One of the biggest highlights of playing casino games is receiving comps. Depending upon how much you’ve played, you may be looking at anything from a steak dinner to lots of cashback.
Given how fun it is to earn these freebies, you may put a high degree of emphasis on rewards. Unfortunately, these perks aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Casinos have created a veil over comps that makes them seem more valuable than they really are. But as I’ll discuss here, gambling rewards are subject to one very big problem.
Before getting into this, though, I want to cover the basics of earning comps in both land-based and online casinos.
Earning Comps in Land-Based Casinos
Receiving rewards in brick-and-mortar casinos begins with signing up for the player’s club. You either need to visit the player’s desk in person or look for a section to sign up on their website.
Once you complete registration, you’ll receive a player’s club card. You can use this card when you’re playing slot machines or table games.
When playing a slot or video poker machine, you merely need to insert your card into the appropriate slot. The software will automatically keep track of your rewards.
Getting rewarded with table games starts with letting the dealer know that you wish to be rated. They’ll then inform the floor supervisor or pit boss and hand them your card.
The floor supervisor typically looks at your first few bets in order to get an idea of your rating.
They’ll periodically walk by and check your wager sizes throughout the session.
They use multiple aspects to determine how many comps you deserve. The main factors include your bet size, amount of hours you’ve played, a game’s house edge, and your current VIP status.
The comps at land-based casinos are typically more exciting than those found online. Casinos start you off with free drinks and hope that you’ll lose your inhibitions and keep playing.
Other comps include meals, show tickets, free hotel rooms, luxury transportation, and more. The bigger the gambler you are, the better and more customized the rewards you can expect.
Gambling venues may assign specific VIP levels to big players. Room and Food (RF) entitles you to a free hotel room and meals for your entire stay.
Room, Food & Beverage (RFB) is even more prestigious because you also get all of your drinks comped. This benefit is particularly appealing if you like expensive wine and liquor.
All other gamblers are simply referred to as “player.” While you can also look forward to some nice perks through this status, you won’t be treated like royalty.
Earning Comps in Online Casinos
You don’t have to do much work to qualify for rewards at online casinos. Most gaming sites begin comping you automatically after you deposit and start betting real money.
Standard rewards at internet casinos include cashback, free spins, and deposit bonuses. You can look forward to better offers in these categories as you advance up the VIP level.
Every online casino has their own ranking system for VIPs. Here’s a generic example:
A bronze-status player may receive something like 0.1% cashback and a weekly 100% match deposit bonus up to $200. A platinum-level gambler, meanwhile, could earn 0.2% cashback and a weekly 200% match deposit bonus up to $1,000.
What’s Wrong With These Comps?
You can see that some nice rewards are available online and at brick-and-mortar establishments. Unfortunately, these comps aren’t quite as beneficial as they’re made out to be.
The biggest problem is that every casino — whether land-based or online — offers low reward rates for slots and table games.
You can usually look forward to a better comp rate for slots because it has a higher house edge. Even still, you’re not going to get very big rewards compared to your theoretical losses.
Below, you can see scenarios of how large losses will be in comparison to your comps.
You bet $2,000 on a slot machine
This game has a 6% house edge
2,000 x 0.06 = $120 in theoretical losses
The casino offers a 0.1% comp rate
2,000 x 0.001 = $2 in rewards
120 / 2 = 60
Your theoretical losses are 60x higher than the comps
Table games feature even lower rewards rates since they typically have lower house edges than slots. In many cases, you’re looking at between a 0.02% and 0.05% rate.
Here’s an example of what you’d expect to earn when playing these games:
You bet $2,000 on blackjack
The table carries a 1% house edge
2,000 x 0.01 = $20 in theoretical losses
The casino offers a 0.02% comp rate
2,000 x 0.0002 = $0.40 in rewards
20 / 0.4 = 50
Your theoretical losses are 50x higher than the comps
The big problem with gambling rewards is that they’re simply not very valuable. Some players will bet $25 a hand for six hours and receive a free cheeseburger and fries as a result.
This cheap meal can make one think that the rewards are worth the effort, but what they don’t realize is that they theoretically stand to lose far more than the meal is worth.
Some Gamblers Screw up by Chasing Comps
One of the biggest mistakes in all of gambling involves chasing rewards. Some gamblers extend their sessions and/or place larger bets just to capitalize on comps.
A player might, for example, say, “If I play for two more hours, I might get a free night at the hotel.” They’re not committing any sin by continuing to play in hopes of earning a free stay.
However, the main problem comes in when they don’t truly feel like gambling two more hours. At this point, they’re subjecting themselves to higher losses just to get a better comp rate.
Again, the math clearly shows that you should never keep playing just to get comps. You’re actually better off paying for these items and services outright.
The ideal scenario is to simply play casino games like normal and let rewards come naturally. You’re best off not even thinking about the freebies until the end of the session when it’s time to cash out and go home.
Why You Should Still Care About Casino Rewards
It might seem like I’m anti-casino comps. But I’m simply pushing the fact that you shouldn’t make a concentrated effort just to get these benefits.
Of course, you also want to consider the upsides of collecting rewards. Here are big reasons why you want to at least make sure you’re qualified for comps.
Nice Bonus After a Session
One great feeling in gambling is finishing up a session and hearing that you’ve picked up an excellent reward. This feeling is even sweeter if you aren’t thinking about the perks as you play.
For example, you might stop playing a long blackjack session and talk to the casino host about your rewards afterwards. If they say that you’ve qualified for a free two-night stay, then you’ll be ecstatic.
Even if you only get a pair of show tickets or a basic lunch at the casino’s diner, you’ll probably still feel like you’ve gotten a nice bonus.
Boost Your Profits
The casino has an edge in almost every bet and game in their establishment. Therefore, you’re going to walk away a loser more often than you do a winner.
But rewards can boost your profits when you’re experiencing a hot session. You may not actually receive money (cashback) for your comp, but a lobster dinner or a spa visit are still adding value to your winning session.
Here’s an example:
You win $50 in blackjack
You earn a dinner worth $25
You’ve theoretically won $75 total
At the Very Least, You Can Break Even
Casinos don’t have a very big advantage in most games. European roulette, for example, only features a 2.70% house edge.
This means that you’ll theoretically lose $2.70 for every $100 wagered. Assuming you’re not a high roller, then you probably won’t lose much money playing European roulette.
In some cases, you can actually end up breaking even when rewards are included. Here’s an example:
You lose $100 in roulette
You receive one free night at the hotel worth $100
You’ve theoretically earned back your losses
You can see here that your losing night has suddenly turned into a break-even session. You’ve essentially gotten a free night of entertainment as a result.
Tips for Boosting Your Comps
You don’t have to take the rewards offered at face value. Instead, you can take measures to improve the amount of perks you receive.
Contrary to popular belief, no trick will take you from a free hamburger to the penthouse suite. However, the following advice will at least help you increase your comps to some degree.
Cash In on Double Points
One of the most common promotions that gambling venues run is double loyalty points. As the name implies, you receive double the points you normally would during these promos.
All you must do is show up to an online or land-based casino during the promotional period and play games to collect your extra points. Also, make sure that you thoroughly read the terms and conditions on these deals.
Here’s an example of how double points will boost your bottom line:
You bet $5,000 on slot machines
The normal comp rate is 0.1%
5,000 x 0.001 = $5 in rewards
However, you’re getting double rewards (0.2% rate)
5,000 x 0.002 = $10 in rewards with double points
Unfortunately, you can’t expect these types of promos on a regular basis, but you should definitely watch your favorite casino’s newsletter and social media pages to find out when these deals happen.
Play at Casinos With the Best Rewards
You won’t find much separation between casinos when it comes to their rewards. However, some gaming venues are known for boasting superior loyalty programs.
This is especially true with land-based casinos, where certain ones stand out from the pack. Station Casinos, The Cromwell, and Buffalo Bill’s typically offer some of the best loyalty perks in Vegas.
As for online casinos, you can visit their VIP pages and compare rates. If you see that one casino offers 0.12% cashback to the lowest loyalty level — versus 0.1% cashback at most other sites — then you’re getting a good deal.
Move Up in the Loyalty Program
Casinos give you a chance to move up in their VIP programs by betting more money. Of course, working your way up the ladder isn’t always easy, but it can be worth the effort if you’re already a frequent gambler.
Familiarize yourself with a casino’s loyalty plan and what it takes to reach the next level.
You can easily do this at gaming sites, where the information is clearly laid out.
However, you may need to speak with the casino host at a brick-and-mortar venue. I suggest visiting their website first to find all the info you can before talking to the host.
What you receive by advancing in a loyalty plan all depends upon the specific casino. Generally speaking, though, you’re going to get better perks and a higher cashback rate.
Fool the Floor Supervisor
You can attempt to boost your rewards by tricking the floor supervisor or boss into thinking that you’re a high roller.
Earlier, I mentioned that whoever rates you will only look at your first few bets. After all, pit bosses and floor supervisors have other things to do and can’t sit around watching your every single wager.
You therefore want to place large bets in the beginning to convince them that you’re a bigger gambler. Once they leave, switch back to lower bets.
Here’s an example:
The floor supervisor begins rating you
You make $100 mini baccarat bets
They leave to make their rounds
You reduce your bets to the $10 minimum
You’re rated as a $100 player
You receive 10x the rewards that you’d get as a $10 gambler
The obvious reward here is that you’re being comped at a higher rate despite placing much lower wagers. An added bonus is that there’s little downside if you’re caught.
Sometimes the floor supervisor will come around and catch you making smaller bets. They may rate you at this wager size or go somewhere in between this and your large beginning bets.
The dealer could also sell you out, especially if you’re not tipping them. They’ll simply tell the pit boss or floor supervisor that you were betting much less than perceived.
In any case, you’re not going to be thrown out of the casino like a card counter just for pulling this stunt. At worst, they’ll trust you less next time they rate your play.
Play Games With the Best Comps
Not all casino games are treated equally with regard to comp rates. Slot machines, keno, scratchcards (online), American roulette, and craps prop bets offer higher rewards.
All of these games and bets have higher house edges than the average casino game. Given that you’re facing bigger theoretical losses, the casino is willing to compensate you better.
I want to reiterate that you shouldn’t play longer or make riskier bets just to pick up great comps. But if you’re already interested in these games/wagers, then you can at least look forward to superior benefits when making them.
You should definitely go for casino rewards wherever you play. After all, these are gifts that the house is giving you for being their customer.
But the key is to understand that comps aren’t worth as much as many perceive. Specifically, they’re much less valuable than the theoretical losses you’ll incur while getting them.
I gave some examples earlier showing where you’d theoretically lose 50x to 60x what your comps are worth. Hopefully you won’t lose too much money, but the math paints a bad picture of rewards.
The main thing you want to avoid doing is chasing after comps.
The potential losses you’ll suffer while going for a meal or hotel room just aren’t worth it. You’re better off buying the desired perks in most cases.
The best way to handle things is by playing casino games naturally and letting rewards come as they may be. Don’t force the issue and expose yourself to greater losses just to get better comps.
You can also take steps to improve your benefits. Researching VIP programs, going for double points, moving up in the VIP program, and fooling the floor supervisor are all valid methods.
Playing games with higher house edges is yet another way to boost your comps. But don’t get carried away with this idea because, again, your theoretical losses will be high.
In summary, you should have fun with earning rewards. The key is to collect comps without forcing yourself to play longer or bet more.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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