How we got from there to here
Non-negotiable slot credits, or what is more commonly known as “free play,” has emerged as the most often-used tool in the casino marketing arsenal.
It has supplanted cash prizes, complimentary dining and invitations to special events as the primary incentive for rewarding player loyalty.
Its use, along with its occasional over-use, has had a profound effect on the slot-machine gaming experience, and while free play certainly has a wealth of benefits, both to casino operators and players, its prolific use has had unintended and often deleterious effects on both parties.
To understand free play, it is first important to understand how the industry came to rely on it.
Cash Back to Free Play To do so, one must go back to the earliest days of casino management systems and player reward programs.
Until the late 1970s, casinos did not possess electronic methodologies to measure slot machine performance or player participation.
In fact, until the introduction of casinos in Atlantic City, slot machine players were not considered to be nearly as important as table game players.
That changed with the opening of the Resorts Casino and the subsequent waves of casinos opening on the Boardwalk and in the Marina district.
The volume of slot machine handle that was seen in Atlantic
City was mind-boggling, and slot machine revenue soon eclipsed table game revenue.
While casino operators had previously developed basic manual Mystic Lake methodologies to track and.
Reward table game play, slot machine gaming required electronic methodologies.
Cash Back to Free Play In Atlantic City, individual operators developed their own internal systems, some of which eventually were acquired by slot machine manufacturers.
In fact, most of today’s casino management systems have their roots in Atlantic City casinos.
Once casinos were able to link machines to central computer systems that monitored wagering volume,
Jackpots and hopper functions at the machine level, operators were able to add on rudimentary systems to track individual player activity.
Slot clubs were developed so casino operators could identify their more profitable customers and encourage them to return.
To get customers to use their cards, operators had to offer some sort of incentive.
The term “points” was introduced as an easy-to-understand benefit.
Players earned points based on coin wagering volume, and those points could then be redeemed for something of value.
While some casinos allowed patrons to redeem their points for logo wear, gift shop purchases or even merchandise in catalogues, the majority of operators opted for cash back, essentially a rebate on slot wagering volume.
Cash back was an ideal solution.
Merchandise required casinos to keep an inventory of stuff on property and catalogues required frequent updates, as items often changed.
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