Why casino comps could be very expensive

The Casino Comp Trap

by Heidi C. Brescher, hcbflorida@yahoo.com

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If you live in a region of the country where gambling is allowed, you've probably seen the flashy casino billboards advertising offers like free slot play, monthly giveaways, event invites, and discounted buffets. With such great incentives, it sounds like joining a casino players club is a smart idea for the frugally minded. But what does it really "cost" to get something for nothing? Are casino comps a valuable tool in your money-saving arsenal or a trap that budget-conscious folks should beware of?

What Are Casino Comps?

Comps is the shorthand for complimentary. Some comps, like free drinks, are available to all gamblers in a casino. More elaborate comps like free meals and rooms are distributed to members of a casino's players club based on how much money they gamble. Individual game play is tracked by inserting a personalized players club card into a slot machine or giving it to a table dealer or pit boss. The more money played, whether won or lost, the more comp points a player receives.

How Does the Casino Benefit from Issuing Casino Comps?

Casinos are one of the most profitable industries in the world even though they produce nothing. Their systems are set up to take in more money than they give out as a rule. This may make comps seem counter-intuitive, but the system is actually one of shrewd psychological manipulation. Besides encouraging player loyalty and more frequent visits, comps allow gamblers to rationalize losses by providing them with a gain in another form. Casino comps also encourage players to increase their level of play to accumulate more comps. Essentially, casinos are encouraging players to spend more time and money to sustain an illusion that they are getting something for nothing.

How Do Casino Comps Accumulate?

The rate of comp point accumulation will vary based on the casino as well as the game type and level played. Overall, those who play more money get more comps. Still, the rate of dollars to comp points may raise the eyebrows of some budget-conscious readers. At a large casino resort in Mississippi, new players who signed up for a players club card would receive $10 in free play or a t-shirt once they had accumulated 25 comp points worth of play. While this does not sound unreasonable on the surface, at $10 of play per comp point, the cost of that t-shirt or free play ends up being $250. Of course, it could be argued that the $250 in play would not all come from the gambler's pocket as there will likely be some wins along the way. But whatever the final breakdown would be between player or casino money, it still ends up being a very pricey t-shirt or $10 of free play.

Is There an Upside to Joining a Players Club for Comp Points?

The pursuit of comp points does not make financial sense unless gambling is a way of life that one does not intend to change. However, signing up for a players club card can net first time members a free buffet or a few dollars in free slot play, depending on the casino and promotion. If you can walk out the door after and not return, go for it. Otherwise it's best for those interested in saving money to reserve their play for activities that don't cost a thing.

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