A LOYALTY CONUNDRUM
By Ted Salveson
Ted Salveson is an experienced blackjack player and a scratch golfer. He gets ‘weak’ when his casino host uses the words "Las Vegas" and "golf tournament" in the same sentence. He is a dice controller "in training" and usesSpeed Count when playing blackjack.
Note: Salveson has written articles in BJI about his experiences at the Luxor in Las Vegas, specifically taking advantage of all expense trips that include special golf-outings arranged by his casino host
When you have spent the better part of the past twelve years at one casino property with an excellent host, what do you do if suddenly he is not there? Does the player’s loyalty follow the person who has always taken care of him, or remain with the real estate?
This is the question that a close friend and I were recently confronted with. After (literally) 50 trips to Luxor since 1997, our host was no longer there. Among other things, he was always the one who organized their golf tournaments. And indeed, this trip in September was originally designed to include one. With his departure from Luxor, all of the invited players quickly cancelled except for Frank from Minnesota, and me from Florida. We decided to go anyway and see what else, if anything, had changed at the Luxor.
The word on the casino floor was that the bean counters had terminated the four most experienced, highest paid hosts at the property. They had replaced them with three younger (and in at least one case, totally inexperienced) people whom they could get for substantially less money. The corporate mindset was that the players wouldn’t care and still keep coming. But would they?
Our core group of players who showed up for the golf tournaments and Super Bowl week has been together for a while. Though spread throughout the country, we all stayed in touch. Most of those I talked with stated that after the way they treated our host, they will "not walk into the Luxor again."
Since Frank and I were already booked there, we decided to stay at the Luxor on this trip. We were assigned another host, one of the holdovers whom we already knew. And she took care of our suites and RFB as usual. But here’s the difference: there was no interaction. We hardly ever saw or spoke to her. Our previous host would seek us out to check up with us if we needed anything, and even had dinner with us. In essence, he had become more than a host, rather a friend who worked hard to build a relationship. I have hosts at other properties in Vegas and Mississippi who just do the paperwork. Now it seems I have another one.
With his experience and reputation it took our host-friend just two short weeks to land at the Palms. In the week that Frank and I were in town, we actually spent almost as much time playing at the Palms as we did at the Luxor. By the time we first showed up at the Palms, he had already secured our players cards, opened our credit lines, and gave us a tour of the property and their suites. On three occasions he joined us for dinner and paid for our meals. And get this: he also took us to the Palm’s exclusive Hardwood Suite for the private viewing party of the Mayweather-Marquez fight.
I played a little blackjack at the Palms, noting that the rules were the fairly liberal ones we look for. I didn’t notice any tables that would stand on soft 17, but then again, I didn’t venture into The Mint, their high limit room. We played a good bit of craps because, quite simply, we won every time we played (I usually read Scoblete’s Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution book as a refresher before my trips). We found that the tables were much softer than at Luxor with less bounce on the dice. Both of us are proponents of the Golden Touch dice control and I had a couple of marginally good rolls, but my friend Frank was everybody’s hero one afternoon. He wouldn’t threaten any of the new world dice-throwing records, but he did hold the dice in one session for a whopping 40 minutes before sevening out. It was a $25 minimum table, so there was some significant action on the felt. He and I felt like pikers ... I cleared $3,700 and Frank won just under $5,000 while two other high-rollers in the game won $12,000 and $23,000 resectively!
Frank and I agreed that we both have a lot invested over the years at Luxor in terms of personal relationships. We enjoy having lunch when the Shift Boss stops by to join us, or having the Casino Manager kibitz with us at the craps table. And we enjoy the familiarity with dealers that we’ve known for many years there. Yet, there was definitely something missing. It used to be like old Vegas, in the sense that our host made it a point to become personally involved with us. Now, at the host level it’s like every other place in town, very impersonal. And that’s a shame.
So, in our case at least, the answer to the original question is this: our loyalty follows the person. Every casino in town is simply "same church, different pew." All the "real estate" is the same, only the people and the service set them apart. My friend Frank is headed back to Vegas shortly. And this time he is going to the Palms. I think he put the overall corporate attitudes in perspective when he said this: "They are stepping over the dollars to pick up the nickels."
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