When International Game Technology (IGT) acquired a company called Electronic Data Technologies (EDT) in 1984, few people outside the gaming industry could have possibly imaged the huge change it meant for slot machine players. EDT had developed a computerized system for tracking player behavior, from what games they played to how much money they fed into the machines, how long they played, how much they won or lost, and much more.
IGT recognized this as a major breakthrough—creating the ability to identify “frequent slot players.” The technology soon became the basis for determining which players should receive provide complimentary services(“comps”), and it has been responsible for the proliferation of casino “rewards” programs and slot clubs ever since.
Winning without Winning
It is to the players’ advantage to take the time to join a casino’s slots program or club before selecting the machines they might want to play. Being a member is the only way to “win without winning.” Casinos are in competition for new business, and they are quite happy to give customers lots of rewards in return for their play, as long as it can be tracked and quantified. Membership is absolutely free. All that is required is an ID showing that the individual is a legal adult.
Upon joining, each new member of the slots loyalty program is issued a personalized club card. The front of the card features the player’s name and a unique ID number. Some programs even take photographs and embed the player’s image on the card. There is also a magnetic strip on the back, which is used to store data.
When the player sits down at a machine, he/she will see a special “tracking slot” into which the slot club card is inserted, rather like putting a debit card into an ATM machine. Assuming the card is properly inserted, an LED display will post a greeting, welcoming the player by name and informing him/her of the account status.
Almost all slot club programs are based on a “points” system. A reward point or loyalty point is typically awarded for every dollar’s worth of slot play. These points accumulate in the player’s account until they reach certain thresholds, whereupon they can be redeemed for cash, prizes, or comps. How much a point is worth depends on the way the loyalty program is structured, but it is something on the order of $1 for every 100, 400, or 1,000 points.
Rising through the Ranks
Apart from having value for rewards, the points a player receives also determine his/her “level” within the program. Obviously, players who come often, stay long, and wager substantially are highly valued by casinos, so they create tiers of membership, giving the best benefits to those at the very top. A common set of levels might be Bronze, Copper, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Some clubs have even higher levels, such as Diamond or Palladium for their VIP customers or High Rollers.
The perks a player gets at various levels can range from extra bonus points, free bonus cash, and entries in prize drawings to show tickets, comp meals and rooms, access to VIP tournaments, and even invitations to VIP excursions and cruises. All of this is in addition to the redemption of points, so rising through the ranks is achieved by earning certain numbers of points within a month or a quarter.
The slots rewards programs have plenty of promotions, too. They may offer bonus points upon joining, for supplying an email address, or playing on certain days of the week. A very common promotion is “3X points,” awarding triple points for slot play at certain times. Another is giving away gifts from cookware to embroidered jackets for earning a certain number of pints on a give day.
It certainly behooves anyone playing slots to join the associated program right from the start, and then to make sure that the membership card is used during play to be eligible for points for every credit played. Even those playing at a casino only once can benefit, as sometimes bonus cash is awarded just for signing up, and it is always fun to play with house money.
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