How was casino player tracking created and how did loyalty programs begin?


May 19 at 14:24
Blog Post

How was casino player tracking created and how did loyalty programs begin?

Everybody loves to receive perks, and for casino-goers, COMPS are the icing on the cake! It adds an extra incentive for players to hit the casino, do what they do for entertainment, and get an exclusive experience. At one point in time... This wasn't the case, and it was purely gaming and the rush of making a bet that was the driving force for the casino. So how and when did this change? Well, it wasn't overnight and there were pioneers that led this movement of tracking play, creating point systems and comping accommodations. URComped CEO, Craig Shacklett, interviews Az Husain, CEO of Casino Science, to dive deep into data analytics and how player tracking came to be and led to loyalty programs. This interview was conducted through URComped's newest B2B social platform, Casino Marketing University, which provides information from industry experts to casino management, marketing, and operations teams. 

Az Husain takes us back to the late '60s, early '70s of gaming history when "Big Data" in casinos originated with the measurement of slot play. As the story is told, Harrah's in Reno was one of the first player loyalty programs and ran a premium point promotion. The employees would watch players wager on slot machines and, for every $20 played, would issue paper coupons which could be exchanged for prizes like toasters and transistor radios. This promotion was manually tracked, full of human error, and far from cost-effective.

During the next decade, this system is improved upon by Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. John Akers, who is actually "The Father of the Modern Tracking System" developed automated ticket dispensers which were installed in 1983 on Golden Nugget's slot machines. For every $50 wagered, a ticket was issued automatically. This innovation reduced the program costs because now they didn't have to pay employees to watch people play. On top of that, they received more precise measurements for a "player's worth." Even today we can see this methodology back now with the drink coupon promotions in Las Vegas.

Fast-forwarding to the late '90s, Harrahs was taking its own step to seal its reputation as an innovative pioneer for marketers. At this time, they were the leader in "Big Data" and "Big Data Analytics" before the term had even been coined. Using their knowledge, they introduced the concept of "total rewards." This became the first REAL loyalty program in gaming that used tracked play to incentivize player loyalty, as well as the gold standard that other loyalty programs would copy. Because players could now be identified and segmented by worth, these programs changed the way casinos actually looked at their players, from their preferences to their spending habits. Ultimately, the greater exactness of tracking led to offering incentives and rewards to players that corresponded to their worth to the casino.

Over time these practices and programs have been improved and specified to individual casino brands. As we look to the future, only more progress is expected to be made, especially when it comes to table game tracking and non-gaming spending. 

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