INSIDE LOOK AT CASINO JUNKETS
How they Work and Are They For You
By Henry Tamburin
Casino Junkets began in the mid-50’s as a way to entice
That was the past. To get a fresh look at how junkets operate in 2005 and what benefits they provide players, I interviewed junket rep Sandy Crammer, owner of S&S Casino Tours, and Jeffrey Hoss, Director of National Casino Marketing, for Harrah’s. What I learned about junkets might surprise you (it did me).
So let’s begin by defining what exactly does a Junket rep do?
Jeffrey Hoss: First off, in the Harrah’s organization we refer to our third party reps as Independent Agents rather than Junket Reps. Independent Agents send us customers (i.e. players) and in return they get a commission based on a player’s theoretical. We have about 185 Independent Agents representing 47 states and 5 international countries that have a specific territory that they can market and promote our properties to their customers. In total our Independent Agents have scheduled about 300,000 customer trips annually to Harrah’s properties.
I’d like for you to explain “theoretical” to our readers
but before you do, let me ask
Sandy Crammer: Before I started my own company, I ran a junket office as in-house employee for many years and I decided it was something I liked and wanted to try on my own. So my husband, Scott, and I started our own business and thankfully, Harrah’s decided to take a shot with us four years ago to represent them. We have three employees in our company and currently we are one of the top 5 Independent Agent producers for Harrah’s.
What areas do you represent for Harrah’s?
Sandy Crammer: I currently
represent Harrah’s in
How many package trips do you typically offer your clients?
Sandy Crammer: On a
monthly basis I usually schedule into
What are the play and front money requirements for a junket?
Sandy Crammer: There are no front money requirements. The play requirements depends upon what our guest is looking for, e.g. do they want to go on a charter flight, do they want their airfare comped, or are they driving to their destination and only looking for a room comp. We offer different packages in which some are totally comped and others it’s buy one get one free or we charge the customer a nominal fee for the air and accommodations.
What would be the play requirement to get free airfare and free accommodations?
Sandy Crammer: As a rule of thumb, to get free airfare and accommodations, a quarter machine player is expected to play 5-6 hours per day (less time if playing dollar or higher machines) and for table game players its 5-6 hours per day at an average bet of $75+. If a player historically meets those requirements he or she would qualify for comped airfare and accommodations on one of our packages.
What if a player doesn’t quite meet those requirements?
Sandy Crammer: They would
have to pay a nominal fee for the air and room. For example, we recently
So how do you go about scheduling the trip you just mentioned and getting the plane filled with qualified players?
Sandy Crammer: I work with
the marketing folks at Harrah’s
Jeffrey Hoss: Outside of
So now you are responsible to fill the plane with 120 qualified players. How do you do that?
Sandy Crammer: I have an extensive list of 20,000 or so casino players in our computer database. For each player I know their past play history as far as how many trips they have taken, how long they play, what their average bet size is, how much they won or lost and their theoretical. I then mail out about 7,000 letters per month to those players that have in the past met the play requirements that Harrah’s is looking for. The qualified players that respond to our mailings get a seat on the plane. If I can’t fill the plane completely with qualified players then I invite players on the next tier that would have to pay the $179 fee for air and room.
Jeffrey Hoss: It is actually working so well with
How do you get all that play information on your customers?
Sandy Crammer: Every player that I send to a Harrah’s property gets coded to me. At the end of each of my packaged trips I get a report from Harrah’s that summarizes for each of my customers their entire play history during their trip. This information for each player in put in our database and it’s how we determine which customers qualify for different packages that we might offer.
Do you have the power of the pen in a casino?
Sandy Crammer: No, I can’t approve comps for my players nor do I have access to Harrah’s computers to review player information. But what I will do is contact the marketing department and tell them so and so in my group wants a comp to a specific restaurant. They would look up the playing history of that player in their computer database to see how many comp dollars the player has in his account. In most cases our players have accrued more than enough comp dollars based on their play to cover the cost of meals.
Jeffrey Hoss: Our Total Rewards program allows the customers to decide when and where they want to spend their comps. This alleviates the Independent Agent from making those decisions.
What benefits can an Independent Agent provide their customers?
Sandy Crammer: Besides providing travel arrangements for them, we provide our customers with just about anything else they need such as making reservations for dinners, shows, casino events, golf, ground transportation, you name it. Our guests know that they can call us for all their bookings at all of Harrah’s properties. Plus someone from my office will travel with the group to assist them in their needs.
Jeffrey Hoss: A player who wants to visit multiple Harrah’s
properties can benefit from the services of an Independent Agent. They not only
can provide the customer with services for say our property in
Are there different types of Independent Agents and do they have to be licensed?
Sandy Crammer: Yes, some are responsible for full charter
aircrafts (which I am) while others Agents might only send a property an
individual reservation (they are known as splinter reps). Independent Agents
have to be licensed in all jurisdictions that they represent. For example, in the
Jeffrey you mentioned that Independent Agents get paid a commission based on theoretical. Can you explain what that means?
Jeffrey Hoss: Our
Independent Agents get a commission based on each player’s theoretical or their
expected long-term value to the casino. The latter is dependent on the players
average bet size, length of play, and the casinos mathematical advantage over
the player in whatever game he or she is playing. We track these variables for
each player either through the use of a player’s card if the player is playing
slots or video poker or in the case of table play, our floor supervisors will rate
the player and input the above information in our data base. We can then
compute the theoretical for each player or roll the numbers up to a theoretical
for all the players coded to
Why would a casino player use the services of an Independent Agent rather than a casino host?
Sandy Crammer: We consider ourselves one-stop shopping for
all our customer needs and we have the ability to get it all done at more than
one property. Because we represent a
company like Harrah’s we can offer our customers many more options. For example
a player doesn’t have to have a casino host in
Jeffrey Hoss: Our Independent Agents can market more than one Harrah’s property to their customers. People like to travel more and visit different parts of the country. Harrah’s owns or manages casinos in 12 different states including Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Our casino hosts and their staff at each property also provide support to our Independent Agents. So using the services of an independent Agent makes sense if you like to travel and visit more than one property.
Sandy Crammer: Let me put this way. Our customers are coded to us internally in each property and it is how we get paid. If one of our guests starts dealing with a casino host we could lose that code and our commission payment. We spend thousands of marketing dollars every month for mailings to our customers to keep them informed of our upcoming trips and special events that are not reimbursed by the casino.
Jeffrey Hoss: We view
this relationship similar to that of a pitcher and catcher, using a sports
analogy. A property host will treat an
Independent Agent’s customer just as they would treat one of their own. Harrah’s Entertainment prides itself on
customer service and once they visit a casino, whether it is an invitation by
Have you ever had an issue with a customer not playing up to his or her expectations?
Sandy Crammer: It’s rare when this happens and when it does it’s usually because the player wasn’t feeling well. You’ve got to remember that the players who get invited on our packages have a history of playing at a certain level over a certain time period. They usually maintain that playing level from one trip to the next.
What if they don’t? What do you do?
Sandy Crammer: The player is dropped from our qualified list of players and if we invite them on another package trip they would have to pay the nominal fee we charge for air and room.
Do you have to be a high roller to go on one of your junkets?”
Sandy Crammer: As I mentioned, there are specific play requirements if you want your air and accommodations comped. However, we offer Tour and Travel packages to different Harrah’s properties that require a nominal charge for air and hotel. We find that a lot of customers start out through our Tour and Travel packages and then if their play warrants, get qualified for comped airfare and accommodations.
Can a qualified player bring his spouse on a junket?
Sandy Crammer: In most cases, yes. However, we would review the play history of the qualified player to be sure it’s enough to cover the added expenses of his spouse.
Jeffrey, can you give some examples of some recent trips your Independent Agents have scheduled for their customers to different Harrah’s properties and their cost?
As an example,
Here are a couple of other dates and costs:
Jeffrey, how can a player contact a local Independent Agent?
Jeffrey Hoss: You can call our call center at 1-800-HARRAHS and ask for the name and phone number of the Independent Agent closest to where you live.