Free Play – Do Casino Players Like it? By Jean Scott June 20, 2014 at 9:13 am In the good ol’ days, casinos rewarded players mostly with comps, but sometimes with hard cash. We loved cash rewards, which we could put in our pocket and walk out of the casino with. No matter how much we had lost while gambling, the cash made us feel, at least a little bit, like a “winner.” Then, about the turn of the Millennium, casino cash benefits began to be replaced by “free play.” No longer could we just walk away: We had to run the free play through a machine at least once. Casinos used free play for bounce-back rewards, as a way for players to redeem slot club points, for tournament and drawing prizes, and in promotions (for example, earn xx points and get yy amount of free play). Casinos fell in love with free play, which has now has almost completely replaced cash as king. So we casino customers have had to adjust. We did find that there were some good things about this new benefit system. We no longer had to stand in what was sometimes a very long line, or even two lines (one at the slot club to get a voucher and another at the cashier to cash the voucher). Instead, we could go straight to the machine and do a quick download. We also liked that a spouse or a gambling partner could pick up the free play when one of us was sick, or at work, or unable for some reason to visit the casino. All they needed was our slot club card and code number. (Of course this “privilege” is technically against the rules of most casinos, and there will always be a few players who will abuse this feature. But most casinos will look the other way if the two people involved are in some kind of a close relationship.) Most players like free play because you usually don’t get any government tax paperwork. The tax treatment of free play is a very gray area, with neither the IRS nor a court having addressed the issue. Right or wrong, most recreational gamblers choose to not report it as income. If there is a choice between free play and comps, opinions are divided. Heavy players, who may earn more comps than they can use, like the free-play option. More occasional players, especially if the comp option takes fewer points, will appreciate free meals. Some opinions about free play are not positive. Clearly, $100 of free play is not the same as a crisp $100 bill: You have to run the free play through a machine with a long-term return of less than 100%. And occasionally the machine payoff is a very disappointing, much smaller figure. Related to this complaint is that many players hate the temptation of playing until the whole amount is gone (because, after all, they could win big) even when they originally planned to play just the one required time. Another negative for many players is that using free play may trigger a “trip” which ruins your daily average at casinos where any action is considered a “play day.” Not always does a player want or is able to put in his usual amount of play on a day that he collects free play. One final gripe I hear about free play – and it could be the same for cash– is that casinos look chintzy when they give out very small – or odd – amounts. “Wow, the casino wants me to drive across town for $3 in free play?” Or “What’s with this $18 free-play coupon? Would the casino go bankrupt if they gave me two more dollars?” But, of course, you can only take the rewards which casinos offer you, not the rewards you would like to have been offered.