Anthony "Bert" Bertino
Where Did Player's Clubs and Loyalty Cards Come From? Where Are They Going?
Thirty-nine years ago, when slot machines were the afterthought of the casino gaming industry, and table games dominated the casino magnate minds, a “loyalty card” program was created. It was brilliant, it was innovative, and it was primitive. The card program was a flash card, connected to “skeeball tickets” generated for a pre-determined number of coins run through selected slot machines. Once the level was reached, a ticket was generated and then redeemed in packs for non-gaming amenities like food, rooms and eventually parties and entertainment.
The casino with the “loyalty card” was small in today’s standards and was situated in the newly created jurisdiction of Atlantic City, NJ. The demographics of 30 million potential gamblers within a 200-mile radius was a marketer’s fantasy. The original loyalty program catapulted the founding casino to double gross slot revenue overnight. At the time, there were nine casinos in the jurisdiction, and the audacious casino’s gross gaming revenue (GGR) rose 150% overnight and continued to prosper for two consecutive years. The other eight casinos played catchup but could only match the reintegration. The founding organization had an established gaming casino housed in Downtown Las Vegas and rolled out their loyalty program three months after the initial Atlantic City success. Now the casino gaming industry was playing catchup on two fronts. As this happened, new ideas and ideals were tried, and some were interesting and others ambitious, but most did not result in much success. Finally, another multi-casino organization developed a program that did not depend on ticket-spitters, but on placing the card into a reader that monitored exactly how much money was being passed through and the evolution of loyalty blossomed.
That is where we came from, and the reason I know the story is because I was there, at the first casino club, in the rooms that discussed evolution and developing the next steps that blossomed. Am I brilliant, no, but I was a disruptor who wanted something better for the organizations and the industry I worked within? After forty years of looking at programs and wanting better programs, I still see so much available for growth, and hope you will also. I was lucky to work with people who trusted my judgement and experiences to try new and innovative things. Did we make mistakes? - Daily. Were we laughed at by other organizations before roll-out? Absolutely. Did we see what others did not? - Yes and were rewarded for it. Did we see the future? - Yes, and we created it.
What is next in loyalty programs is determined by what you do, what your customers want and where monetary demands lead. During the Covid Crisis of 2020, many organizations tripped over themselves to show that they cut back on occupancy of their facilities. Brilliant organizations allowed their best customers to receive preferential treatment and access to limited seating. Why is this brilliant? - Well, they already knew these customers, their propensity to play at a certain level, and what a pent-up demand would create. This gave the loyal customers access, the casinos a better chance to monetize their best customer advantage and to reduce their exposure to unprofitable guests. This is now the blueprint towards the future, finding profitable clients, marketing to the growth clientele and decreasing the unprofitable guest.
What do you see in the future…please tell me?