Comps

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, ‘wow you won so much, they’ll give you anything you want’.

No, that’s not true. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about casinos. Sort of. In reality, the casinos do not really care how much you win or lose. Sort of. I’ll explain why the ‘sort of’ in a bit. But generally, it’s true that the casino does not care if you win or lose.

Check out this text conversation between my Caesars host and I. The host is saying that despite my winnings, which are rather large, my Average Daily Theoretical Loss (ADT) is not high enough to justify a comp to Las Vegas. For an explanation of the ADT, see here.

Why is my ADT so low, despite my average bet being $1500? Because most of my bets are on the odds bet at the craps table. I’ll go into a craps tutorial in the future, but you should know that with some games, the house makes more money compared to other games.

The most profitable games are the slot machines. Other than the largest players, known as ‘whales’, slot players always have the highest ADT among the general population of gamblers. Slot machines play fast, and generally, the house has a big advantage against the player. Also, there is the ever important factor: a slot machine does not require hourly pay, health insurance, dental, a retirement plan, and never calls in sick. Slot machines are pure profit for the casino.

The least profitable games tend to be either poker, blackjack, or craps. Poker is usually treated as a loss leader, meaning the house doesn’t make much money on poker, but uses it to draw in players, so that their friends or family will play slots, while they’re playing poker. Blackjack tends to run low on the margins; so low that the casinos have been changing the rules to make the game more profitable.

So back to the comps…

Depending on which game you play, how fast you play that game, and how much you wager, the house will give you freebies, known as ‘comps’. What this means is that the house is merely using your own money, that you lost, to buy you that ‘free room/buffet/food/drink/whatever’. These comps, which are based on your play, are known as ‘earned’ comps.

Your earned comps are put into a bank, with the casino, for you to spend. So lets say you lose $100, the casino will place a percentage of your losses into the bank for you to spend.

For example, here is a pic of my bank of earned comp points before my last trip to Las Vegas. I had 5,669 points, which is the equivalent of $56.59 worth of comps that I could use to apply to the cost of room, meal, goods in the casino, etc. If I had spent $10.00, on lets say a sandwich, then the casino wold deduct 1000 points from my comp bank, resulting in a balance of 4,669.

Notice that $56.69 is not enough for a room for one night in Las Vegas, much less four nights in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. So how did I end up getting the Las Vegas comp, even though my points were not enough?

If turns out that the casino does kind of care if you win or lose. Sort of. This is when the casino turns to something they refer to as ‘discretionary’ comps. If you have a big win, the casino is afraid that you will take your money to a competing casino and lose it at that competing casino. If you have a big loss, the casino is afraid that you’ve been burned so badly, they’ll lose a customer for the future.

So to keep you around, they will issue a comp at their discretion, just to keep you from wandering to the competition or quitting entirely. These discretionary comps require a host who will ‘force’ a comp even though the bean counters said that I didn’t qualify for Caesars Las Vegas that holiday weekend. Check it out.

Here is an email of my supervising host forcing a bean counter to comp me at Caesars Palace, which is a very expensive hotel.

The host showed me his exchange to prove that he was working hard for me.

Remember, they’re coming me 4 nights at Caesars Palace on Labor Day weekend (a very expensive hotel on an expensive weekend), even though I only have $56 available as my total comp spend.

As a note of appreciation, if that host is reading this, I will acknowledge that he is awesome.

The casino will do everything in its’ power not to issue a discretionary comp. A discretionary comp is a form of gambling for the casino. Casinos, ironically, do not like to gamble. They want you to gamble, but they themselves do not want to gamble. They want to know that any comps they’ve issued, you’ve earned by ALREADY having lost the money. With a discretionary comp, you have not yet lost the money, and they are betting that by issuing you a comp, which you have not yet earned, you will pay back the comp in the form of a loss. You may or may not pay back the comp by continuing to gamble. So it’s a risk for the casino.

Knowing how discretionary comps work, I simply went to another host at the casino and told the host that if they weren’t going to issue me a discretionary comp at the property of my choice, I was going to a competing casino. I then received my desired comp after that threat.

Sometimes this threat won’t work. The casinos are mostly bean counters, and they just won’t care. It comes down to how well they know you and how much of their money you won, or how much you lost to them.

But knowing how comes work can help you in the never ending battle for freebies.

I’ll close by adding two bits of advice: 1. never alter your play for comps because the casino is just giving you back a small portion of your losses; 2. ask the pit boss, who is found in every gaming area of the casino, for the host contact because only the host can issue discretionary comps. Do not be shy about specifying to the host that you want a comp, and that they will NOT deduct it from your earned comps. The worst your host can do is say no.

In a nutshell, that’s how comps work.