The gambling industry is missing the point concerning free slot play. Instead of diminishing it as a tool, it’s time to refresh it. Dennis Conrad’s Casino Journal and MGM Springfield article inspired this post. Here’s Free Slot Play – It Ain’t What It Used To Be.


Free slot play is a casino perk to get you there and show appreciation for loyalty. Supposedly, the more money you wager and the time you spend betting, the more free play you are given. It’s a “Thank You, Please come back” token of the casino’s appreciation for your loyalty.

It rewards slot players with free play, giving them a chance to win without having to drop a dime into a machine. Slot aficionados see it as getting something for nothing.

Other casinos offer something called match play. You are rewarded with $10 in free play after playing through $10 of your own money. Match play is often used in table games. Obviously, this offer is not as good a deal as a something-for-nothing promotion.


Casino marketers are now saying free slot play is a perk, not a privilege. The casino industry has reanalyzed many aspects of its marketing scheme since the casinos reopened after the pandemic. Casinos found that gamblers rushed back after COVID-19, whether they provided offers or not.

Gone are the “Bring in a Friend” promotions. or the free promotional chips. The amount of play expected has increased for the same amount of free play.

Casino promotions continue to be offered. Getting free concert tickets and being offered another free coffee maker continue to tickle the fancy of many recreational gamblers. But most guests still look forward to free slot play.

I have always been amazed at how just $10 in free slot play brings in the slot masses. Unfortunately, once you’re facing a slot machine, you can easily run through that $10 in but a few spins. And casinos expect you to play your usual amount and time with your free slot play. Playing just your slot play and leaving will kill your ADT. Casinos reserve the right to modify or cancel this promotion at any time.

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None of these [promotions] are because they like you and just want to say thanks – they’re expecting something in return. As such, coming to collect a gift and then not playing is considered a “no-play day.” If you do anything with your card on the casino’s property, whether swiping for a promotion, making a purchase or gambling, you generally trigger a visit in the casino’s system. If you don’t play, or play way below average, that will impact your offers in the future. If you don’t care about this, that’s fine, but many players care about getting persistent offers in the future.

Joshua – “Know Your Slots”


As such, coming to collect a gift and then not playing is considered a “no-play day.” If you do anything with your card on the casino’s property, whether swiping for a promotion, making a purchase or gambling, you generally trigger a visit in the casino’s system.

Joshua, from Know Your Slots, No-play days, in particular, irk casinos the most, because they literally got nothing from your visit, and spent money via the gift for that privilege. Some casinos may offer some or all players a pass once, depending on how they calculate the formula, but do it repeatedly and they’ll simply blacklist the player from future marketing offers because they don’t trust the player to play in return for their offer. Your previous play earns the offer you get – no play means no offer.

If you accept the free play on day one and go play it on day two or three, that will trigger multiple gaming days and will water down your daily average. That will hurt your offers, but not necessarily cause them to go away. It effectively divides your gambling across two days for the average instead of one, and that would likely drive your offer down pretty significantly.

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What does free play cost a casino operator?

Dennis Conrad’s article in Casino Journal, The Hidden Cost of Casino Free Play, provides the three answers he receives the most from casino marketing to the question, “WHAT DOES FREE PLAY COST A CASINO OPERATOR?”

Answer #1 – “Nothing.”

Conrad says, “This opinion usually stems from the mistaken belief that casino players will come to a casino with their free play, spend it all, and then use their normal gambling bankroll.” He goes on to cite other costs that make this answer untrue. For example, the casino also pays for free play offer mailings, any taxes involved with the free play that went into the slot machine as coin-in, and other ancillary costs.

I say, “Donkey Dust!” It’s part of the cost of doing business. When everything is financially booming, casinos make money despite such overhead. Now is the best time to follow the expected free-play protocol. They need bodies in every – I mean, every – gambling seat. Ridiculous decreases in the free slot play give the player another reason not to visit during the pandemic.

Casino Industry Needs the Power of Free Slot Play

Answer #2 – “The amount of the free play offer.” 

“100 percent of the free play amount, less the slot hold percentage of running the full free play amount through a slot machine once.” Bean counters use this rationale to show free play as a complete loss to the casino.

I say, “Poppycock!” Casinos need to figure out how to offer incentives more than ever, which doesn’t include cutting free slot play. Without dining at its best, no shows, no entertainment, and retail stores closing gambling is why people visit casinos these days, not for the decor.

“Answer #3 – “It depends.”

“Most smart mathematicians who recognize all the variables involved…” give this answer. It depends on factors related to your worth to the casino, called ADT or Average Daily Theoretical. It is usually explained as a percentage of free play given to players, individually or in total.

I say, “Meadow Muffins!” But “It depends” is not good enough. Casino marketing must realize that unreasonable decreases in free slot play do not encourage players. It creates an adversarial relationship with the casino.

“The problem is that we (gambling industry) use Free Play as a salve to solve all ills.”

Dennis Conrad

My Turn To Rave

Nothing rattles my feathers more than casinos who limit what games or machines you can play your free slot. In New England, the most unfriendly casinos to Video Poker players are Twin River and Tiverton, both owned by Ballys. I challenge you to find worse VP Paytables and game inventory. But that’s not the worst of it. All video poker machines, all dinominations, are verboten to be used to play free slot play.

Ballt’s Twin River sticker on all Video Poker Machines.

Sure, they aren’t the only ones in the country, but what are they worried about? Instead of playing a $1.00 machine with JOB & DDB paytables at 7/5, you must pick a slot at 88% pay back? I’ve gotten around their devious ways, but I won’t devulge how – they might be reading this.

By the way, I made just under $1000 on last month’s free slot play using only slots. They have responded by canceling all slot play and mailers!


The bottom line is Free Slot Play is still a serious marketing tool. However, the gambling industry has realized it doesn’t need to comp their guests like the old days before the pandemic. Dennis Conrad says it best in his post Making Free Play a Portion of Your Basket of Benefits

Casino Industry Needs the Power of Free Slot Play

“We [in the gambling industry] ingratiate with Free Play within Player Development programs. A Free Play coupon is used as a means to get a player to like us, rather than to further the relationship by getting to know them better.” We need to move from a transactional relationship, to one that’s based upon engagement. The Solution: shifting from a transactional relationship, to one of engagement. Engagement celebrates our interactions with the player. Our skill is in how we present a full basket of benefits that includes Free Play, but is not dominated by it.

Dennis Conrad –

So, savor and protect that Free Slot Play – it may be the next comp to go just like limitless free drinks for players at video poker bars.