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Gambling Is Entertainment

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March 01, 2012
Gaming & Resorts
Bill Geoghegan - Bill@LGTConsulting.com

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When a person decides how to spend his or her leisure budget, there are a lot of options. For those looking for an extended trip, there are exotic locations with beaches and fancy hotels, mountain resorts for skiing and snowboarding, visits to theme parks, foreign cities, national parks or other tourist destinations. For those who are intent on an afternoon or evening out, there are the local restaurants, movies, theater, concerts, nightclubs, casinos and myriad other options.

Casinos and casino resorts have to compete for the discretionary dollars. While many think that the allure of the casino is the possibility of winning money, we well know that the opulent casino resorts and local casinos were not built by giving away money. The laws of probability tell us that every game in the casino is rigged to ensure that, over the long run, the casino wins.  The lure of the possibility of winning in the short run is only one part of the equation that brings players to the casino. Knowing that a player will most likely lose in the long run, the casino must make the entire experience a positive one that beckons the player to return again and again, win or lose.  To that end, there are many components to the resort or casino visit.

While the glorious days of impeccably dressed men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns partaking of high stakes table games (a la James Bond in Monte Carlo) are long gone, there is still a desire for players to be treated in a manner that makes them feel special, and to provide a social scene that enhances their experience.  The upscale services available at the resort, fancy rooms and restaurants and the personal treatment by the resort can make an ordinary player feel special and help bring the player back for future visits, but it is the process of playing the casino table game or electronic game that provides the actual entertainment for the vast majority of the players. 

Technology plays a big part in the psychology of gambling. Even a few years ago, slot machines appeared to be relatively simple devices in which multiple reels displayed various images.  While the actual result of a single play was predetermined by a random number generator immediately upon initiation of the play, the displaying of that result one reel at a time generated excitement.  Showing the first reel stopping on a potentially winning result, then a matching result on the second reel got the players heart pumping, only most often to see the third reel bring disappointment. Seeing how close the last spin was to winning was enough to entice the player to make the wager on the next play.

In all the older reel type of slot machines, the minimum amount for a wager was one coin, and the payoff for any set of matches was always greater than or equal to the wagered amount.  A single coin wager winning always returned at least one coin.  With the advent of the bill validator, the wager became credits of a selected amount instead of coins. As machines got more complex and allowed multiple coins (credits), it was then possible to return an amount less than the wagered amount for some winning plays.  For example, 25-cent machine might allow one, two or three coins (credits) on each play. The first coin would pay out on only the center line of the machine, and the jackpot might be set to 100 credits. A second coin would enable the payoff on the top row, and offer a jackpot of 200 credits. The third coin would enable the bottom row and have a jackpot amount of 500 credits, enticing the player to make each play at the highest level.  A winning pay out on one line might only pay two coins, with the other two lines losing.  In this manner, the player feels like a winner, even though the actual result was a loss of one coin.

Perhaps the biggest game changer (pun intended) was the introduction of the video reels with multiple line payoffs.  On many of these slots, the player has the opportunity to play an amount as small as one cent for a single spin. The single penny bet would only pay off on the center line of the game, but the player can also opt to play multiple lines (sometimes up to 50) where various patterns will result in a pay out. A typical penny slot would offer one cent, two cents or five cent wagers, with one, three, five, 10, 15 and 30 patterns. Selecting 30 patterns with a five-cent wager would result in $1.50 being played with each spin. Many times a winning result will pay far less than the total amount wagered, but the player has the experience of receiving a return on the wager. Frequently, a player would have a winning combination, but not really understand why.

Another component is the addition of a bonus that is received when a specific result occurs.  For example, the player might be given 10 free spins that are played at the same level as the initiating play.  Many times these free spins are made automatically, with the player simply watching the screen.  The addition of bells and flashing results make what is actually a losing result seem to be a positive one. 

Unlike resorts and other destinations where the percentage of returning guests is relatively small, local casinos, taverns and casino resorts all rely heavily on returning customers. Player’s clubs that reward a player for his or her frequency and level of play and provide benefits are meant to bring the player back, but it is important for the gambling establishment to remember that it is providing entertainment, and the atmosphere, ambience and personal recognition are all part of that experience.

Bill Geoghegan is a consultant in Las Vegas. He can be reached for comment at Bill@LGTConsulting.com.

©2012 Hospitality Upgrade
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