Major Gambling Innovations – Rewards Cards

I’ve been gambling recreationally since the 1980s. Consequently, I’ve seen some drastic changes and experienced major gambling innovations in the casino industry. These changes, I can honestly say, have enhanced my gambling experience. So here are Major Gambling Innovations – Rewards Cards.

Rewards Cards
MLife Rewards Club of MGM

Related Post – Slot Machines, EV & Bankroll

Players Club Cards

Almost any gambling hall you play at will have a players club these days (yes, there are still a few that don’t, especially pubs with bar tops outside Nevada.)  These “loyalty” clubs, one of many Major Gambling Innovations, are free and are used to track your play. Signing up to be a member of the players club usually entitles the player to promotions and benefits. Each club has tiers or status levels. Benefits increase with each level.

Early cards had notches made for each player before adding the magnetic stripe on the back. Many companies have one club connected so that play at one casino will be used at another casino.

Before the players’ cards?  The pit bosses gave out “discretionary comps” to those players who thought they earned it.  Comps (complementaries) like buffets or high price meals to free rooms and airfare were possible at the bosses’ and hosts’ discretion.

Today, computer algorithms decide who gets what purely on their play registered on the player’s  Rewards Cards. Even table players are tied to their player’s club decisions these days. However, rated play at tables can still vary due to your play’s pit boss perception – bet amount & time played.

Over the years, the casinos have experimented with many promotions to get you through the door. Free spins, free slot play, scratch cards, slot tournaments, table game tournaments, senior specials, cheap buffet……you name it, and they’ve tried it. Many promotions are fun and can be used to improve the players’ advantage or close the gap.

Rewards Cards
One of my first players’ club cards – Lady Luck in Las Vegas. Notice the divits used for the data – magnetic strips in the back were not universal yet. Notice no name, no number!

Rewards Points – Major Gambling Innovations

Many rewards clubs allow you to use your players’ club points for dining at their restaurants or shopping.  Some offer using your points for free slot play, but usually for half the price. (ex., 50 points = $25 slot play).  Many casinos allow you to redeem points for entertainment, as in buying tickets for a concert.

The Player’s points are redeemable.  Many casinos also keep track of your “status” points. Status or Tier points keep track of your level of play. Your status points accumulate depending on the game you play and the amount of time you play it.  Games with a high EV (expected value) like Pai Gow Poker will need more money than, let’s say, Roulette.  The EV  translates into the house edge. The higher the house edge, the quicker the status points will be earned.

A perfect example is the difference between playing slots & video poker.  Because of the skill involved and the low house edge in video poker, it usually takes up to 3X the coin in the same denomination.

Poor VP Pay outs in many MGM properties. Jacks or better at 7/5.
Video Poker will accumulate points slower than slots.

Major Gambling Innovations – Rewards Cards – FAQ

Do my points expire? – For your redeemable club points, then usually the answer is no. The exception is if you have been inactive for a long period of time. Now, those status points usually have dates of expiration. Some casinos start over every half year, others a full year. So it’s important to know when.

How Much “money in” equals one point? – Points accumulate at different rates at each casino.  Knowing how much $$ it takes to earn one point helps look for the best player advantage at different casinos. Ask the rewards staff.  If they don’t know, ask a host or do your homework.  Some websites give you answers, such as VPFree2.  But don’t expect a good answer.  Casinos like to be extremely vague about this issue. Another similar question you most likely receive a vague answer to is “how many points equals one dollar earned?” Some casinos are very simple with their calculations.  It never hurts to ask.

Does 1 point equal $1 when using my points? – This varies.  Some properties, such as MGM Springfield, will charge you 2 points for each dollar. For example, at Borgata in Atlantic City, all stores and restaurants on the casino floor are 1 to 1.  But if you go downstairs to their food court, it will cost you $10 in points for a $5 burger.  BUYER BEWARE!

Should you always use your rewards card? – Yes, for the most part, but there are exceptions. If stopping in for a quick play and a drink, you might want to play without your card so that a small play doesn’t mess up your ADT.  Many Advantage Players will pick and choose when to use cards, considering anonymity better than earning points.

How Long is a Gambling Day? – Know when the gambling day starts.  Some start at 6:00 is while others start at midnight.  Also, be aware of using perks from your rewards card. Playing a little on one gambling day will change your “Daily Theoretical.”  A host at Mohegan Sun told me using Momentum Dining Perks meant a gambling day!  That’s a ZERO DAILY THEORETICAL!

The Mega-Rewards Club

Some casino rewards clubs have become HUGE due to mergers and acquisitions, such as Caesar’s Total Rewards or MGM’s “M Life.”  Knowing you can earn at the AC Harrah’s and use them at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas is great.  Likewise, MGM’s MLife gives you access to properties across the country.  Here is a list of the largest rewards mega-clubs:

  • Eldorado/Caesars
  • MGM International (includes MGM Springfield)
  • Pinnacle Entertainment
  • Boyd Gaming
  • Penn National (includes Hollywood  Bangor in ME and Plainridge Park In MA)
  • Stations Casinos / Red Rock Resorts (Nevada only)
  • Sands International
  • Genting International

New England Casino Rewards Clubs


Remember, the three things casinos consider for tier levels and comps are average bet amount, time spent, and gameplay.  Usually, casino marketing looks at the average of your last visit. However, that number of days considered varies per casino. 

So beware of that $10 free slot play offer. If it isn’t parlayed into a longer stay, you may be bringing your level down by a visit for free play, eating, and then leaving! (based on personal experience – I guess we learn from our mistakes)

That’s All for now.