Thursday, Sept. 4, 1997 | 10:56 a.m.
Harrah's Entertainment Inc. is banking on a new customer-loyalty program to draw more gamblers to its casinos.
Dubbed "Total Gold," the program debuts next Monday at 16 Harrah's properties across the country, rewarding slot and table-game customers cumulative bonuses for play at any of its casinos.
"Total Gold is the most important player-loyalty tool to ever hit the casino industry," said Harrah's Chairman Phil Satre.
"It takes the mystery out of points and comps, and no matter which Harrah's casino they visit, customers can be instantly rewarded based on their play at any Harrah's location."
Gaming analysts are a bit more reserved in their assessment.
"I think it's a positive, but it's too soon to tell what impact it may have on the company," said Brian Egger of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
The program is an extension of Harrah's emphasis on brand recognition, playing on its wide geographic base throughout the United States and incorporating the 6 million customers already enrolled in its Gold Card program.
"Our company's greatest strength is in forming one-on-one relationships with customers in each of our markets," Satre said. "A good customer of Harrah's in one market is recognized and rewarded as a good customer in any market."
Satre said Total Gold, which cost about $20 million to develop, "offers players an incentive to make Harrah's their preferred casino in numerous markets."
It will allow customers to earn points for cumulative table and slot play nationwide, redeeming them for cash, merchandise, food, lodging or show tickets at any Harrah's casino.
Customers can redeem points at Harrah's Total Gold center or on Total Rewards kiosks at the company's casinos. Similar to bank automated-teller machines, the kiosks print out vouchers based on a player's point total.
The program uses a database management system linking Harrah's computers across the country, and will be "continuously augmented with additional services and rewards that enhance the casino experience at Harrah's," Satre said.
The added benefits may include co-branded credit cards that would pay points for purchases, similar to airline frequent-traveler awards.
The database will allow Harrah's to track the gambling and spending patterns of individual customers and tailor rewards based on those habits. It will also allow the company to craft other marketing efforts, including direct mail and similar campaigns, to counter raids on its customer base by competing casinos.