There have long been two basic approaches to player rewards programs. The first is to reveal how many dollars in play it takes to earn a point and how many points it takes to redeem for free play, meals or other comps.
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Others keep that information confidential, leaving the club free to weigh other factors in awarding benefits.
Now there appears to be a third approach, one that gambling author Steve Bourie says enables players to calculate the theoretical payback percentages at slot machines.
This third approach is in use at the Seminole Hard Rock casinos in Florida, and Bourie describes in detail the calculation, the work that went into deriving the formula, and the results at AmericanCasinoGuide.com.
I’ve never seen it anyplace else. Even at the clubs that reveal points formulas, you couldn’t use the information to calculate paybacks in Atlantic City, Las Vegas or points north, south, east or west.
Bourie, the author of the annual American Casino Guide who produces videos for the guide’s YouTube channel, is a Floridian who found that slot machines at the Hard Rocks give players points at different rates even if the slots are the same denomination.
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That’s not the case at other clubs. There are many formulas to award points, but if a club tells you that $4 in play brings one point, then you’ll get that point regardless of whether it’s a penny slot or a higher denomination, and regardless of the game’s theoretical payback.
Bourie, playing mainly at Hard Rock Seminole’s Hollywood, Fla., casino, found the Seminole Wild Card players club is different. You might get a point for $5 in play at one machine, while it takes $10 at another machine and $25 at a third.
In addition to points, players accumulate “status credits,” that indicate progress toward earning the next tier card, from Platinum to Elite to X Card. Bourie discovered the status credits represented theoretical loss. He found that if he multiplied the comps earned in a day by 17, the result would match the status credits he earned in that same day.
One day, he earned $48.75 in comps and received 828 status credits. On another day, comps were $30.83 and status credits 524. Each time he tried, he found the relationship held up, with 17 status credits per dollar in comps.
The relationship between status comps earned and status points also applies to individual machines. If you made $100 worth of wagers on a machine and noted how much you earned in comps in that time, you could multiply the comp total by 17 to get the casino’s theoretical win.
If you earned 50 cents in comps, then the casino’s assumption was that on average, that amount of play would bring $8.50 in profits for the casino. Subtracting $8.50 from $100 would leave $91.50 on the player side, a 91.5 percent theoretical payback.
If you earned 20 cents in comps on another machine, that would tell you the house’s theoretical win per $100 was $3.40 and the theoretical payback was 96.6 percent.
Bourie ran $100 at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood for most of three years. Then he ran smaller tests at other Hard Rock locations. It all checked out, with one caveat: The formula applies only to machines with a single coin denomination. It doesn’t work on multi-denomination slots.
Never before have players had enough information to tell which games paid higher percentages than others. Those of us in the rest of the country still don’t have such info. But for Floridians, Bourie’s work could be a game-changer.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
DJ Hollywood celebrates his birthday at The Pool on Friday
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