Loyalty programs have existed in Las Vegas for decades. They began in the 1980’s when gaming industry executives began to notice how successful frequent flyer programs from several airlines had become.
Some of the first loyalty programs were made for slot machines. Players would get pieces of paper that they could trade in for T-Shirts and toasters. The long strips of tickets proved to be a badge of honor for most players, as they were a visual representation to any passerby of how good someone was at the slots.
Today rewards programs are everywhere to be found on The Strip and they have evolved beyond simply rewarding players at specific machines or tables. Now some programs actually allow rewards to be spent on nongaming products and services while others allow members to earn loyalty points through non-gaming channels as well.
MGM Resorts International is among the most recent to make high-profile changes to its system. The company launched MGM Rewards on Feb. 1, doing away with the M Life Rewards program that was in operation for 11 years. The change was intended to reach nongaming customers, make improvements for slot players, and brand the program more closely to the company. This comes at a time when competition between resort-casino operators has intensified. Some as a result have introduced overarching programs that can be used at any of their properties across the country. Others partner with hotel chains to reach a larger customer base.
The loyalty industry in Las Vegas has also stretched beyond casino properties bringing technology into play. Las Vegas-based PlayStudios creates free-to-play mobile apps and digital games that dispense loyalty currency to players based on their play frequency. Users redeem the currency for real-world rewards — buffets in Las Vegas, discounted tickets for Big Bus Tours and free-play credit at various properties and cruise lines. What’s unique is that the reward systems of PlayStudios’ partners are not connected with the app. Instead, they act as a companion set of benefits that a company can still use to understand a consumer’s behaviors, likes and dislikes. It’s a unique way to offer loyalty marketing through play instead of the typical mailer or email discount. Ultimately, the opportunity for data collection is key in helping operators identify personalized rewards and deliver them in real-time.
The future for Las Vegas loyalty seems to reside in the pathways being created through the growing market of online sports betting. In the case of Caesars Entertainment more people than ever can reach the Caesars Rewards program through Caesars Sportsbook as it launches across the country — even in some states without a brick-and-mortar Caesars property. This is allowing loyalty to move beyond The Strip and for brands to connect with new markets, where the thread that connects everything together will be Caesar Rewards. In the world of customer marketing, that sure seems like a safe bet!