Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
It’s all right for casinos to market to customers with addictive gambling behavior as long as they focus on the property’s amenities and don’t push playing slot machines and table games, according to the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling.
Carol O’Hare, the council’s executive director, told casino marketers attending the two-day Casino Marketing Conference at Paris Las Vegas that companies need to be considerate of problem gamblers, but it doesn’t mean those people can’t be good customers.
In a session on marketing to problem gamblers, O’Hare said casinos should consider marketing programs directed at casino guests who don’t gamble, and not just those who suffer from pathological gambling disorders but those who simply choose not to play.
O’Hare, a self-described recovering gambling addict, said because casinos have become entertainment centers with more than just slot machines and casino games, there are many opportunities to attract non-gaming customers.
“I am a consumer with discretionary income, an active member of the community, a person who enjoys having fun with friends and family and a non-gambler by choice,” O’Hare said at the coference presented by Raving Consulting Co. and BNP Media Gaming Group. “But I am potentially your customer, too.”
O’Hare said studies show that 75 percent of casino customers eat at casino restaurants, 60 percent see shows, 48 percent visit a bar or club, 41 percent go shopping and 35 percent use on-site recreational facilities such as movie theaters and bowling alleys.
O’Hare encouraged casino marketers to learn the culture of the non-gambler and consider ideas and programs to cater to them. She said marketers should realize that commonplace marketing tactics directed at every customer shouldn’t go to the estimated 1 to 2 percent of the general population that suffers from pathological gambling disorders.
O’Hare said that casinos that distribute loyalty cards and gambling coupons to every guest who checks into a hotel are doing a disservice to the problem gambler.
“It’s like giving a bottle of wine and a corkscrew to the recovering alcoholic that checks into the hotel,” she said. “Give me an opportunity to say no.”
She recommended instead asking guests whether they want the gaming-related giveaways. She suggested that casinos could develop an identifier — maybe a colored bracelet — that identifies an individual as a non-gambler so that the customer is not continually bombarded with gambling giveaways.
“Sometimes it’s as easy training employees how to greet guests,” O’Hare said. “Most of the time, they’ll say something like, ‘Good luck.’ How about ‘Have a nice day?’ Some properties have incorporated their own names into an appropriate greeting, like ‘Have a grand day,’” she said, referencing the MGM Grand’s signature slogan.
She also urged casinos to consider marketing programs that specifically target non-players, such as an invitation-only poolside buffet for non-gamblers. She also suggested that casino loyalty cards don’t have to be tied to gaming promotions and that companies could benefit by offering loyalty cards that focus on other amenity purchases and not casino play.
O’Hare also cautioned casinos to be wary about sending mixed signals with their marketing messages.
Most casinos companies prominently display the national problem gambling hotline toll-free number on their walls. But some of those same casinos, she said, also offer gambling promotions that encourage patrons to cash their Social Security checks at the cashier’s cage.