The free stuff in casino rewards programs comes with a price.
The free stuff in casino rewards programs comes with a price.Shelly Schiff

Do Casinos Use Reward Programs to Track Everything You Do?

With 70% of gamblers enrolled, it's a sign of the times.

Everyone knows that gambling establishments feature state-of-the-art surveillance. You have likely seen more than a few movies where a character walks onto a gambling floor, and the film cuts to a bunch of desk jockeys watching a wall of monitors. Well, nowadays, it isn’t only your movement that gaming venues are tracking. It is pretty much everything else as well.

They know what games you like, when you enjoy playing them, for how long, and how much money you spend per session. Note that they are not doing anything illegal, as you are willingly supplying them with these mountains of personal information. You do all this under the guise that the casino is doing you a favor and providing you with perks that you otherwise would not be able to attain. However, there is a tradeoff to everything in life. There are no free lunches.

What Are Reward Programs?

A loyalty program is a marketing strategy that businesses implement to encourage you to continue using their service or buying their products. It is a tool that allows companies, such as gambling operators, an opportunity to foster brand allegiance and grow their client base. It typically involves you opening a loyalty account with a given casino by filling out an application form. The form requires that you provide your phone number, physical address, email, and more. When you sign this document, you agree to the casino’s privacy policy, which dictates how they will use all the information provided, who they can share it with, and for what purpose.

Once you fill out the application form and your loyalty status gets approved, the casino will issue you a virtual, paper, or plastic card. Usually, you will get one similar to your credit/debit card, featuring an identifier such as a barcode, magnetic stripe, or chip. You can use this card when making purchases or playing games on the operator’s property. It will provide you with discounts or point accumulation. Most casinos utilize a point-based system, where you can exchange these gathered credits for promotional offers.

Land-based venues are not the only ones that feature such schemes, as online casinos also offer their reward programs. The only distinction is that you do not get a card. All your activity gets tracked via your use of these internet platforms.

General Guidelines and Conditions

To better understand how these programs work, we will analyze the one available for customers of Caesars Entertainment properties. In Las Vegas, these are Caesars Palace, Bally’s, Harrah’s, and the Flamingo.

Caesars rewards program is a point/credit-collecting system with six elite levels. Spending money at Caesars partners like Ray-Ban, Godiva, and DoorDash can also help you rise through this scheme. You move up the tiers as you earn credits through one calendar year. The rate at which you get these credits depends on what kind of activity you partake in at Caesars properties. You get one credit for every $5 spent on slots and one credit for every $10 you spend on video poker.

The entry-level of the program is Gold. In it, for every 5,000 credits you have, you get a one-night free hotel stay at Caesars’ hotels in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The next level up is Platinum. It gets you a 15% gift shop discount and free valet parking. You will need to earn 4,000 credits within a calendar year to become a Platinum member. The three Diamond tiers follow the Platinum level, and the highest one in this program is the Seven Stars one. It requires that you earn a stunning 125,000 points per year to reach it. Seven Star Members get the benefits of the Diamond Elite status. Plus, they get added perks such as $1,200 in airfare credit, a 25% gift shop discount, best-room-available upgrades, and more.

The MGM Grand Las Vegas offers a similar program called M Life for its customers. Again, you earn credits via your gaming activity and by spending money at MGM Vegas locations. It is a five-level scheme. To achieve the highest advertised tier of the M Life system, Noir, you must get an exclusive invite from a casino manager. Rumors are that such an honor involves you spending at least a quarter of a million dollars at MGM properties.

Other famous Las Vegas casino reward programs are Station Casinos’ MyBoardingPass, the Venetian and the Palazzo’s Grazie scheme, and the Wynn and Encore’s Red Card Club. Remember, you only get perks for spending money, so you are not given anything for free.

Information Gathered from the Use

So, how much do casinos know about you? Well, when you use your loyalty card on a slot machine, the operator’s system notes which game you played, how much you have wagered, what you have won, and how much time you spent spinning reels. It records such data every time you partake in any gaming activity that involves you using your card. Thus, the operator has a detailed record of your gambling preferences. It knows precisely how much value you bring to the casino via this behavioral data tracking.

If you play at multiple properties owned by the same company, they will also know how much money you have spent at each one and when you have visited them. If you opt to use a mobile app that ties in with your casino’s loyalty program, you give up further information. Such apps let you make dining reservations, book hotel rooms, and buy show tickets. Therefore, the resort company collects that data too and gets further insight into what makes you tick. On top of this, the operator already has your email, phone number, address, and more, which you provided on sign-up.

How do Casinos Use This Info?

The good news is that this information gets used mainly for your benefit. The gathered data gets funneled to their marketing departments, who use it to target you with promotions that they deem fit for a player of your caliber. Marketing personnel analyzes your data to determine if you may be interested in specific offers. For example, they may send you an email about a deal that players who have spent an X amount of money within the last three months are most likely to accept. Your location may also be a factor that influences them to reach out. If they know that you live nearby their property, they are more likely to get in touch.

The same principles apply to the digital sphere. There, regulators such as the UK Gambling Commission require operators to obtain your personal information so that they can verify your age before allowing you to deposit. These sites store this data on secure servers and follow data protection regulations. However, know that both land-based and online real money casinos may share your information with government and law enforcement authorities if asked to do so. They also may keep your records in their databases for years after you close your account.

Should You Worry?

In recent times, internet privacy and sharing your information with corporations has become a super-hot topic. Yet, we all do it without reading the privacy policies of the companies whose services we use. Facebook and Instagram also gather an enormous amount of data regarding our use of their platforms, which they use for advertising purposes. So, casino reward programs do not do anything unique or nefarious. Remember, we all provide this information voluntarily.

A positive is that these schemes rarely require credit card data. So, in case of a breach, hackers are unlikely to get access to your financial information. If you think cyber-attacks on massive corporations are far-fetched, think again. In 2019, MGM Resorts suffered such a breach. The hackers that executed this attacked offered the obtained data for free online. Thankfully, it did not involve any financial or password information. It was only the names, phone numbers, physical addresses, emails, and dates of birth of over ten million MGM guests.

Final Word

According to estimates, almost 70% of US casino patrons participate in loyalty programs. These are player tracking systems inspired by credit card and airline reward schemes of the 1990s. In a sense, they function as an operator’s device to better understand their client base so that they can keep them faithful. Before, casinos had to adjust their floor layouts so they could psychologically affect players into staying longer. They also had to rely on trial-and-error marketing campaigns and projective modeling to figure out what appealed to customers. Those days are long gone. Today, by choice, we tell casinos all our preferences for a few added perks.

Shelly Schiff is a professional content writer specializing in the online gambling industry. During her eleven-year career, she has written for several popular iGaming websites but is best known for her work featured on Shelly is a slot enthusiast that also enjoys sharing her expertise regarding blackjack and baccarat. In her free time, she likes watching film noir and listening to 1980s rock.

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