In another sign that technology is changing gambling in unforeseeable ways, some of the major casinos in Las Vegas have begun monitor free drinks and tying them to their comps system. In recent months, the Golden Nugget and Caesers Entertainment has joined a handful of smaller casinos in monitoring patrons gambling habits and linking it to their free drinks. As the ability to monitor customers electronically becomes easier and cheaper, expect more casinos to require customers to request monitoring in order to receive free drinks.
Free drinks have always been a draw for casinos, but often has attracted people who go to the casinos mainly for the free drinks and entertainment, rather than for the gambling which is where the casinos make their profits. Some of my own personal experiences with gambling where driving to Atlantic City with $5 in my pocket and spending a few hours in the casinos with friends drinking for free. From the casinos standpoint, the free drinks were also believed to be a way to keep customers in the casino longer, and maybe not be able to make the best financial decisions. Free drinks plus nearby ATM machines often result in increased profits for casinos.
It seems though that the casinos have done some more analysis, and with the cost effectiveness of electronic monitoring, now they feel it is the time to try to limit the amount of free booze going to extremely low rollers. This makes perfect sense from the casinos point of view. In the past, comp systems were generally something that the customer requested and then employees including the dealers kept an eye on the amount of gambling done by the patron along with the types of games they were playing. If the player was gambling large amounts and playing games that favored the casino, the casino often offered comps to the player, things like free meals, rooms, tickets to show. However, with free drinks and low rollers, the monitoring required by the staff never made it worth it to include free drinks with the comps system, it instead was given to most players who were actively playing any game.
It will be interesting to see the marketing that follows this change. Will there be casinos that step up and announce that they still provide free drinks as a way to get more foot traffic? Will casinos move to a much more standardized comp system? Online casino generally go full transparency with the player knowing exactly how many points they have earned and what they can do with those points. This has become such a standard feature of online casinos that I am sure resort casinos are feeling pressure to move towards a more transparent and scheduled style of comps system.