by Jean Scott
Originally written in January 2002
The first of January always sets me to reminiscing. When I wrote The Frugal Gambler, I thought I had pretty thoroughly covered all the money-saving ways to stretch your budget in a casino. But I soon realized that I would never be “finished” with that subject. Actually the biggest job is to go through my bulging files and decide which information is crying out the loudest to be shared.
However, that doesn’t mean that writing about casinos is always easy. A gaming writer has to be so careful. I go to Herculean lengths to write as accurate information as possible at all times. But despite my best efforts, I face some real problems in getting up-to-date and accurate casino and gambling information. I thought this month I would share with you some of these problems. I don’t want your sympathy, but perhaps this will help you understand why you might sometimes question something I (or other gaming writers, who have the same problems) have written.
NEW INFORMATION – Sometimes you get more and better information after you write about a particular subject. Reader input is powerful! For example, in a recent column here I wrote that I knew of no casino that has a written policy on what happens to unredeemed slot club points and unused earned comps when a person dies. Fortunately, a slot club expert reads this column — Jeff Compton — probably one of the few people on Earth who has joined more slot clubs than I have. He e-mailed me some additional information.
Yes, some slot clubs do have a written policy on this. In fact, when he works with a casino that’s starting or changing their slot club, as he sometimes does when he puts on his casino consultant hat, he suggests that they write up a very detailed policy on this. Why? Some casinos without a written policy have had some not-so-pleasant dealings with divorce lawyers who are representing couples with joint slot club accounts. (See — another reason, albeit pessimistic, for ALWAYS having your own slot club account and not letting your points build up too high before redeeming them!) He recommends that casinos include some rather strict guidelines in this litigious environment, with the understanding that a host can waiver or give a lot of leeway on a case-by-case basis where good will can be the deciding factor.
WRONG INFORMATION – Sometimes people give you the wrong information. I know this happens in all areas of life — but it seems, for me, that I get more bad information from casinos than from any other business. “Yes, we will have double points next month,” says the slot club director I had just phoned on June 29. So I would write that fact about Casino Change-A-Lot. Then, someone e-mails me on July 1 that they went to Casino Change-A-Lot and played and did not get double points. I call back the slot director. “Oh, we were going to give double points, but at the last minute we decided to have a drawing promotion instead.” So there’s a big fat lie on MY list that I try so hard to keep extremely accurate and up to date. How many people drove clear across Las Vegas to Casino Change-A-Lot, in the horrendous traffic, to take advantage of this non-existent promotion that I had touted?
DIFFERENT OPINIONS – Sometimes — yes, often — there’s more than one point of view. Obviously, not everything I write is pure fact; some has to be personal opinion. If I say, “Casino A gives .5% cashback,” that’s a fact that can be verified. If I say, “Casino A, therefore, is better than Casino B…” that’s not a fact, but an opinion. And then I get e-mails that strongly debate that issue, even if I have added, “…better for Brad and me.” They tell me that they’re more interested in finding a casino that will give them free rooms and meals and luxurious perks for their play, something they can’t get at our “good” Casino A.
Often, even facts are colored by the kind of glasses the fact writer wears. I try to not be too dogmatic in my writings. When I’m taking about what “Brad and I do,” I often add qualifiers — “Not everyone will want to do it this way,” or “This may not work for every gambler.”
However, there’s a tone in all writing that sometimes shouts louder than the actual words. I’m accused sometimes of writing about video poker in a way that makes it sound like it’s an easy thing to reach the winning long term. I don’t ever mean to convey that idea, but I seem to have been born to teach and I get excited when I talk about the rosy possibilities that can be achieved when a student studies hard. As a reader, you need to watch that you don’t interrupt enthusiasm as a magic bullet.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE – There are always exceptions. I sometimes feel my writing gets boring, because so often I have to use the same words — usually, almost always, probably, most of the time, in most cases — all those boring qualifiers instead of lively positive words that can stand alone. Can I say, “You can depend on slot clubs to give you points based on your coin-in? No. Instead, I have to say, “Most slot clubs” and name the few that don’t. I once made a strong-sounding statement that I was sure was true, that you NEVER have to pay to join a slot club. Then I heard of a small Native American casino in the woods somewhere, in Michigan or Minnesota or somewhere I knew I didn’t want to be in the winter, that charged $10 to join their slot club. I heard later that they dropped the fee, but I’m scared to make that absolute statement even now. As soon as I do, some casino will decide to make a liar out of me!
CHANGE – And lastly, there’s change. Sometimes I change my mind about things. Getting old will certainly do that to you. You no longer hear me talk about spending hours riding free shuttles from casino to casino to redeem coupons. Re-reading some of Brad’s and my gambling adventures in The Frugal Gambler even makes me tired these days. (Although you young just-starting-out-to-gamble whippersnappers might remember that the reason we don’t have to squeeze every penny out of a coupon these days is due to those early frugal practices!)
Sometimes circumstances change. Moving up from quarter video poker to dollar play opened up a whole new wealth of casino information for me. What I wrote about casinos when we played only quarters was accurate, but certainly not as complete as it is now. With the plague of age comes the wealth of experience.
Casinos change. Notice I didn’t preface that sentence with “sometimes.” Casinos change perhaps more often than any other businesses on Earth. I figure there’s at least one casino somewhere changing a policy during every sentence I write. When I get an article finished, I just hope I can get it to an editor before some piece of information I’ve written is no longer valid. And I know that there’s no way to solve the problem of those necessary but dreadful deadlines — five to six weeks before publication — the enemy of completely accurate up-to-date information.
Yes, I have some problems in writing about casinos, but I imagine I’ll keep doing it as long as I have strength to sit at a computer. I keep threatening to retire, but I think I love writing more than I’m willing to admit.
Jean Scott is one of the country’s most renowned and successful gamblers and has appeared on many TV shows, including 48 Hours, where Dan Rather gave her the nickname of Queen of Comps. Her first book, The Frugal Gambler, has been a best-seller for nine years. She also wrote a sequel, More Frugal Gambling, and a tax guide for gamblers. She provides a complete resource package for video poker players, from beginners to the experienced: the Frugal VP software program which goes with her new book, Frugal Video Poker, and the must-have Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide. Her Web site is www.queenofcomps.com