Study: Reduced Free Play Doesn’t Lead to Reduced Visits

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Free play shown on a Plaza Las Vegas slot machine

During our years in the slot community, we often see posts of people complaining about reductions in offers, and how casinos are going to lose business doing this.

It sounds credible on the surface, but how accurate is it? Well, if a University of Las Vegas study is any indication, short of fully cutting off offers, reduced benefits may not deter players as much as previously thought.

The study followed 400 players of a tribal casino in a Western state through two periods of time. The first year, all the players got $15 a week in free play. The second year, the 400 people were divided into four groups that received $15, $10, $5 or $0 a week.

The study found that those who had their offers eliminated reduced their visitation by 20 percent, while those who only had their offers reduced maintained their visitation rates from the previous period when they got the larger amount.

Casinos use free play as a method to draw players in and to get them to play more. If those two goals aren’t being achieved, it calls into question whether the offers are working successfully.

Of course, as noted at the top, we hear from players who are frustrated by offer cuts and wonder why. This is probably one of the reasons why – if players are still willing to show up for smaller offers, they’re able to save money and still get the play from those visits.

Sometimes we’ve seen offers get cut during more robust periods, or when casinos are acquired (such as when Eldorado acquired the Tropicana in Atlantic City). But this research might encourage more data-forward casinos to experiment. The full study also notes findings from other research around free play, as well as industry analysis that’s been written over time on the topic.

Does the amount of your offer drive how often you visit a casino? If your existing offers were cut or eliminated, would you stop going? Share your answers in the comments!

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40 Replies to “Study: Reduced Free Play Doesn’t Lead to Reduced Visits”

  • Mr. Patrick says:

    I don’t live near a casino so travel, lodging, & food costs greatly affect my ability to visit my favorite casinos. So increases in comps that cover those expenses increases my likelyhood of returning to the casino and vice versa. As for free play, Its always welcome and appreciated but its never a deciding factor for me. Its all about reducing my travel cost to spend more in the casino.

    • says:

      I think you’ve hit on the right combo, Mr. Patrick – distance matters, but moreso the travel expenses than a few dollars extra of free play. We’re the same way when traveling to properties outside our home area, so that resonates with us.

  • Annette says:

    I have a choice of casinos, and I absolutely compare offers. Plus offers are definitely an incentive to go at all.

    • says:

      This makes a lot of sense, Annette – the idea of the offers is to encourage a visit, and we as players are prone to shop around based on who’s giving us the best offer at a given time!

  • Victor S says:

    Yes, That’s one of my biggest complaint and also the fact that they don’t do very many slot tournaments either maybe one a year if that and the ones that I do see are for only people they have one jackpots and or you need to get so many credits that same day that you’ll have to spend a minimum of two to $300 just to qualify if you’re lucky

    • says:

      It does seem like slot tournaments have faded at some casinos in the past few years, while others have come roaring back. Sorry to hear it’s not accessible for you, Victor!

  • Donna says:

    I use to go 3-4 times a week, now I go once every other week. I quit going frequently when comps were cut in half about 9 months ago. I figured for the amount of comps I was now receiving didn’t warrant the amount I was spending. It actually is saving me money.

    • says:

      Hey Donna – that makes sense to us! if you don’t feel like the offer is worth it, you can put that money to other use!

  • Martuco says:

    I stopped going because of the reduced free play. The money I spend on gas is not worth the 15.00 I’m currently getting. Considering I’ve dumped over 200k in the past 5 years.

    • says:

      We totally understand – if the offers don’t feel connected to the play it can be a discouragement for some. The study claims otherwise, but time will tell!

  • Dori Myers says:

    the size and frequency of free play, and types of benefits definitely sway where and how often I play. If I get a weekly allotment that is substantial, I would play more often. Hotel stays and free dinners are also perks I enjoy. Trips, not so much – I’ve only been on one. Tournaments do not really interest me. Giveaways are usually pretty nice. Two of my area casinos rarely give things away, but one fairly local casino has weekly giveaways. Depends on the product, but they are usually pretty nice. My husband and I received very nice logo’d jackets from this casino.

    • says:

      The free gifts can be a nice option if they’re handy! You’re not the only one to mention the meals and hotels as useful perks – perhaps that’s where things get a bit more influential?

  • laeslots says:

    Our local casino reduced slot free play drastically. Where players received $65 3x week, they now get $15 3x week. Everyone is complaining. Don’t know about others, but I have drastically reduced my number of visits and amount of time I spend there. I always thought these perks were a “thank you.” Not an incentive. If they take my business for granted, they don’t deserve it.

    • says:

      Thanks for this data point – we’ve seen hefty free play cuts by some casinos at various points for various reasons – after the initial shock of the chance we wonder how it’s going, especially if they’ve maintained it almost a year.

  • Steven Wentzel says:

    Haven’t been back to my casino since they dropped my offers from $200 a week to $25 every few days. Chumba gets all of my gambling now!

    • says:

      That’s a pretty big drop – $20 to $15 like some in the study may not be a major impact, but $200 to one eighth is pretty substantial!

  • Chelle says:

    To be honest my lack of knowledge on how to use my free play makes having it not a big deal. I only gamble for fun and not a huge amount so even when I have free play the amount is small and using it is too confusing for me. Maybe I’m slow but I never had instructions on how it works.

    • says:

      We hear you, Chelle, but ask someone at the player’s desk for directions! You’re just leaving money on the table if you don’t accept your free play!

  • Pam says:

    It is an hour drive to my local casino. If the free play doesn’t even cover the gas … than I am not going!

  • scott says:

    I think you’ve asked a two-tier question – the locals’ perspective and someone who is flying and actually spending $300-600 to get there. If it cost me nothing other than a gallon of gas or two to get to my local casino (singular), the difference between being offered $25 or $50 in free play probably wouldn’t make a difference. If I felt like going, I would.

    If I’m spending $600 to fly to Vegas/rent a car for a few days and have received multiple offers from three different casinos, I’ll either stay at the place that made the most generous offer, or try to take advantage of several of them.

    In the first instance, there was no real competition; in the second case, there absolutely was.


    • says:

      We think you’ve got this nailed, Scott – the locals model is what seems to be focused on here with the study as well. Having a trip to a place like Las Vegas would hit differently when you’re comparing comps.

  • Leslie Liss says:

    Does the level and frequency of rewards offered affect my decision to gamble? No. Does it impact which casino or cruise line I’ll use or remain loyal to? Absolutely! I recently made the decision to switch cruise lines, where I do the majority of my gambling, based on the devaluation of the offers I received over time and NOT related to any change in my play. The reward system has created a transactional loyalty and most consumers will have alternative choices of where to gamble.

    • says:

      We like your process, Leslie – offer shopping does make sense, if one cruise line is going to treat you better for your play than another. If they’re going to be transactional, we have a right to be too! And your anecdote does underscore that casino offers CAN work, so casinos need to keep that in mind.

  • Kev91az says:

    I only go to the casino for the offers, free rooms, free play, food vouchers and drink vouchers. It allows me to justify the money I am spending on gambling. If the freebies go away, so will I most likely.

    • says:

      That makes sense – the big reveal here was reducing offers didn’t stop people from going, but based on the comments cutting offers off altogether would be the final straw.

  • Sue G says:

    💯 frustrated with lower offers with same or larger play
    I would stop going to a property if offers cut off

    • says:

      I think we all get frustrated about the smaller offers. What the study said though was we’d still go if the offers were less. Would you still go?

  • glenn jasen says:

    free play offers are what gets my wife & others in our group in the door! if offers stop we stop too.

  • Sue G says:

    The only way I can get my husband to go to Vegas is if our room is comped and we get free play and resort money. If the casino stopped issuing these, we would probably just gamble closer to home.

    • says:

      That makes sense Sue – the study did show a complete stopping of comps did show less visits, and so those offers are proving to be a competitive pull for you to visit another casino!

  • Cheryl says:

    We live a good 3 hours away from any casino. All tribal. When they cut our rewards we don’t go nearly as often.

    • says:

      Hi Cheryl! We agree that a longer distance drive would factor in. We just got back from Las Vegas (four hour drive) and so offers would have an impact there too.

  • William says:

    Yes, if freeplay and other offers were cut at my casino, I would go less often.

    • says:

      Thanks for your input, William! It is curious that lower free play didn’t see a spend or visit reduction in the study.

  • Cheryl Sisk says:

    My husband received 175.00 a week from Jamul Casino in San Diego for April and May. He barely ever went there. Then all of a sudden, the literally gave him nothing. Not even 5.00. So we won’t go there. It’s not like we were only going there and only using our freeplay each week. We spent our own money too. We will not go back there unless they offer something worth going there for.

    • says:

      Hey Cheryl – it makes sense. The study did show that those whose offers were completely cut did decrease their visits, so you’re agreeing with that aspect!

  • mike says:

    I have a 3 hour drive to my closest casino. I won’t make that drive for a 15 dollar free play. I will for 100 dollars in free play and might for 75, but not for less….

    • says:

      A longer drive definitely would impact a lot of our trip plans, we would think. Our guess is that the study was for local players.

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