Many gamblers have commented on Internet message boards this year on the increasing "stinginess" of land casinos when it comes to "comps" – player incentives in the form of free meals, drinks, shows, hotel rooms and promos. Clearly the dismal declines in business that the US industry in particular is experiencing in recessionary times has created a need to economise.
America's second largest gambling centre, Atlantic City in New Jersey mirrors similar economies being practices by land casino managements in Las Vegas and indeed across the country. Associated Press reports this week that during March 12.4 percent less freebies were handed out by Atlantic City operations.
Rob Stillwell, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming, which owns casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and in Midwestern and Southern states, told AP: "We're much more cautious with our money. You've got to be more strategic in targeting your customers."
Atlantic City's 11 casinos had $339.6 million in complimentary expenses in Q1 2009, down 9.2 percent from the first quarter a year ago. Revenues at Atlantic City's casinos fell 7.6 percent last year, and so far this year, are down 16.2 percent, Associated Press informs.
Revenues at Nevada casinos were down 18.1 percent in February, and 14.6 in January this year.
Interviews carried out by AP with casino executives and analysts showed that most major gambling markets are reducing their comp spending.
"You're seeing comps coming down because the market is just not allowing (casinos) to be as generous as they once were," said Steve Norton, a gambling industry veteran who runs a Missouri casino management company. "It's just not as viable to do that now.
"A lot of people are out of work," he said. "They have more time to spend in the casinos; they just don't have money to spend in them."
Resorts Atlantic City, where Norton was once vice president, is fighting off a foreclosure threat by its lender. Its co-owner, Nicholas Ribis, told New Jersey casino regulators earlier this year that Resorts had been giving away "too much food, too much drink, too much everything."
David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, said freebies typically go in cycles as casinos try to one-up each other to attract players, then pull back when their giveaways no longer become worthwhile. He said anecdotal evidence suggests comps have gone down in Las Vegas.
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