In the wake of the Golden Palace, Player’s Fortune, Playboys Casino and Rated Player disasters, players and operators are re-examining the value of promotional bonuses.
It started innocuously enough. Small cash inducements to open a casino account and gamble. Then came percentage bonuses based on the initial deposit, and after that the “bonus business” went ballistic.
Reflecting an ever more competitive industry, online casinos have been vying with each other ever since, not only to offer bigger and better promos, but to evolve increasingly complex rules and interpretations to defend themselves against bonus abusers and the losses inherent in badly calculated offers.
Ironically, some of those protective measures create more friction and antipathy between operator and player than is desirable or necessary.
Most players like bonuses. What’s not to like about someone giving you cash to do something you find entertaining and at times profitable?
What players don’t like is being called bonus abusers, being jerked around on the rules and most of all being made to wait for payments.
On the other side of the fence, the operators – at least originally – offered bonuses in the hope that players would favor their casinos and become regular clients. Yet a situation has now been created where many players click from one casino to the next playing the lucrative bonus trail and do not always return.
Add to the mix the growing number of truly skilled players, the high (97 – 98 percent) casino payout percentages and the ever-present threat of downright criminal “abusers” sometimes operating in gangs, and you have a scenario guaranteed to strike caution into the heart of even the toughest operator and substantially reduce the legendary casino “edge”.
Disappointed operators are pressured by the competitive environment into maintaining promotions which are in many cases the “loss leaders” of the casino business. And if these are not carefully calculated or are offered for overlong periods the effects can be damaging in a business sense.
That’s why you increasingly see detailed rules and Pragmatic requirements to play your deposit and your bonus through anything from 2 to 7 times. That’s why some casinos are almost paranoid about your ID. And that’s why cries of “bonus abuser” are too often heard and are sometimes without justification.
So what is a “bonus abuser”?
From a player perspective this is viewed in stark black and white terms. It’s a gambler who doesn’t comply to the letter of the conditions of the bonus set by the casino and published in either marketing emails to the players or displayed on the casino site. It’s the guy who uses false identities to manipulate multiple accounts.
Note that nobody says anything here about loyalty and staying with the casino to play beyond the confines of the bonus. In fact some casinos have now become so wrapped up in this “bonus abuse” issue that they actively encourage players to cash out and shove off after meeting all the conditions. Go figure that one. Crazy, eh? Defeats the original object of the bonus. Yet it is happening.
On the casino side it’s a little more complicated. Talking to many operators you get a distinct vibe of resentment that the players are taking advantage of their “loss leaders” and have no loyalty. Ergo, they are bonus abusers.
Accounts have been closed and winnings confiscated purely and solely on the grounds that the player only gambled when there were promos. Yet the rules did not include that requirement. The notorious Golden Palace was a case in point.
That may not be practical or realistic, but it is happening. The nature of the business and the ingenious methods which crooks deploy to rip the casinos off make operators cautious, cynical and at times even hostile when they think a scam is going down.
It all makes for suspicion and an unhealthy “us and them” attitude on both sides.
It seems to me that the casino is responsible for framing its rules having done all the sums and considered all the contingencies.
Thereafter those detailed and unambiguous rules should stand for the duration of the particular promotion. No unilateral changes when the thing is in full swing, or as a common caveat states: “Management reserve the right to change the promotion rules at any time and without notice.” If they have done their homework properly that sort of BS rule should not be required.
Another rule which incenses players is the “No correspondence will be entered into”. Can you imagine getting away with that sort of approach in any other business? “We call the shots and we won’t listen to your appeal or anything else you have to say, bub” is what that really means.
One rule that is currently causing ripples is “Management’s decision is final.” Let’s look at that for a moment. The player has come in, read your rules. Given you his money and taken his chances. Now you’re telling him that your interpretation of the rules is the only one that counts? And you’re not prepared to listen to him? Hardly sound client relationship behaviour.
I have also heard of cases where the truly hazardous practice of revoking bonuses already awarded has been followed. Now there’s something guaranteed to bring down the ire of the player community on your head. Compounding it, the revoked bonuses have been withdrawn from players’ accounts or even worse unilaterally transferred from an account at one casino to another in the same ownership group. Absolutely guaranteed to lose you customers and every cent they might otherwise have left in their accounts. Now how smart is that?
It is my view that the bonus phenomenon has now reached a level where the potential for operator and player enmity outweighs the dubious commercial benefits. I think the time has come for operators to reduce that potential for friction by returning to defined cash inducements upon which there can be no room for misinterpretation.
The true objective is surely to build a gambler base, and the professional way to achieve that is to run a safe, efficient operation with sound, intelligent loyalty programs to which the players will respond.
If you take the trouble to look around you will see that that is precisely what an increasing number of casinos at the quality end of the industry are doing.
Operators. If you must persist with this bonus madness here are a few pointers:
Do your homework and your sums. Many times. Carefully. It’s too late once you’ve gone for it.
A bonus that works for someone else doesn’t necessarily do the same for you.
Draft your rules in detail and in unambiguous language. Then stick by them. No clever “interpretations”.
Make sure the same rules are on your website as appear in your marketing emails.
Brief your Support people thoroughly so they understand your rules.
No messing with players accounts. At all.
Make sure a supervisor checks all bonus awards before they are made.
Once a bonus is awarded, you are committed. No revocation unless it’s a genuine bonus abuser that you should have caught earlier anyway. If you have screwed up, eat it.
Always be prepared to communicate and listen. Always. Remember who puts the bread and butter on the table.
Security screens permanently up, Mr Spock.
And most of all. Be fast and efficient with your payouts.
To the players:
Only play at casinos you trust, regardless of enticing email offers.
Carefully read and understand the exact rules of the promo.
Call Support and query any rule which you feel is confusing or don’t understand.
Play exactly to the rules.
If you have a dispute try and resolve it with casino management before you run off and start trashing them.
Remember you can launch online complaints with the IGC and with the Online Player’s Association. You are not alone.
Look for loyalty programs which appeal to you. There is less risk in that than indiscriminately casino hopping after the golden, and you hope trouble-free, bonus.