Casinos miss the point by grousing about player ‘entitlement’By Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming ReportsMay 26, 2018 at 10:40 amFinding ways to curb a gambler’s “sense of entitlement” has become a popular topic when casino executives gather.At conference tables or over drinks, they lament that slot fans feel entitled to free play, that table players feel entitled to games with a substantially lower house advantage than slots, and that gamblers in general feel entitled to spend their entertainment money in places outside casinos.True, a few players are adept at gaming the system to get what the industry considers unearned rewards. However, to see a more blatant example of someone with a warped sense of entitlement, casino bosses should look in a mirror. How else can they explain:Imposing resort fees of up to $45 a night for what used to be part of the room packageCharging as much as $35 a day for parking, which used to freeSteadily reducing the slot payout percentage, as documented in a national study by the Association of Gaming Equipment ManufacturersChanging blackjack rules to allow a 6-to-5 payout on player naturals, rather than the standard (and still profitable) 3-to-2Limiting odds bets on craps tablesDowngrading video poker pay tablesUsing free play to push table game players toward slots, which make more money for the casinoOne cliché holds that a casino is entitled to all the cash players have when they walk through the door. That’s outdated. With ATMs spread across casino floors, the casino entitlement now extends to visitors’ bank accounts as well. Studies show that about two-thirds of the cash played at casinos comes from ATM transactions. Naturally, customers pay an exorbitant fee, some of which goes to the casino, for the convenience of being able to hand over more money than they brought.Someone’s sense of entitlement is out of whack here, and it’s not the players’.Casinos literally have a license to make money.“Not any industry – other than maybe selling marijuana – has the profit margins of a casino,” said Michael Meczka, president of MMRC Inc., a casino consulting firm based in Los Angeles, at a recent panel discussion about reining in the use of free play. Nationwide, commercial casinos reported $38.96 billion in gaming revenue in 2016, according to the American Gaming Association. In addition, the National Indian Gaming Association said tribal casinos had $31.2 billion in gaming revenue that year (increasing to $32.5 billion in 2017).Despite those massive figures, Meczka noted: “Gaming simply doesn’t know its customers.”As a reminder, almost everyone who play slots and table games is in it more for fun than for profit. Gamblers, especially slot fans, realize their chance of walking out ahead is small. Table game players, even the relative handful who play perfect basic strategy at blackjack, face a house edge they can’t overcome in the long run. The number of true advantage players – pros capable of winning big – is estimated to be in the hundreds nationwide. That’s a miniscule portion of the millions of gamblers who fill counting rooms with piles of $100 bills and other currency.The clear majority of players spend their money for what Meczka called a “good gamble.” That might start with a game that offers a reasonable chance of winning, but it involves much more: a fun atmosphere, a bit of excitement, a friendly staff, and freebies of actual value, including drinks, food, and rooms.Like buffet patrons getting seconds on prime rib, those amenities should be part of the total package.“There’s something – entitlement – that the gambler looks for,” said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor website and newsletter. “For the lack of any better way to describe it, I’ve always called it entitlement, in that (players) want a reason to do what they want to do.” Players routinely wind up losing more at gambling than the value of whatever they receive free.“That’s the nature of comps,” Curtis said. “It goes back a hundred years. That’s what a comp’s all about.”The hand-wringing about players’ “sense of entitlement” distracts from the many industry moves that have sucked much of the fun out of a casino visit. Loosening the slots and other games and eliminating or lowering those odious fees would buy a lot of good will, not to mention long-term profit.As the people providing those billions of dollars, players are entitled to an enjoyable casino experience. They’re entitled to fun. They’re entitled to a good gamble.