Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

High rollers wanted, after all

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When the Slovenian casino industry took off in the late 1980s, it was because they reached out to a different audience. Before that time, several casinos operated along the Adriatic coast (Portoroz, Opatija, Krk), basing their style on the European tradition – exclusivity, class and high stakes. They learned from their neighbours in Venice, San Remo and Monte Carlo. One of the founders of the HIT casinos (Slovenian gaming company) which sprang up in the border town of Nova Gorica had a different idea of developing the business. Instead of attracting few rich people, the company aimed at an average earning Italian as a typical customer. ‘Instead of a Mercedes-owner, we want to attract a Volkswagen-owner; we want to attract lots of them’, said my informant.

For many years, HIT casinos thrived because of the numbers of people visiting them. High rollers were important, but they did not make the majority of profit. I was told that ‘in those years, there were so many people coming to casinos, they couldn’t let everyone in’.  Gambling became affordable and accessible to a large number of people. Italians in particular didn’t come to Slovenian casinos only to gamble: they combined their trip with a good meal, a concert or a spa treatment. Whoever came to a casino more than 4 times a month and spent over €50,000 was considered a high roller. They received a special treatment and bonuses. Often these bonuses were neither pre-determined nor consistent; they depended on the discretion of a particular inspector.

After the 2008 recession, gambling for masses could no longer bring in enough profit. An average earning Italian had much less money. Casino visits went down by a half. Volkswagen-owners could work as a target audience only if they came in large enough numbers. This was not the case any more. High rollers were in demand again. This time, a high roller was defined as anyone who spent more than €15,000. As the masses slowly lost their gambling power, high rollers became a major source of profit.

How far is the house willing to go to attract more high rollers? Some evidence shows that bonuses are becoming bigger and richer. There are casinos which allow more favourable terms of play (e.g. two deck Black Jack) in order to attract more high rollers. By doing this, the house lowers its own odds at winning. I am wondering what are the long-term consequences to the loss of diversification of casino styles. Because with such growing demand for the rich to sustain the gambling business, there will again be only Mercedes’ parked in the driveway.

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Written by Andrea Pisac

June 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Posted in News

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