Friday, Aug. 12, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas has built a hospitality industry around the various marketing possibilities of the fairer sex, from scantily clad servers to ladies’ night promotions and subsidized nightclub entry fees for women — a win-win scenario for the women who take advantage of such discounts and the men they draw as a result.
A Las Vegas-based tavern giant is taking a more direct approach to attracting female customers by offering women their own gambler loyalty program.
The Secret Rewards program launched by Golden Gaming’s PT’s chain of video poker bars is intended to make women feel more welcome in a traditionally male-dominated environment. That makes its endgame somewhat different from the usual ladies’ night event, in which bar owners hope to draw men who will spend money — much of it on the assembled women.
Catering to women made business sense to PT’s, which also owns casinos. While bars are a largely male bastion, slot players in casinos skew female.
“We have a great gaming program that many people don’t know about,” said Christopher Abraham, vice president of marketing for Golden Gaming. “Women typically don’t see it very much because they don’t visit taverns that often and when they do, they typically don’t gamble.”
To come up with the program, Golden executives turned to their mostly female bar staff, and female customers, for input.
“I don’t know what a woman wants as much as a woman knows what a woman wants,” Abraham said.
The focus groups were unanimous: Goodbye unisex freebies — the T-shirts, tumblers and coolers local casinos typically distribute to customers. Hello to Marc Jacobs sunglasses, DKNY purses, Sephora cosmetics, and gift certificates for pedicures and yoga classes.
Last month, the company hosted weekly parties for female customers at one of its Las Vegas bars. The event seemed less of a typical pickup scene at a bar and more of a salon experience, with makeup artists, massage therapists and manicurists on hand to pamper customers amid servings of cosmopolitans and pink grapefruit cocktails.
The company’s all-female focus groups will advise on future events and rewards, which will be changed every few months, Abraham said.
The rewards program launched days after state lawmakers passed legislation clarifying Nevada’s anti-discrimination law to allow ladies’ night-type offers and other business promotions that specifically target women.
The law reiterates that sex discrimination in the workplace and places of public accommodation are illegal. Supporters say the law was intended to recognize that a presumably profitable business promotion that also benefits women, unlike a harmful policy formulated at the expense of women, does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
The program was in the works well before the change to state law, which didn’t factor into Golden Gaming’s plans, Abraham said.
It’s an equal access program: Men can sign up for the program and earn points toward a tube of lip gloss or an evening bag, too.
“If you’re a guy and you really want a purple rewards card, we’re not going to stop you.”
Still, it’s about time women had a card of their own, he said.
“We do enough to market to guys, with all the sports promotions and pretty girls.”