Bye-Bye Free Pulls: Freebie Slots On Decline In PA

August 29, 2017
vintage slot machine

Five years ago, free slot machines were giving up more than $680 million to gamblers. This past year? About $60 million less.

This downward trend in payouts indicates free slot pay is on the decline in Pennsylvania casinos. It is a fact that Trib Live pointed out this past week as they analyzed the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board‘s 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Why the decline? Simply put, casinos don’t like giving away free money.

Free-play customers know how to work the system

In a typical scenario, free-play devotees will use a free machine until they have enough credits to cash out. They cash out, then leave the casino content with the fact that they just earned free money.

Vince Manfredi, a casino consultant who spoke with Trib Live, said that casinos were willing to pay the cost of free play in exchange for customer loyalty.

However, he said, those days are fading.

“Form operator’s poitn of view, there’s a cost to giving a player free pulls on a slot machine,” he told the paper. “There’s an expense, and the expense has to be managed.”

His consulting firm, Manfredi Consulting, posits that casinos ramped up their free-play programs during the recession. They also relied on Baby Boomers to warm their slots seats. But that generation is getting older.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that free-play programs usually reward the most to those who play the most. The more loyal you are to one casino, the higher the chances are the casinos offer you free play.

Looking ahead: Will free play die out?

Much of the research we’ve seen over the past year says that Millennials are far less interested in a traditional slots experience than Baby Boomers.

However, Millennials are also know for being relatively thrifty. This interesting cultural intersection is quite pertinent with free play.

On the one hand, you could argue that free slots play is not a long-term strategy because Millennials prefer skill-based games.

You could also assert that free-play programs are perfect for bargain-hunting Millennials.

What’s the solution? Casinos could maintain the free-play framework and apply the freebies to video game gambling machines, the skill-based machines that add a betting element to video game play.

Another strategy could be to adopt a credit-card style rewards program in which the average non-high roller would have a legitimate chance at getting free nights, meals, or spa treatments based on how much money they spend on the gaming floor. Shifting rewards away from free play and toward accommodations and perks could be an efficient way to maintain customer loyalty in the future.

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