“The bound of the horizon, a huge cliff,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And, growing still in stature, the huge cliff
Rose up between me and the stars, and still,
With measured motion, like a living thing
Strode after me.”
Reviewing the leading Player Clubs at U.S. bricks-and-mortar casinos (Part #1, Part #2, Part #4, Part #5) turns out to be a daunting undertaking. It reminds us of the haunting situation Wordsworth captured in the poem above. Yet we are full of resolve and nothing can break us, men of Excel, or impede our Clubathon venture as we strive forth to present our loyal readers with the most accurate and objective competitive landscape analysis. (I should clarify, however, that ridiculously large bribes will, in fact, steer us away from objectivity and point us in the general direction of fawning, boot-licking and endless praise.)
In this part of our series we will be reviewing the Player Clubs of MGM, Station Casinos and Stratosphere.
Keys to ranking the clubs:
Variety: How many different establishments do they offer? What’s the geographical spread? (10 possible points)
Loyalty: Is it easy to enter? How quickly will you start looking for your way out? How are the tiers structured? (30 possible points)
Entertainment: What does the non-gambling factor look like? Can you bring your wife and kids? Will they find their way back home? (10 possible points)
Attractiveness: What can you do with those club points you earn? Any super-cool rewards? Frequent promotional events? (50 possible points)
Reasons why this is an excellent ranking system:
- Because I said so. Think it’s wrong? Tough.
- If Loyalty and Attractiveness reach 100% of their potential points, the program scores at least 80, which is a fantastic result. Then any additional points are just icing on the loyalty cake.
- More commonly, a reasonably strong program will earn a total of 55-70 points on these two parameters. In such cases, factors like Variety or Entertainment should be considered to determine if this is the right program for you.
M life (MGM)
Variety: Decent, with 15 venues, with most of them in Las Vegas, yet two are in Mississippi and an additional one in Detroit. Score: 7 out of 10.
Loyalty: Five tiers, with probably the most beautiful names of the competition (Sapphire, Pearl, Gold, Platinum and NOIR). It will take you quite some time to move from the entry level into “Pearl”, as the bar is set at 25,000 Tier Credits. Qualifying into NOIR is x40 harder, as you will need to earn 1 million of these credits. How do you earn them? The usual anything goes, with different rates between the activities: Each $1 you bet will earn you 5 Tier Credits if you play Slots and 1 Tier Credit if you’re playing Video Poker (VP). Any $1 purchase (dining, room, etc.) will grant you 25 Tier Credits, yet these can only be applied toward your status – much like any credit earned via table games (different rate as well). NOTE: these rates apply to Vegas locations only. Elsewhere they apply at a much worse ratio, and the same goes for their Gift Shoppe Events – only points earned in Vegas count toward this benefit as well. Score: 20 out of 30. Pros: The registration process is the friendliest, and it’s even easier if you already own a loyalty card. And this is just another example of how much they want you in their program, and it really shows. Cons: Even with the rolling 12 months expiration period, it’s not that simple climbing into higher tiers. The different terms for the venues outside of Nevada doesn’t help.
Entertainment: Can’t complain about it – probably the best and most diversified offerings. On top of the regular partnerships, they have a Pyramid, a Beach, Golf Training, surprising opportunities such as selecting the songs for the Bellagio Fountains show and every possible way to dine, party and enjoy a good gig. Score: 10 out of 10. We have to give at least that for a program that offers to invite 300 of your closest friends to a private show of “Fantasy.” Maybe 11 points?
Attractiveness: The program fails to provide a clear redemption table on their website. It is understood that you earn 1 point for every $10 played at VP and $5 played at the Slots, or 550 points per hour of table games play ($25 bet per hand). Every 50 points can be redeemed as $1 for non-gaming discounts – so far it’s crystal clear. Yet it gets ridiculous later, as nowhere on their site do they mention how many points are required in order to earn $1 of free Slots play. Trade secret? The common belief is that the rate is the typical 1 cent per point. So you will need to risk $1,000 of Slots / VP play to earn $2 / $1 back. That’s quite okay, if indeed this is the case … Score: 35 out of 50, which could have been 40 or higher if their website would have been as explanatory as it is stunning.
Bottom line: 72 out of 100. It’s a shame that it’s not higher. Their loyalty offering goes beyond the normal standards, so it shows that these guys know what they are doing and have been doing it for long time. But the great “looks” of the website don’t make up for a plan that is anything but clear. As a Player Club program, much like an Orange County mom at her late 30’s, if you have the experience and still maintain a sexy appearance, you are probably Mlife (or, a MILF ;-). Not my type, but it does make some people’s slinky go Doing-Doing-Doing.
MyBoardingPass (Station Casinos)
Variety: Great. This program offers a whopping total of 18 venues, yet they are all in Vegas. BTW, their Red Rock Casino, although situated outside of the Strip, has a 180°-view suite. And you don’t. HA! Score: 6 out of 10.
Loyalty: A five-tier system, mainly geared for local Las-Vegasians. The entry level is for everyone, and with a 3 points to every $1 of Slots play, it is quite easy to progress fast through the ladder. E.g.: reaching the second level, “Gold,” requires a $333 Slots wager. Most small- to mid- level players can hit that goal within their first few hours at the casino. Sweet! Their highest level bar is set at x300, so you might need a day or two … but then you are being referred to as a “Chairman”. Hey – it’s not like you have any other chance of owning this title, so you might enjoy few free drinks while failing in this mission as well. Other games? VP, Race, Sports and Bingo are at a 1 point for every $1 wager, while regular Poker is 100 points for every hour at the tables. Speaking of which, Table Games are calculated according to your average bet times the number of hours you have played. Clean and simple. But wait! The good news hasn’t been told yet: Video Keno earns the same rate of points as Slots, with 3 points to $1 bet. How fantastic is that? If you ask me, people who play such games should be fined with points being reducing from their balance. Yes, I know, I can’t remember being asked as well, so zip up. Score: 25 out of 30, with reasonable T&C (6 months expiration), easy registration process, and very heartwarming approach.
Entertainment: Nothing major, unlike the global names offered by the larger casino brands. That said, they do have the Revolver Club with its Ladies Nights and Bottomless Drinking Fridays, but then again they also offer line dancing and a kid’s care center. We will keep the girls and booze and you can keep your kids, thank you very much (and while you are at it, can you please take ours with you?). Score: 6 out of 10.
Attractiveness: Not bad at all. It’s the only local program to offer point redemption at dozens of restaurants, bowling centers, movie theaters, spas and of course – concerts. Nothing is going on outside of Vegas, but again it is mainly for the locals. Score: 41 out of 50. How come? They offer a fantastic option to convert your points to REAL MONEY (!!) at a fabulous rate of $1 for every 1,000 points. So that’s $3 in your pockets – MUCH better than free slots play – for every $1,000 you wager. And obviously, if you redeem you points at the gaming machines or use them on the Station Casinos chain internal activities, you even get a better rate. So why not a perfect score? I don’t live in Vegas, that’s why.
Bottom line: 78 out of 100. The most rewarding scheme so far, yet it is very much limited by its reach. Having this approach on a larger scale would easily earn another 10 points, making it the best offer in the industry. All I can say is that regardless of this great program, when you mix a generous retention plan, loose women and gambling, usually you will end up with something attractive, transparent and sticky going on. Any goldfish can tell you that.
ace | PLAY (Stratosphere)
Variety: Mediocre, with four venues in Nevada, and only of them outside of Vegas. Score: 4 out of 10.
Loyalty: Four levels, with refreshing, colorful names for their tiers. It takes only 10 Tier Credits to ditch the initial level (Blue) and climb to the Orange one, and the highest level (Red) is only 250 Tier Credits away. While earning points is easy to comprehend, the Tier Credits mechanism is a mystery. You do earn 1 point for every $1 spent on Slots, $2 on VP (depending on the specific machine) and as usual, Table Games have their own weird ratio of average bet multiplied by the number of hours at the tables (there are no points for non-gaming activities!). But that said, the official answer re Tier Credits is that “it is all about the gamble. The riskier the game you play, the faster you will earn tier credits.” Da? Are you from the past? This is not a modern player management style. Score: 10 out of 30. I love it all, including the 12 months expiration period. Plus their staff is widely praised as the friendliest, but how can I rank the loyalty program if I have no idea what is the accrual pace? Also, their registration process is only semi-okay, and players’ status is evaluated only once a month (on the 16th) and not instantly. Boo.
Entertainment: Not a lot, but quite extraordinary. They have the tower, along with the extreme amusement park and the regular dining/nightlife/spa/pool options, and the basic dining and buffet discounts. Score: 7 out of 10, because they do have, as you would reasonably expect from a respectable establishment, a topless, erotic vampires show.
Attractiveness: In terms of how to redeem your points, I don’t think there is a clearer program out there. BIG LIKE –Here is an extra 3 points just for that. Being picky, I could say that it took me a few seconds to understand that I needed to click on the “info” button, but hey – this is not even a micro complaint. It’s dead easy: If you convert them to cash, 600 points would earn you $1. Slots play? $1 at 500 points. Any room-associated charges are 50% off with $1 for 300 points only. Score of 35 out of 50, because for a Slots play of $1,000, you get back $2 in free play, and that’s at the basic level! As they offer an accelerated pace according to your level (x1, x2, x3 & x4 respectfully), you can reach an astonishing rate of $8 for the same risked amount. Extra benefits apply with the top two tiers — an additional set of points, called Dividends, accumulated by players who maintain or exceed their status during their evaluation period. These Dividend Points can be applied toward the same goals as regular points, but no one knows how you can really earn them. Shame.
Bottom line: 56 out of 100. I really wish it could have been a higher outcome, but not being clear about how you earn the most basic bricks of any plan is simply breaking the law.
Another part of this long series has ended, and we still have at least another part of competitive analysis before we begin to draw concluding matrices and compare these with we have going on our Internet side. Instead of a supposed-to-be-easy-and-relaxing summer, especially considering the inferno temperatures outside, in the next few weeks we be burnin y’all. Coming dear … won’t be a minute!
** UPDATE: We invite you to also read additional articles of this Clubathon series: