For many years, Las Vegas has been a town eager to make visitors feel like big shots. In order to attract freewheeling gamblers, casinos routinely arranged free rooms, free meals, and free tickets to shows for players.
These comps were not only allocated to whales who flew in on private planes; an ordinary customer could be rewarded handsomely by casino pit bosses who observed the customer playing for long stretches of time. The house was willing to donate amenities on the gamble that, over time, players would lose more than the cost to the house of freebies.
This bet paid off big time. A multi-billion dollar empire was forged off losses left in the desert by tourists, who still went home feeling like they made out, what with the free room and buffet.
Still, corporate philosophy is to constantly find new and larger revenue streams, worrying more about pennies spent than pennies gained, and as corporate-style management has come to Vegas over the years, the system of awarding comps has evolved.
Initially, comps were handed out by pit bosses trained to spot good gambling customers. Spend some time sitting at one table, and the boss might wander over, ask if you wanted to see a show or were getting hungry.
As casinos became bigger and bigger businesses, run by companies owning more than one property, the advent of the player’s card began. Using a card similar to a credit card, companies advertised your play could be tracked at any location belonging to them. However, pit bosses began to lose much of their discretion, as computers and bean counters examined the hours and rate of play recorded on player cards. Comps became harder to get for occasional visitors.
Recently, a new trend was observed at Harrah’s and MGM casinos. Not only does the pit boss record money turned into chips by the player and rate and stay at the table of the player, but also a recording is made of exactly with how many chips the player left the table. Pit bosses, upon questioning by Casino Gambling Web, revealed that losing has become a major requirement for earning comps.
The challenge for the player was always to hopefully outplay the house edge. Casinos knew that the edge was in their favor, and would allow comps to be earned simply by the player taking the chance of gambling; but the corporate bean counters have now determined that, while some credit is earned for playing, the most comp points are earned by losing prodigiously.
It has reached the point that Strip casinos have basically said they will take your money at gaming, as well as overcharging you for rooms and food, and will only dribble some of that massive wealth back out to those who pay far more through their gaming than the comp rendered is worth.
Makes one long for the days of $1 shrimp cocktails and New York strip dinners. Hopefully, the casinos operating off the strip continue to use the comp system as a way to draw locals and middle-class players, and cut into the mega-corporations’ share of the market until they are forced to return to the Las Vegas style so fondly remembered.