Tag Archives: Business

Why do casinos need player development?

I’ll bet your property sends out a lot of mail. Tons of it.  Right? I remember when I was on the seed list at my last property, and it seemed like I got a LOT of mail…and that was just the stuff from my own property!  The mailers I got from checking out the competition weren’t as numerous, since I wasn’t a high roller, but I got a pretty fair number of those, too.

There is a lot of e-mail communication, too. I get something at least once a month, even from properties I haven’t visited in some time. So I know casinos are reaching out and doing database marketing; in fact, I believe casinos do this better than many other businesses today. There’s certainly room for improvement, particularly in terms of “if this, then that” marketing, but that’s another blog post…

Casinos do a lot of things to bring players through their doors.  They post giant luxury cars onto multiple billboards, radio ads let patrons know who is going to be in the showroom soon (and more billboards sport the same message), postcards alert tier card holders there’s a continuity gift program for the upcoming holiday, and reservations agents are scheduled overtime to book the hotel once the coupons arrive in mailboxes market-wide. There’s clearly a lot going on to provide incentives for players to visit a particular casino.

Events are held, show tickets are handed out, food is served, prizes are awarded, and guests show up. So, why do casinos need player development?

Casinos need a true-to-life player development department because it can generate revenue the programs and activities above don’t get for them.  Sure, a player who has had a “pretty alright” experience at your property in the past may come in if you dangle the right prize or giveaway or food coupons at them. But to get the right ones to come in more often, there’s nothing like the personal touch.

A host can make it easier and more inviting for a player to return to a particular property than any other service you can offer.  A host can simply provide the final push a patron needs to commit to the trip your coupons got them to consider.  A host can find out whether a particular guest enjoys tournaments and invite them. A host can let them know when it looks like their favorite progressive is about to hit. A host can get them to share the tale of their bad experience and convince them to give your property another chance to get it right.

There are any number of ways to get a player to come to your casino for a visit, but there is nothing quite as effective as a casino host when it comes to bringing back players or potential worth.  These players expect more than coupons and promotions as a “reward” for their patronage.  Many of them know they are worth a lot to you and expect to be treated as such. Targeting new players who aren’t yet loyal, finding players who are at risk of defection, and reaching out to those you have already lost are cost-effective ways to boost revenue, and there’s no one better than a host to bring them back to you. A well-trained and equipped host team can drive revenue that will have a significant effect on your property’s bottom line.

If you aren’t sure where to start, or if your team needs additional tools or resources, find a PD partner who can show you how to refocus your host team and target the right potential players in your database.  You’ll be pleased with the results.

 

This post is brought to you by Harvest Trends. We specialize in Player Development (PD). Please take a look at PowerHost, a comprehensive way to drive revenue from your team of Casino Hosts and Player Development Executives. Or contact Paul Cutler at 561.860.2621 or pcutler@harvesttrends.com.  Paul will overnight you an informative package along with pricing.

Are your hosts really hosts?

Are they?  Really?  One of our most popular blog posts is “6 Tasks You Shouldn’t Find in a Casino Host Job Description.”  It is popular because hosts being hosts doesn’t happen as often as you’d think.  How do I know?  I’ve lived it.

When I got my first casino job, as a host, I was often very busy, but not driving revenue for the property.  That wasn’t the role of a host in those days (in many regional markets, anyway).  I was what my boss at the time called “Mr. Mikey,” meaning I drew names and announced promotional winners as often as every hour some days.  I handed out paper drawing entries.  I worked at the Plateau Players Club.  I ran slot tournaments and paid the winners.  I ferried comp slips around and I chatted with people at slot machines.  I didn’t do a lot to drive revenue in the sense you think of today.

Years later, when I became responsible for a host team of my own, the scope of their responsibilities began to shift to what you expect is the norm.  Instead of sitting at a table handling Blackjack tournament registrations, the hosts were being asked to drive  revenue in conjunction with the marketing machine, utilizing the personal touch.  It was difficult to prioritize the activities of the team to enable them to be successful in this new role without finding a way to shift some responsibilities elsewhere.  Ultimately, it took two additional people to do the promotions and events tasks that the hosts had been handling, but the revenue the team drove more than made up for the extra labor cost.

Interestingly, balancing a host’s priorities is a more common challenge in 2014 than you might expect.   Today, there are hosts who sit at a desk and return “Why didn’t I get coupons?” calls or enter hotel reservations into the computer system.  Hosts give away cars and do jackpot announcements.  Hosts get called to resolve service issues for players who aren’t likely to ever be hosted.  They “pit clerk” so they can make an informed comp decision.  But they’re not driving revenue.  Not like they should. Your hosts should have a fairly narrow focus.

Even if there are extraneous tasks that the property really needs them to handle, anything that keeps the hosts from connecting with (and driving more play from) your best players should be kept to a minimum.  If you are short-staffed at the Players Club, talk to your counterparts about cross-training some of their part-timers as back-up club reps instead of using a host.   If you don’t have a dedicated promotions team, rotate marketing staff to minimize the impact of drawings and giveaways when it’s likely to be prime casino floor hunting time. If those aren’t viable options, talk to HR for help with a long-term solution instead of relying on the hosts to do tasks that really don’t help them achieve their revenue-driving potential.

Long story short, the hosts ought to be spending the vast majority of their time focused on communicating with and driving visits from your best players.  Identify the players, whether at risk, new with potential, or recently lost. Produce a snapshot of their worth, then show your boss the number.  Let him know how much higher that number can be if the hosts can be protected from distractions.  Work together with your boss and team leaders in other operational departments to establish some boundaries to enable the hosts to focus on their work.  Set the goals, monitor them relentlessly, keep the team on track, and move the needle.

More than ever, your Player Development team can have an impact on your property’s bottom line.  It’s not necessary to increase your reinvestment (in many cases) to retain most of your very best players.  It is, however, necessary to differentiate yourself from your competitors in some way to give you the edge when your guests are deciding where to wind down next time they want to play.  It’s Player Development’s role to provide your best guests with a resource to clear the way to an enjoyable and rewarding casino experience.  Doing this well with as many of your best players as possible is beneficial to the bottom line.

Your hosts need to be free to provide their personalized service to as many of your players of highest worth as possible.  In order to make it happen, you have to get everyone on board with the notion that they are hosts.  They’re not Managers on Duty, not Customer Service ambassadors, not promotion attendants or pit clerks.  Hosts.  On the floor.  On the phone.   Driving revenue.

Then they can move the needle.

 

This post is brought to you by Harvest Trends. We specialize in Player Development (PD). Please take a look at PowerHost, a comprehensive way to drive revenue from your team of Casino Hosts and Player Development Executives. Or contact Paul Cutler at 561.860.2621 or pcutler@harvesttrends.com.  Paul will overnight you an informative package along with pricing.

The Importance of Internal Relationships

During my casino years, I saw all kinds of relationships in various stages. We regularly had new players who were just meeting the people who worked at our property, so relationships began with the host assigned to follow up to retain the loyalty of those patrons. Other patron-employee relationships had been solidified for years; many of these have continued beyond the confines of the casino’s walls. Among the casino’s associates, there were romantic relationships, work-spouses, friendships, mentoring pairs, and (of course) difficult relationships among all sorts of people. This is to be expected, because the reality is that in any service industry, relationships are the driving force behind the business’s success (or lack thereof).

In Casino Player Development, one must obviously build effective two-way relationships with casino guests. (We discuss how in Relationships 101.)  That’s the biggest part of the job. With this in mind, It’s surprising how many hosts don’t intuitively begin building relationships with co-workers as well. These relationships enable a host to be as successful as possible. Imagine trying to get steakhouse or hotel reservations made and confirmed without the assistance of a co-worker…particularly when fulfilling those ever-present last-minute requests from a big player. Or think about how difficult it could be to enhance a patron’s visit when you plan to surprise her with a spa treatment, but they tell you they’re all booked up and can’t accommodate you. While it is certainly paramount to develop strong working relationships with patrons, the relationships built among co-workers are arguably more important, and are likely to last a lot longer, too. I am still in contact with several former co-workers and know I can count on them even today if I or someone important to me needs their help.sidebyside

Casino guests rely on a number of employees to make their visits go the way they expect, and when hosts can work together with those other employees, everybody wins. In many situations, guest satisfaction can only be achieved through teamwork. That teamwork must, like any other collaborative relationship, be built on a solid base of understanding and communication. 

In the post “A Highroller Told Me,” we learned that a good host works together with both the VIP patron and the associates in the departments the patron utilizes in order to provide the experience that player is hoping to have. This player’s host not only makes appropriate reservations to prepare for his visits, but she coordinates with fellow employees to give them a heads-up that he is coming in and remind everyone about his (and his wife’s) expectations. This host reminds and encourages her co-workers to provide the best possible service to their shared and very valuable guests.

How can you build this sort of relationship with the people who work with you? It’s really not that different than the way host/player relationships are built. Show your appreciation for their efforts. Thank them honestly and effusively, share appropriate gifts and perks, and tell your guests which of your co-workers contributed to their positive experiences. Learn something about them and use that information to refine your efforts to continue growing your relationship. Remember that in order to have a friend, one must be a friend. Find ways to help your co-workers’ jobs easier, make sure their supervisor(s) know how much you appreciate their assistance, and remember that you’re all working toward a common goal: return visits from satisfied, loyal patrons.

Relationship building is certainly important from both an internal perspective as well as from a guest-facing one. Make sure that all the relationships you build are solid. Show how much they mean to you in small ways and make that a habit if it isn’t already one you have. Praise and positivity are always welcome. Use them freely. Everyone will benefit, both in-house and those who visit you.

Amy Hudson

Link in with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hudsonamy/

A High Roller Told Me

What things do casinos do that make their high rollers crazy?

I had the opportunity recently to become re-acquainted with a gentleman I’d met some months ago. His wife is my friend’s sister, and my friend kept telling me that her brother-in-law and I needed to have a chat about his casino experiences so that I could gain a deeper insight into the player’s mind. As a Casino Player Development pro, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

This gentleman is the sort of blackjack player most any casino would be happy to have. He’s worth millions in gaming revenue each year, and he is fully aware of the fact that the odds are in the house’s favor. He’s a methodical player who is willing to play a higher minimum per hand in order to keep less experienced players off his table. Let’s put it this way: if he loses, it might mean that table games hits their number for the day, but if he wins it won’t tank the day’s drop. He is looking for the gambling plus a high roller experience that he can share with people who are important to him. If the value is there, he doesn’t so much mind leaving some of his hard-earned dollars behind at the end of his visit.

We sat down in his suite at a Mississippi Gulf Coast casino last week, and after I’d given him a quick breakdown of my experience and my current role, I asked him what casinos do that makes him crazy. This man delighted me by answering that question and then following up with examples of things they do right. I was delighted because many of the things he says are done right are all foundational concepts in casino player development. Basically, this high roller confirmed what I believed to be true about how a strong PD team can contribute to a property’s bottom line.

Since this was where we started the conversation, it’s where I’ll start:

What’s Wrong?

  • Casinos send offers in the mail that aren’t remotely of interest to the player. This player only plays blackjack, but more than one casino sends him slot free play every month. He’s not a tournament player, but his ADT is high enough that he receives multiple invitations to blackjack tournaments. He’d love it if you’d send him something that is meaningful to him instead, and he knows the information necessary to make that happen is in your system somewhere, if you’d only leverage it.
  • Rewards programs veiled in smoke and mirrors. As a player who keeps track of his spend, this gentleman already has a good idea what he’s worth to the casino, and he expects that his rewards will be in alignment with his worth.  It should be easy to tell a patron how many points he needs to earn to advance to a higher tier, whether or not he can receive a comp based on his play, and what his average bet and time played are in the system. If it’s too complicated for your employees to explain, it’s probably too complicated.
  • Being made to haggle over comps. To his point, this guest understands how the system works. He told me about an experience at another South Mississippi casino where he had to make a case for getting a pack of cigarettes comped. He was frustrated by this because he’d just dropped roughly $15,000 at a single blackjack table in a few hours and felt like he was being made to beg for a comp he had surely earned. FYI: He doesn’t go to that casino any more.
  • Employees who don’t have access to pertinent player information. When this guy asks for anything, he anticipates that he has earned it and that his request will be granted. He expects that when a host approaches him, that host will know who he is, how much he’s played, and what rewards are available to him because of that information. He even suggested that hosts should have a smartphone app which would enable them to quickly access such information wherever they are in order to provide the best possible personalized service.
  • Casinos who forget who pays their bills. The casino this patron frequents near his home has recently made some changes that make him feel as though his long-term (and significant) patronage is no longer appreciated. He went from having an executive host who anticipated his needs to having a junior host who will have to call him back when he wants a room or show tickets. Remember, this patron is worth literally millions in gaming spend. But this property is apparently trying to attract even bigger players, and in the process is likely to lose many like this man, who would help to balance the scales when a bigger player wins.
  • Failing to get the details right. When I talked with this player, we were sitting at the dining room table in his suite, smoking cigarettes while we talked. He was staying in a non-smoking suite despite the fact that he’s a smoker…whose cigaretters are sometimes comped by the property. While the casino hotel operator in me cringed, I thought, if you know he’s a smoker and you put him in a non-smoking suite, shouldn’t you expect him to smoke in it?
  • Sharing the high roller experience with players of opportunity. He related a story from his “home” casino where he headed to the pool only to find it closed for a private party being held for a lower card tier than his. It was exclusive to those patrons who had that level of player’s card. He thought this was a good idea, because he saw the promise of aspirational play from those patrons who attended the party. He wasn’t even annoyed that he couldn’t use the pool because he understood the business reasons for having the party.
  • Hosts who understand and anticipate his needs. His wife isn’t a gambler, but she is definitely interested in the pool, the spa, some of the shows, and the restaurants at the casinos they visit. His host here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast does a pretty good job of keeping track of the things this player will want during a weeklong trip, and she even goes so far as to alert associates in other departments when he (or his wife) is going to be utilizing their services. The special personal touches this property provides mean this player will return again and introduce people in his life to the benefits his play earns. He may take 4 extra people to the steakhouse or ask to exceed the usual number of cabana guests, but his play warrants that and his host doesn’t make him ask: she offers what she knows he will want.
  • Protecting the player’s benefits from unauthorized use. On the flip side of the coin, the casino in question always asks for ID or a room key before anyone redeems or room charges anything. His wife kept her maiden name, so she is sometimes asked to provide identification to ensure that she is who she says she is. While I was with them, the service was exceptional and included accommodation when she didn’t have her driver’s license readily available. She told me about her first visit to the spa where a new employee didn’t recognize her. After a quick call to the player’s host to verify his wife’s bona fides, her request was handled efficiently and professionally, and she appreciated the extra effort required to ensure that her husband’s (and, by extension, her) benefits were being protected.

All in all, I’d say the casino where I talked with this patron gets about an 8.5 out of 10 for their handling of this high roller and his expectations. He agreed that they get it right more often than many of the other casinos he’s visited. That tendency to get it right more often than not has earned that property this high roller’s loyalty and repeat business.

Amy Hudson

Link in with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hudsonamy/

Learn What Your Customers Want

My mom worked in a casino for a number of years, all in table games. She started as a dealer, but loves the challenge of a good math problem…so she ended up being a Pit Manager for a while before she retired. Craps was her favorite. When we spoke last, she told me the story of a patron she enjoyed seeing, while everyone else rolled their eyes when they saw him coming.

The patron, who we’ll call Tom, usually played about $250 per roll on the layout, and he bet a variety of hardways, so doing the math quickly was a little bit of a challenge. Tom made it tougher, though, because he wanted his bets to stay up (something that was perfectly alright to do), so when he won or lost anything, the dealer(s) had to figure out how to pay him or how much to collect to leave his bets on the table for the next roll. My mom enjoyed the mathematics challenge, and Tom liked playing when she was at the table in any capacity because the game moved faster when she was doing the math. He didn’t have to keep leaning across the table; he could collect his winnings and/or toss in what he needed to replace lost bets. Because of this, he would occasionally get in a groove and place a quarter bet for the dealers, also on a hard win so they did pretty well whenever he did. Win/Win, right?

Any person who works with the public should pretty quickly see the lesson in this anecdote: Utilize the strengths of the associates on your team to cater to your customers’ quirks whenever it’s possible and within the guidelines of the associate’s role. If the patron requires a little bit of extra work, and his spend is profitable, it’s worth the effort to make him happy and keep him spending his hard-earned dollars with you rather than have him shopping around.

Tom enjoyed playing his favorite game even more when he didn’t have to work so hard at it himself. The house and the other players benefited, too, because the game moved faster; and when Tom bet for the dealers, other players would too, sometimes. Tom would stay and play longer, the shift moved along faster, toke rates were good, and my mom’s brain enjoyed its math exercise.

How can you benefit from learning about your customers’ quirks and catering to them? Well, in most cases, very little separates one brick-and-mortar establishment from another. Stores have displays with merchandise, restaurants have food and a “system” for getting it to you, hotels have rooms in which you can rest; even online experiences are pretty much the same…you see where this is going, right? What makes one better or more special to a valuable customer are the little things your place does better for them than anyone else.

Personally, there is a local restaurant that I truly enjoy going to. There is outdoor seating, right next to the water, so the view is fantastic with a lovely breeze even on the warmest evenings. That alone is a pretty compelling reason for me to go there, but they also have great food and the staff is really friendly. We’ve had some hits and misses in terms of the skill of our server from time to time, but since everyone in our house who is old enough to have a job has waited tables at one time or another, we get that it can be a tough job to do well. We assume they’re new and cut them a little slack, because the food is really good, and there are little surprises from time to time. Simple things, like logo sunglasses from one of the beers they were featuring, the birthday girl’s name written in caramel sauce on the plate containing her free brownie a la mode, a visit from the chef (who came bearing balloons for all the kids).  All these things made up for the waiter who didn’t know what draft beers were available or the lack of a certain menu item that day.

Learn what your customers appreciate, however you need to make that happen. Interact with them. Try things to delight them and measure the response. Set up a tracking system so you know what they like and what they don’t. Play different music on different days, toss a free sample into a shopping bag, give a discount to people whose driver’s license number ends in 9, whatever. Heck, you could even send your customers a survey and ASK them what they like or wish you did to show your appreciation for their patronage.

Doing so might be the difference between you getting their available spend or having them shop around to find a new place to spend it.

War Stories: Cautionary Tales from ‘The Trenches’

Many years ago, I had primary responsibility for a big casino promotion. My bosses were at the big gaming show in Vegas (before it was called G2E; it was a loooong time ago) and I was launching a big 6-week extravaganza without them for the very first time. We had floor sweeps to hand out scratch-off tickets, offering a variety of prizes for matching symbols. Every ticket had the potential to be a winner, but the odds suggested we’d have only one or two “big” winners (of $1000, if I recall correctly) for the entire 6 weeks.   Non-winning tickets could be dropped into a big drawing drum for the grand finale: a pickup truck to be given away on the last night of the promotion. When the second and third “big” prize winners showed up within hours of the first floor sweep, I knew we had a problem. Someone had figured out how to cheat the scratch-off…and I was sure of it when the fourth winner of the night was the same person who had turned in the first winning ticket.

The GM and I wrote an announcement that I would read over the PA to suspend the scratch-off portion of the promotion, and we quickly printed out truck giveaway entries to be handed out until we could sort out the issue with the game tickets. It was with trepidation that I began reading our announcement, but security and a handful of sympathetic guests (regulars, but the good kind) were nearby to offer moral support. Only twice since have I been in front of a crowd so hostile. As I clicked off the microphone and took a step to leave, a handful of them surged toward me, blocking my exit route to complain about the provision that we would not accept any more “winning” tickets. A few of these had multiple tickets in hand, suggesting that they had picked up tickets others had left behind…it was a mess.

From this promotional War Story, I learned many things.

  • Have scratch tickets printed by someone who has lots of experience with them so it’s impossible for players to cheat.
  • Involve the Security Manager and Compliance department when doing promotional planning to help ferret out vulnerabilities in the conceptual stages.
  • Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for the honest guests, even in the face of some who are angry that they can’t take advantage of a vulnerability they found.
  • The NGCB had our back. Our rules were clear and enforceable, and they stayed in the loop with us as we navigated those uncharted (for us) waters.
  • The loudest voices you hear aren’t always the ones you should pay the most attention to. My GM was cool, calm, and collected as we worked through our short-term plan. Loud, angry voices had no place in that discussion, though we obviously thought through the effect we’d have on our guests.

Everyone who has worked with the public at all probably has some pretty good stories to tell; it’s likely they’ve got some that will curl your hair. Thinking about them for this post actually had me chuckling earlier:

  • The club rep who figured out how to cash out points belonging to inactive guests, but didn’t notice the transactions on a detail report the same rep ran each night for the manager’s review.
  • The angry patron who grabbed a supervisor’s tie to pull him over the counter and almost found himself prone when the (former military) associate instinctively drew back a fist. Fortunately, no one was harmed during this little episode.
  • The promotional attendant who set up a promotion to run with pre-determined winners…and didn’t see any problem with that.
  • The guest who called the company headquarters to complain that he’d been told his patronage wasn’t important…since the casino wouldn’t increase his offers just because he thought they weren’t sufficient.
  • The high roller who hung up on his host because the host uttered the word, “No” during a brief phone call. (The host called right back and said “It seems we were disconnected before I had a chance to tell you what I CAN do.” The guest was all ears.)
  • The small gang who gathered at the promotions desk to write down the winner’s names at nearly every drawing because they were convinced the giveaway was rigged against them.

Here’s the best part about these War Stories: every single one of them teaches us something. The club rep learned that there are checks and balances to prevent theft and that a few hundred bucks was all it took to lose a promising career in gaming. The patron learned that he would be asked to leave private property after assaulting an associate, with a minimum 12-month exclusion to boot. All of us who have worked with casino promotions have learned that people feel entitled to win and will always suggest that someone is cheating them if they don’t. The high roller learned that sometimes it’s better to be quiet and listen to the rest of the story before shutting someone down (particularly if it’s someone who can help you). The gang learned more than they ever cared to know about how electronic drawings work, as the executive responsible for promotions gathered them close and did a mini-workshop on the software’s capabilities.

So, tell us in the comments below: what are your favorite War Stories, and what did you learn from them? Any lesson is a good one, though the ones learned “the hard way” tend to stick with us. Those where we learn what NOT to do are even better, because we may not have to live through the awkwardness and difficulties ourselves (or only tangentially).

Share with us the stories that came to mind as you read some of mine. We can’t wait to learn from your experiences!

7 Habits That Help Hosts Succeed

In a world of increasing digital contact and fewer human interactions, Player Development still has a focus on personalized contact, whether by phone, email, snail mail or in person.There are techniques that successful Casino hosts employ to build relationships with valuable players and secure their loyalty.

These the 7 Habits that we’ve observed in successful casino hosts:

  1. Successful hosts are detail-oriented.  When you’re responsible for hundreds of valuable casino patrons (and their spouses, at least by proxy), it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Remembering a guest’s children’s and grandchildren’s names is just the beginning. Does she smoke cigarettes? Which brand? What kind of room does he prefer, and does he have a favorite in your hotel? Will he want to go to the steakhouse right after he checks in, or will you need to go and pull him off the tables so he won’t lose his reservation? This kind of attention to the details about his or her players allows a casino host to provide personalized service that hardly exists anywhere these days. It sets them apart.
  2. Understanding profitability is key.  The details a good host remembers about his players aren’t limited to preferences and habits. He needs to understand the profitability profile of each player and his associates in order to proactively motivate them to make visits to the property without overspending the casino’s assets. Here’s a good rule of thumb for tough comp decisions: If you wouldn’t foot the bill yourself, why would you expect the casino to do so? Look at play patterns, redemption patterns, and associated play in aggregate before making a comp decision. It is entirely possible to motivate a player without spending money on supplemental offers.
  3. Good hosts don’t let good players languish. Does Susie usually make at least one trip per week? Have you seen her lately? If not, you should give her a call. Did you hear that Ron was upset about not getting tickets to last weekend’s Beatles tribute show? You should look into what happened and check in with him. While it’s sometimes appropriate to allow an angry guest some time to cool off before making contact, it’s better to reach out soon and re-establish communications before they try a competitor and decide they’re treated better someplace else.
  4. Information is king. Sharing it is key. Whether overheard on the gaming floor or learned in a training session, like any good employee, a good casino host will look for ways to incorporate things they learn into doing a better job taking care of their players. This includes learning what not to do! A great PD team leader will encourage hosts to share what they’ve learned, particularly about promising players or competitor activities, so they can work together to be proactive against any threats or looming disappointments which might be mitigated.
  5. Balance the wants of the guest with the needs of the business.  It’s often a precarious position to be in: your players want what they want and your company says it’s a “no go.” There are a myriad of ways to make everyone happy, and a good host will navigate through the possibilities until finding just the right one. From making an alternative offer, meeting the player halfway, presenting a case to the leadership in advocacy for the guest, or coming up with a brilliant out-of-the-box idea, hosts whose heads AND hearts are in the game will find a solution that keeps the players and the bosses happy.
  6. Remember to take “me” time…but not too much!  While it’s true that working in a 24-hour business with some of its most demanding patrons is almost assuredly a recipe for burnout, most of the PD pros we’ve met love their jobs so much they don’t ever want to do anything else for a living. In order to keep themselves on an even keel, dedicated casino hosts have to take a breather now and then to keep from going into overload. Leaving their players in the hands of their co-workers may be nerve-wracking, but the time away from the constant demands of  the job is essential to long-term well-being and success. Aside from weeks-long vacations, there are ways to regroup and refresh during the work week as well. Enjoy a hobby, take a walk around the neighborhood, meditate, go to the gym, read an engaging novel. Finding a way to disconnect from the world for a few short hours and recharge one’s batteries can make all the difference.
  7. When all else fails, host pros ask for help. It’s not easy to admit it when we need assistance. Whether it’s with a computer program, finding time to accomplish everything on the day’s to-do list, or handling a sticky guest situation, there’s nothing like another perspective to help a host move past a roadblock and keep things moving. There’s no reason a host who needs a hand shouldn’t ask for the assist. Studies have shown that people who do favors for others tend to regard the recipients in a more favorable light, because who wants to help out someone who isn’t deserving? This happy side effect can help to bring a host team closer together while solving the issue at hand. Nice, huh!?

There are a lot of moving parts in a casino host’s set of responsibilities. These 7 attributes can indeed make a good casino host better. Think about it: If you’re refreshed and fulfilled, have the tools you need to execute what’s best for both the guest and the business, and you proactively seek solutions to the day-to-day demands of your players, you can’t lose.

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Ethical Scenarios for Casino Player Development

In these blogs, we have covered a lot of ground: things hosts should do, things they shouldn’t do, how to evaluate them, how to set and measure goals, and we have gone into some depth on a few of these topics.  One important aspect of a host’s job, however, is one we’ve only briefly touched.  It is especially important that hosts keep in mind the effects of their decisions and the ethical implications thereof.  This post is designed to be interactive, so please comment with your responses.

Let’s pretend for the purposes of this post that I am a successful casino host.  I work at a property that has thus far been blissfully free of growing competitive stresses, though some of my players occasionally travel to Las Vegas for an extended gambling vacay.  I’ve been at my property for just over 5 years, and I’ve developed some solid relationships with many of my high-worth guests.  I am not allowed to accept cash tips, but guests may give me gifts of a reasonable value.   In the following scenarios, what should I do?

  1. One of my players has been indicted for embezzling a significant amount of money from the banking company for which he worked (until the indictment, anyway).  He continues to visit and play, even coming in more often now than he used to since he’s got more free time these days.  As his host, what is my responsibility to him and to the property?
  2. I have an older player who sometimes invites other guests to come to her room (in my on-property hotel) to assist her with getting in and out of the shower.  Because she obviously trusts these players, she is heartbroken and sobbing when she comes to find me on the gaming floor to tell me that someone has stolen $300 in cash from her purse.  I immediately suspect the latest of her “assistants,” but she begs me not to say anything to that lady.  What is my best move in this situation?
  3. My best friend is a hotel supervisor at my casino, and she calls me over to stand behind the desk so she can make an emergency trip to the ladies’ room.  I know how to check people in and issue card keys, so when someone approaches the desk, I assist the guest, who tips me $50 with a wink upon check-in.  Rapidly, I go through the options available to me: upgrade to the last host room (it’s a suite), upgrade to a room with a better view, say “thanks” and put the cash in my pocket, hold the tip to give to my BFF, or explain that I’m just filling in and suggest that the tip should be given to someone else since I can’t accept it.  Which choice should I make?
  4. One of my players was delighted with the anniversary amenity I had waiting for her and her husband in their hotel room last week.  She was so delighted that she sent me a thank you card containing a $100 bill.  The guest sent the card to my home address.  I’m not sure where she got it, as I’d never give a guest my address…What should I do with the cash?
  5. I believe that one of my players makes his money illegally.  I don’t know any details, but I have heard other table games players (and dealers) gossip about him.  Speculation on the sources of his income runs from gunrunning to illegal drug sales to house-flipping to a sizable inheritance.  He doesn’t seem to have a regular job, he travels a bit, and he always has lots of cash and a fancy “new” car almost every month…so I know something isn’t typical about how he earns his living.  What is my responsibility to the player and/or my property in this case?
  6. I overheard a conversation between one of my co-workers and his wife last night.  He was on his company cell phone, shouting at her in the back-of-the-house hallway.  Visibly upset, he returned to the office not long after and began making guest calls.  One of his guests must have known he was upset, because next thing I know, he’s spilling the story to a guest on the office phone.  What should I do about this?
  7. One of my favorite players is moving (permanently) to her lake house about 4 hours’ drive from my property.  She has extended to me and my family an open invitation to come and visit her sometime.  She’s not likely to make many visits after the move, since she is reluctant to drive such a distance alone.  She doesn’t have much family and considers me one of her closest friends.  Is it okay if I accept her invitation?

Many hosts encounter similar situations to these, and it isn’t always easy to know what one should do.  Your feedback might help a casino host to make a better decision, so don’t be shy.  Choose one scenario or reply to them all…but use the number of each so we know which scenario to which your answer(s) refer(s).

Ready?  Set?  GO!

Player Development isn’t a Department. It’s a Mindset.

Does everyone at your property sell the gaming experience to your guests? Just as importantly, does everyone at your property understand that the main function of a Player Development department is to sell the gaming experience to your most worthy guests?

It still amazes me how many people work in gaming without a clear understanding of the role Player Development professionals play in the operation. When given the opportunity to do the job they were given, Casino Hosts can drive revenue. They build relationships with patrons. They make it easier for a guest to choose YOUR property over going to visit a competitor. They provide concierge-like service to players who have a real impact on the bottom line, especially when those patrons don’t come in as often or play as much as they once did.

How is Player Development a mindset? It extends to every casino employee who has direct guest contact as well as those whose work affects the guests. (So, basically everybody.) If a dishwasher doesn’t do his job properly, one of your pickiest profitable players might receive a drink in a dirty glass. If a slot attendant assists a guest without introducing himself, he doesn’t exactly make a good impression even if the service was timely. When maintenance isn’t keeping up with broken fixtures in your restrooms, your guests notice. Honestly, we don’t want ANY casino guest to experience these things. This means that every employee needs to understand the basic principles of Player Development in order to keep the guests raving about your property.

These principles include using a guest’s name, responding quickly and professionally to guest requests, and anticipating guests’ needs (and meeting them). These are all things that PD pros do every day. Happily, they are things every casino employee can do, too! These simple measures help to solidify the loyalty of the guests who frequent your property, and they give new or undecided guests a reason to come back.

Even if front-line employees don’t fully understand the Player Development function, they can learn to do the things inherent in building player relationships to make your property more profitable. By keeping your guests top of mind, all your associates can facilitate keeping your property top of mind with those guests. In general, building relationships with patrons who help to keep your doors open is a function of player development that applies to every guest and every employee with whom they come into contact, either directly or indirectly. Helping your associates understand this is the first step in creating a PD mindset that will differentiate your customer service from that of your competitors.  And that, folks, is a good mindset to have throughout your operation.

What Kind of Culture is Best for Casino Hosts?

It takes a special kind of “people person” to be a good Casino Host.  The backgrounds of today’s hosts are quite varied, but the thing they all have in common is that they are delighted to be in the company of others.  A host has the ability to make each of his players feel as though they are the most important person in the world.  Hosts can make “no” sound like “I’d really like to…”  And they need a particular kind of environment in order to thrive and do their best work.

Like employees in any sort of job, hosts expect to be compensated for the work they do.  Hosts should be paid a salary commensurate with carrying a company phone that is likely to ring at all hours of the day and night.  Casino hosts have to cater to some very demanding guests, but because the guests are worth it, most hosts pride themselves on satisfying those “difficult” players.  But again, just like any other employee, hosts require more than just a paycheck in order to do the job to the best of their ability.

Think about the primary tool in a Casino Host’s toolkit: the relationship.  It is more powerful than a comp, brings players to the casino more reliably than the direct mail program, and trumps new or updated competitors in the long run as long as it’s been properly built.  Interestingly, a strong relationship with a team leader should be part of a host’s compensation.

The relationship a Casino Host has with his or her team leader will, in many cases, directly affect the host’s level of engagement with his or her assigned players.  In a recent blog post on Harvard Business Review, the author suggests that engaged employees feel “loved,” and that the more “love” an employee feels drives a higher level of engagement in the job.  The post clarifies that the love in question is “companionate love,” derived from a feeling of connection and warmth in the employer/employee relationship.

“You mean we have to hold hands and sing Kum By Yah in a circle at our host meetings?”  As entertaining as that might be to watch (contact me before you do this; I want to have you record it and send me the video file!), what I am proposing goes deeper.  I am suggesting that team leaders invest some emotional capital in the hosts to help them flourish.

Any good Player Development professional will confirm that the relationships hosts (or any casino associate, for that matter) build with the property’s players build loyalty and help a casino hold on to their share of the gamer’s wallet.  Strong host/player relationships can prevent a player from defecting to a competitor over a disappointment or other negative experience.  Doesn’t it stand to reason then, that the relationship between an employee and his or her team leader would have a commensurate effect on the employee’s performance and direct engagement with the job?

Here are some ways to build that companionate love without crossing the necessary boundaries of a workplace relationship.  Spend some time with the members of your team during the workday.  Learn about them: family ties, personal motivators, challenges and frustrations, hobbies and interests, background experience, and growth aspirations.  Share some of your own workplace experiences with the members of your team so they see you more as a fallible person instead of just as a “boss.”   Ask them for feedback on your leadership style.  Demonstrate their importance to the property’s success and implement their ideas whenever you can.  Lavishly praise their accomplishments and provide candid and fair assessments of their performance when improvement is needed.  Observe their performance first hand and discuss your observations.  Talk WITH them and not just TO them, just like you should with your guests.  Generate a dialogue.  Build strong working relationships to ensure they each feel a connection with you.

Not the warm and fuzzy type?  Don’t fake it.  They’ll know.  Just be genuine.  Step outside your comfort zone for them.  Make the effort.  It will make a difference.

How will you know it’s working?  When the members of your team feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns and speak freely, you’ve arrived.  If someone isn’t doing the best job possible, and you approach them to discuss it, defensiveness melts away during the conversation.  If it’s real, you’ll both know.  And your team will thrive.

By all means, share your own experiences with us.  Tell us what you’ve done that worked or what you’ll do to build that kind of relationship with your team.