Just like its rivals for consumers’ disposable income, America’s $90-billion-a-year gaming and casino industry is significantly driven by database marketing. But gaming customers are very different in one major respect.
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While adult patrons of a hit movie, for example, know they will spend about $8 to $10 on a ticket, perhaps buy soda and popcorn and then head home, some casino customers lose huge sums of money while a few others might actually make a profit, especially those who are skilled at games such as blackjack.
Can casino owners more accurately identify and predict which of their regular customers will lose the most money? How often will these customers visit? How will they allocate their bets among slots and tables? By targeting those players, can casinos follow up with a more effective direct marketing campaign?
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The questions inspired two Wharton faculty members and a colleague at New York University’s Stern School of Business to see if they could develop a mathematical model to identify these most lucrative customers. The three researchers — marketing professors Raghuram Iyengar and Jehoshua Eliashberg, and Sam K. Hui, a marketing professor at Stern — say that the answer is an unqualified yes. Indeed, they wonder why casinos aren’t already using these tools.
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The issue for casinos “is one of attracting their best customers,” said Iyengar, noting that most casinos and slots parlors already collect some types of extensive marketing data on their customers. “Our list overlaps somewhat with their list, but the lists are not identical.” The casinos are reaching out to their customers, “but they could be doing it better.”
The study by Iyengar, Eliashberg and Hui — entitled “A Model for Gamers’ Revenue in Casinos” — develops a mathematical model which integrates gamers’ frequency of casino visits, their total wagers and the distribution of those bets at table games versus slots machines. The researchers determined if revenue from specific players was derived from “skill” or “luck,” and they were able to identify players who are highly skilled or perhaps revenue-producing high rollers.
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Avoiding ‘Unattractive Customers’
In addition, the team looked at ways that demographics could provide casino owners with valuable marketing insights. The data suggested, for example, that women devote more of their spending to slot machines than to table games like blackjack, and that men have a higher level of skill at the gaming tables than women. Iyengar and Eliashberg suggested that more useful information could have been gathered if they had been given more specific demographic data. “This information would really help [casinos] target more precisely the most attractive customers, because you certainly don’t want to target the unattractive customers,” Eliashberg said. “You want to spend your money where you get the most bang for your buck.”
While the characteristics they studied are fairly unique to the gaming industry, the authors said there are other business situations in which customers can be identified and targeted based on their specific skills or unusual customer behavior. For instance, they noted that better modeling of customer behavior might help hotel managers to more intelligently market the use of mini-bars or business centers, or allow car-rental firms to target extra-cost products like GPS units or satellite radios.
But it is the sheer size of the casino industry in the United States that makes it such a strong candidate for this kind of individualized predictive modeling, more commonly known as database marketing. Americans spend more money on gaming than on trips to the cinema by a 10-1 ratio, and more money is lost during a typical casino visit than is spent in an average visit to a mall. Of the $90 billion spent on legalized gaming, according to the American Gaming Association, some $59 billion is spent in casinos as opposed to lotteries or pari-mutuel wagering.
Unique aspects of the casino industry suggest that casino operators should be developing different tools for customer relationship management than, for example, mall operators — who analyze how much customers spend on a typical visit to a store and what products they purchased. Through the use of gaming loyalty cards and other tools, casino executives have the ability to more closely track the performance of individual gamers. Access to such player-level behavior, together with mathematical modeling, can help uncover a gambler’s level of skill — an important consideration in determining the individual targets of direct marketing campaigns.
“The use of mathematical models to predict future behavior is very important [because] the most recent profitable gamer is not necessarily going to remain [the] most profitable in the future,” Eliashberg said. “You have to look at the frequency of going to a casino in general and combine it with all sorts of aspects of wagering behavior. Does the customer wager more on slot machines or at the tables? You also have to look at the skill level. You need a model for human beings.”
Iyengar and Eliashberg noted that casinos already perform broad mathematical calculations — based on aggregate behavior — in an effort to predict their overall revenues and profits. The goal of this research, they said, was to come up with a mathematical model that would measure the difference between a typical player’s theoretical and real spending relative to the player’s skill level. The use of a “formal model, which makes clear distinctions among individual gamers,” is a more effective tool than a casino operator’s “judgment based on intuition,” Eliashberg stated.
‘Share of Wallet’
The data that researchers examined came from a major U.S. casino operator with gambling facilities in a number of U.S. locations. It provided the authors with detailed information — gathered through the use of loyalty cards — on more than 1,500 customers who made a total of about 9,000 casino visits from December 2004 through April 2007. The gaming company also offered age and gender information for about 400 of those customers.
To determine the skill of the players, the authors ran through a series of complex calculations based upon factors, including the particular games the individual played, the expected take by the casino versus the actual take, and whether a gambler’s winning or losing on one visit affected behavior on the next. While the researchers noted that more work must be done to learn how a gambler’s skill improves at a game, such as blackjack, over time, they believe their model can be a powerful starting point. For example, the authors predict that this new and more detailed type of data can be combined with customer survey results to obtain much better information on so-called “share of wallet” — that is, how much of the money that a gambler budgets for the casino is actually lost on a visit.
Beyond that, they also urge additional research on casino promotional activities — such as complimentary hotel stays or cash-back awards — in order to develop a better sense of how marketing efforts affect high and low revenue gamblers differently. In addition, they note that the customized data could help operators as they weigh how to better design their casino floor space to increase revenues, such as the use of environmental cues to encourage gambling or altering the ratio of table games to slot machines.
“The behavior may change from one facility to another, but we believe this information is helpful in designing your facility in line with customer behavior,” Eliashberg said. In future research, the authors note, they would like to examine more demographic data such as relationship status, home address, profession and education level to gain even more insights into gambling habits.
According to Iyengar, the research has implications in other industries. “A sales force manager could better understand how a person makes a sale,” Iyengar said. “It might make a difference if they could figure out whether it’s the product that’s selling or whether it’s the skill level of the sales person.”
Online casinos, also known as virtual casinos or Internet casinos, are online versions of traditional ('brick and mortar') casinos. Online casinos enable gamblers to play and wager on casino games through the Internet. It is a prolific form of online gambling.
Online casinos generally offer odds and payback percentages that are a bit higher than land-based casinos. Some online casinos claim higher payback percentages for slot machine games, and some publish payout percentage audits on their websites. Assuming that the online casino is using an appropriately programmed random number generator, table games like blackjack have an established house edge. The payout percentage for these games are established by the rules of the game.
Many online casinos rent or buy their software from companies like CryptoLogic Inc (now Amaya), International Game Technology, Microgaming, Playtech, Golden Race and Realtime Gaming.
Online casinos are broadly divided into two categories based on the software they use: web-based and download-only casinos. Traditionally, online casinos would include only one of the two platforms. However, with advanced technological changes, an online casino can now accommodate both.
Web-based online casinos (also known as flash or no-download casinos) are websites where users may play casino games without downloading software to their local computer. Games are mainly represented in the browser plugins Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Shockwave, or Java and require browser support for these plugins. Besides the plugins and browser, a stable internet connection is required to have a seamless gaming experience as all graphics, sounds and animations are loaded through the web via the plugin. Some online casinos also allow gameplay through a HTML interface.
Apple devices such as iPod, iPad and iPhone cannot play Flash games as the technology is not supported. To access the no download casinos using the iOS platform, you'll have to download browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera Mini.
Download-based online casinos require the download of the software client in order to play and wager on the casino games offered. The online casino software connects to the casino service provider and handles contact without browser support. Download-based online casinos generally run faster than web-based online casinos since the graphics and sound programs are cached by the software client, rather than having to be loaded from the Internet. On the other hand, the initial download and installation of the casino's software takes time. As with any download from the Internet, the risk of the program containing malware exists, which makes it less popular among sceptical casino players.
Also known as software-based online casino games, the outcome of these games are determined using a pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) software. This software ensures that every deal of the card, the outcome of a dice throw, or the results produced by the spinning of a slot machine or roulette wheel is totally random and unpredictable. PRNGs use a set of mathematical instructions known as an algorithm to generate a long stream of numbers that give the impression of true randomness. While this is not the same as true random number generation (computers are incapable of this without an external input source), it provides results that satisfy all but the most stringent requirements for true randomness.
When implemented correctly, a PRNG algorithm such as the Mersenne Twister will ensure that the games are both fair and unpredictable. However, usually, the player has to trust that the software has not been rigged to increase the house edge, as its inner workings are invisible to the user. Properly regulated online casinos are audited externally by independent regulators to ensure that their win percentages are in line with the stated odds, and this can provide a degree of assurance to the player that the games are fair, assuming the player trusts the regulator.
Live dealer casino games are the complete opposite of the software-based games. Instead of depending on a software to determine the outcome of the roulette spin, dice throw or deal of a card, these games depend on real-time results. This is possible as the games are streamed in real-time from a land-based casino or a studio recreated to mimick a land-based casino.
To ensure that players have an easy time playing these games and that the land-based environment is fully recreated, software developers include innovative features such as the chat feature. This enables the player to type your message to the dealer and they can respond back verbally. The live chat feature can also be used to communicate with other players seated at the table following a set of rules laid down by the casino.
The results of the physical transactions by the dealer, such as the outcome of the roulette wheel spin or the dealing of cards, are translated into data that can be utilized by the software by means of optical character recognition (OCR) technology. This enables the player to interact with the game in much the same way as they would with a virtual casino game, except for the fact that the results are determined by real-life actions rather than automated processes.
These games are a lot more expensive for websites to host than virtual games, as they involve a heavier investment in technology and staffing. A live casino studio typically employs one or more cameramen, several croupiers running the various games, an information technology manager to ensure that any technical hitches are dealt with swiftly, and a pit boss that acts as an adjudicator in case of disputes between players and croupiers.
In most cases this requires at least a three-room setup, comprising a live studio, a server/software room, and an analyst’s room. The configuration of these rooms varies from casino to casino, with some having several gaming tables in one room, and some having a single table in each room.
The high running costs involved with operating live dealer games is the reason why online casinos only tend to offer a handful of the most popular games in this format, such as roulette, blackjack, sic bo, and baccarat. In comparison, the running costs associated with virtual games are very low, and it is not uncommon for online casinos to offer hundreds of different virtual casino games to players on their site.
Online casinos vary in their approach to the hosting of live games, with some providing live games via their own television channel, and others offering the games exclusively via their website. In the case of televised games, players can often use their mobile phone or television remote controls to place bets instead of doing so via a computer connected to the internet. The most common live dealer games offered at online casinos are baccarat, blackjack and roulette.
A typical selection of gambling games offered at an online casino might include:
Many online casinos offer sign-up bonuses to new players making their first deposit, and often on subsequent play as well. These bonuses are a form of marketing that may incur a cost (potentially justifiable in order to attract a new player who may return and deposit many more times), since the casino is essentially giving away money in return for a commitment from the player to wager a certain minimum amount before they are allowed to withdraw. Since all casino games have a house edge, the wagering requirements ensure that the player cannot simply walk away with the casino's money immediately after claiming the bonus. These wagering requirements are commonly set to be sufficiently high that the player has a negative expectation, exactly as if they had deposited and not claimed a bonus.
Casinos may choose to restrict certain games from fulfilling the wagering requirements, either to restrict players from playing low-edge games or to restrict 'risk-free' play (betting for instance both red and black on roulette), thereby completing the wagering requirement with a guaranteed profit after the bonus is taken into account.
The Welcome bonus is a deposit match bonus on the first deposit ever made in the casino or casino group. Welcome bonuses sometimes come in packages and may be given to match the first two or three deposits (First Deposit Welcome Bonus, Second Deposit Welcome Bonus, etc.). They can also be tied to specific games, such as the Welcome Slots Bonus or the Welcome Table Games Bonus. The casino may also offer Welcome bonuses for high rollers who make an initial deposit above the standard amount limit.
There are two types of Referral bonuses: one for the Referee and one for the Referrer. The Referee gets a bonus when he or she registers an account at the casino and mentions the Referrer. Wizard of oz slot machine wins. The Referrer gets a bonus when the Referee completes all the requirements, such as making the deposit and wagering it a certain number of times.
Cashback or insurance
Cashback or Insurance bonuses are offered as a percentage of all losses in the player’s previous gaming activity. Typically, only deposits that were not matched with bonuses count towards this bonus. You can additionally find websites that offer casino cashback payments based on your losses encountered while playing with one or more online casinos. Those type of cashback deals are usually paid back to players by the casino portal that offers those special cashback offers.
The most popular form of bonus is one that can be claimed without the need to deposit any of the player's own money - known as a no deposit bonus. These bonuses are used as acquisition tools by casinos wishing to attract new players. No deposit bonuses don't always take the form of real cash, as exemplified below.
Non-cashable bonuses may be called 'sticky' or 'phantom' bonuses. In both cases, the bonus forms a part of the player's balance, but cannot be cashed out. The difference between cash-able and phantom bonuses comes at cashout time. A phantom bonus is deducted from the player's balance at the moment he places his withdrawal request. For example: if you deposited $100, received a $100, played and finished the wagering with $150. If the bonus is sticky, the player will be able to withdraw just $50. If bonus is cash-able, then the whole balance is available for withdrawal.
Comps are commonly available at land-based casinos, but also exist online. Comp points can usually be exchanged for cash, prizes, or other comps. The amount of cash given per wager is usually very small and often varies with game selection. A casino might offer three comp points for each $10 wagered on slots and one comp point for each $10 wagered on blackjack. The casino might give $1 for each 100 comp points. This example is equivalent to returning 0.3% of wagers on slots and 0.1% of wagers on blackjack. In addition online casinos may offer comps such as free tickets to online tournaments, free slots online, tickets to other special events, extra bonuses, souvenirs and pay back.
Bonus hunting (also known as bonus bagging or bonus whoring) is a type of advantage gambling where turning a profit from casino, sportsbook and poker room bonus situations is mathematically possible. For example, the house edge in blackjack is roughly 0.5%. If a player is offered a $100 cashable bonus requiring $5000 in wagering on blackjack with a house edge of 0.5%, the expected loss is $25. Therefore, the player has an expected gain of $75 after claiming the $100 bonus.
A large portion of online casino disputes relate to bonuses. Casinos may label players who win using bonuses as 'bonus abusers.' Both players and casinos may commit fraud. An example of player fraud is creating multiple accounts and using the accounts to claim a sign-up bonus several times. An example of casino fraud is changing terms of a bonus after a player has completed the wagering requirements, then requiring the player to meet the new bonus terms.
Fraudulent operator behaviour
Fraudulent behaviour on the part of online casinos has been documented, almost exclusively by player advocacy websites and forums. The most commonly reported behaviour is a refusal to pay withdrawals to legitimate winners. An online casino with multiple confirmed cases of fraudulent behavior is often called a rogue casino by the online casino player community.
Many casino gambling portals and player forums maintain blacklists of rogue casinos. While some carry more authority than others, all blacklists constitute individual webmaster and player opinions rather than an official list from any type of regulating body.
Often, casinos use buffer sites that offer free play of their casino games but in reality use different means of deceptive strategies to redirect or lure the visitors into signing up to their services via appealing bonus offers or exclusive reward programs. Majority of these deceptive 'free' sites lead to equally deceptive casinos.
Since almost all existing online casinos offer free play of their casino games, recognising whether a casino is deceptive based on whether they offer free gameplay is no longer viable.
Online gambling legislation often has loopholes that result from the rapid development of the technology underpinning the development of the industry. Some countries, including Belgium, Canada, Finland and Sweden have state gambling monopolies and do not grant licenses to foreign casino operators. According to their law, operators licensed on the territory of these countries can only be considered legal. At the same time, they can't prosecute foreign casino operators and only block their sites. Players in these countries can't be punished and can gamble at any site they can access.
The Australian Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) criminalises the supply of online casino games by an operator anywhere in the world to persons located in Australia. It only targets operators of online gambling sites, resulting in the curious situation that it is not illegal for a player in Australia to access and gamble at an online casino. No operator has even been charged with an offence under the IGA and many online casinos accept Australian customers. In June 2016, the South Australian Government became the first state or territory in the world to introduce a 15% Place Of Consumption Tax (POCT) modelled on the 2014 UK POCT.
The Belgian Gaming Act went into effect in January 2011 and allows online gambling, but only under very strict conditions and surveillance.
The Canadian criminal code states that only provincial governments and charitable organizations licensed by provincial governments may operate a casino in Canada. It also prohibits residents from participating in any lottery scheme, game of chance, or gambling activity not licensed or operated by a provincial government. In 2010, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation launched Canada’s first legal online casino, PlayNow, which is available to residents of British Columbia. The province of Quebec also operates a legal online casino through Loto-Québec.
Despite this legislation, the Kahnawake First Nation in Quebec has taken the position that it is a sovereign nation, able to enact its own gambling legislation, and has licensed and hosted nearly 350 gambling websites, without ever being prosecuted.
A German state contract about gambling (German: Glücksspielstaatsvertrag [de]) between all 16 German states was ratified in 2008 and has been adapted in 2012. It regulates a restrictive handling of online-gambling, including a basic state monopoly on public gambling with limited exceptions for a few commercial providers. Online gambling, and other forms of public gambling, against these regulations is illegal in Germany. The state contract, its implementation in contrast to the more lenient EU legislation, and possible further changes have been controversially discussed in the public, politics, and courts.
In the United Kingdom, the Gambling Bill that was passed into law in 2005 tends to all matters of online gambling, permitting online betting sites to have a Remote Gambling Licence in order to offer online betting to UK citizens. In 2014, the UK government put into law the Gambling Act of 2014 which in addition to the original 2005 law, required offshore online gambling operators catering to UK players to obtain a UK license. The new regulation required operators to pay a 15% Place of Consumption Tax (POCT), something that triggered an exodus of sorts of some operators from the British Isles. However, this exodus did not last long in most cases as the benefits outweighed the stumbling blocks, due to the UK being a major market for online gambling.
In 2019 the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced a series of new measures that apply to online and mobile casinos to reduce underage gambling with the aim of increasing fairness and transparency. The new measures will require casinos to have users verify their identity and age in order to gamble.
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In the United States, the legality of online gambling is debated and can vary from state to state. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) limits the ability of banks and payment processors to transact with internet gambling sites that are unlawful under any federal or state law. However it does not define the legality or otherwise of an internet based gambling site. It was commonly assumed that the Federal Wire Act prohibited all forms of online gambling. However, in December 2011, the United States Department of Justice released a statement clarifying that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting sites and not to online casinos, poker, or lottery sites, leaving the definition of legality up to individual states. Certain states such as Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey have started the process of legalising and regulating online gambling and it is expected that regulation will continue on a state by state basis.
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- ^Miller, George (2019-02-11). 'UKGC: New rules to make online gambling in Britain fairer and safer'.
- ^'New rules to make online gambling in Britain fairer and safer'. www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
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- ^Dunstan, Roger (March 1997). 'II. History of Gambling in the United States II-1'. Gambling in California. California State Library. Archived from the original on 2017-01-18.
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