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Player's club a vital stop for casino newbies, veterans

Money trail

Statewide slot players' loss for week ended May 11: $46.19 million, down from $48.11 million in comparable week last year.

Statewide slot payout rate since July 1: 89.9 percent; for every $100 bet, machines return an average of $89.90

High and low payout rates: 90.75 percent at Lady Luck Nemacolin, Fayette County; 89.2 percent at Penn National near Harrisburg

Rivers: 89.69 percent payout; weekly slot revenue $5.36 million, down from $5.68 million last year

Meadows: 89.94 percent; weekly revenue $4.79 million, down from $5.01 million

Presque Isle: 89.47 percent; weekly revenue $2.29 million, down from $2.76 million

Lady Luck Nemacolin: 90.75 percent payout; weekly revenue $437,474; not open last year

Source: Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

Macau to ban smoking in casinos

The Macau Health Department has ordered casinos in the world's biggest gambling market to start a full smoking ban Oct. 6.

Casinos will be allowed to provide rooms for smokers, but the rooms will not have gaming tables, the Macau Daily Times reports.

“We are clearly separating the areas for smokers and nonsmokers,” a Health Bureau statement said. Last year, Macau's casinos, the only legal gambling sites in China, reported $45.2 billion in gambling revenue.

Sands not selling Bethlehem casino

Sands Bethlehem casino in eastern Pennsylvania is not for sale and could be in line for additional investment from its parent company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., company officials say.

The statements came as the company announced May 2 that Mark Juliano, previously senior vice president and chief casino officer for Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, is the new president of Sands Bethlehem.

Las Vegas Sands President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Leven noted that many had wondered about the casino's future. “Today, that speculation stops, and a new chapter in the history of Sands Bethlehem begins,” he said.

Sands Bethlehem has 200 table games and 3,012 slot machines, a 302-room hotel, 10 restaurants, a shopping center and an events center.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

If you need a player's club card, see Jim Balog.

If you want to find out about earning or using free slot play, see Jim Balog.

If you want to ask about casino promotions or why your mail offers differ from your spouse's or when the next concert is, see Jim Balog.

Balog and his counterparts at the Rush Rewards player's club booth at Rivers Casino handle all types of inquiries during a typical shift. At casinos across the country, player's club reps have to be walking, talking encyclopedias about a massive entertainment complex with scores of ways for visitors to spend their money and time.

“We basically have to learn everything,” says Balog, 45, of Whitehall, who worked as an auditor for BNY Mellon for 20 years before taking the casino job in June 2013.

The player's club should be the first stop for a gambler at a new casino, and repeat visitors should drop by each time to check for special promotions or giveaways. On the afternoon Player's Advantage shadowed Balog, the casino offered a 24-hour deal awarding free concert tickets or $5 to $25 in free play just for swiping your card. Many players would not have known about it without stopping by the booth.

Players club reps also can take the mystery out of casino offerings, such as how slot club points accumulate. At Rivers, Balog says, each dollar bet at a slot machine earns a point, and 800 points are good for $1 in free play or comp money. As at most casinos, video poker earns points more slowly — every $2 in wagers generates a point.

The bet total includes money out of your pocket and any winnings you play. Say you put $40 into a slot machine and play $1 per spin. You hit a few payoffs and, after two hours of steady play, you cash out with $35. Although your wallet is only $5 lighter, you bet way more than that. At an average speed of 600 spins per hour, you'd have $1,200 “coin in” and earn 1,200 points under Rivers' formula; that translates to $1.50 in comp money.

Table-game players earn points based on their average bet and length of play. Points accumulate at different rates based on the game. Poker players earn roughly a dollar an hour.

The number of base points — which does not include poker-room play or bonuses from promotions such as triple-points days — determines membership level in the players club. Balog explains that Rivers reviews play every six months, from January through June and from July through December.

Mailed offers of free play or other comps are based on a rolling 90-day record of play, Balog says. Rivers' mailed offers for June will be tied to play during February, March and April.

Like many businesses, casinos maintain a trove of data on customers: dates and times of recent visits, games played, including which table or which slot machine; for table-game players, total buy-in, average bet and time played, down to the minute; total win or loss; the casino's theoretical win; points earned; points redeemed; points remaining to be used.

Balog reminds players to check how long their free play lasts. A general rule is that a free-play award of less than $100 expires in seven days, he says, while $100 or more typically lasts 30 days.

Don't think of using your free play and then claiming you didn't get it. Your slot card tracks when and where you use it.

“We can look up anything,” Balog says. “It's pretty difficult to get anything by us.” He remembers a woman who complained that her free play mysteriously vanished, and he looked up exactly when it was used. Her grandson had borrowed her card and played it.

Balog offers advice for all casino visitors: “Come to the player's club and find out what's going on for the day. It might be nothing, but it might be something you can take advantage of.”

Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or



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