say Something!

It is all about perception and managing perception. Last night’s news was all about the revelation that Michel Cohen named Sean Hannity was a client. Sean Hannity says he was not a client. It is a ‘Him against Him’ story. But Sean Hannity has spent the week lambasting the FBI raid on Michael Cohen while pressuring Cohen to keep him out of the story. My point is that I don’t know the truth; I just know that Sean Hannity is now dealing with a major news story because he tried to avoid disclosing a minor news story.

Did the PD Manager know about the Host going off-property and whooping it up with guests? If so, they should have Said Something but perhaps they dismissed it as harmless or just gossip. By avoiding that minor conversation with the Host, the PD Manager was pulled into an HR nightmare.

If you See something, Say something! First to the person themselves and then, if necessary, to management. It may be embarrassing or difficult to speak to someone about their behavior, or a rumor of their behavior, but it will be MUCH worse when you get pulled into HR, or the Gaming Authority, to explain what you knew and when.

A Casino Resort has a dangerous mix of heady-entertainment, alcohol, hotel bedrooms, and Casino Hosts have the extra burden of having to be ‘nice’ to guests. So, Drive and Host Defensively!