Casinos devote plenty of resources to track all kinds of marketing events that occur on-property… trips made, points earned, comps issued, promotions redeemed. However, many things that don’t happen are just as valuable to track and to study, if you’re serious about understanding and improving your marketing effectiveness.

Probably the most vital metric that goes untracked is denied comp requests. A “no” delivered face-to-face is often difficult to accept, especially if the guest has friends or family with them at the time. Every time a guest is turned down, the likelihood of abandonment increases, especially if the player believes s/he would receive a comp (or actually has) at a nearby competitor. 3 months from now you might be mailing that player a reactivation offer worth more than the original comp they requested!

Guests will rarely ask for a comp if they truly don’t believe they have earned one. But “earned” often means something completely different to the player and to the house — perhaps s/he lost $600 but your hosts are instructed to only consider the $200 in theo generated, or s/he played for 6 hours at a $15 average bet while you require a $25 minimum. You have every right to deny the comp request based on some internal rule, but the player also has every right to not visit you again.

Ideally, the marketing department should analyze a list of every denied comp request, including the guest who asked, the employee who said no, when and where, what type of comp (food outlet, retail, cigarettes, etc) and any other circumstances. The first check should be what percentage of requests were denied. Is that a number you are comfortable with? Are your rules too restrictive? Are there guests who, in retrospect, should have received a comp? Are there common play patterns that often lead to denials based upon your rule set? Can you tweak your comping rules to cover these individuals?

Next, audit individual decisions. Are hosts and reps following the rules you’ve established? Do they understand them? Just like any marketing program, you’d segment by worth, by game preference, etc. to see if there is a bias against one demographic or group. You should also segment by the decision maker. Do some hosts or player service reps have a much higher denial rate than others? Does it vary by time of day, the restaurant requested, the game being played? How often do guests get a no from the service desk and then a yes from a host?

Hosts and player reps are rarely the most analytical employees, and there are a variety of reasons, innocent or otherwise, for making incorrect comping decisions. Your rule set could be difficult to understand or to adhere to. Casino management systems are notoriously difficult to work with — if your CMS requires hosts to do a lot of math in their head before making a decision, this will inevitably lead to errors. If the CMS simply takes a long time (it’s slow, information is on different screens, menus are tricky, etc.), hosts are going to improvise when they get busy.

On the subject of denied requests — one internal policy, above all, is likely to lead to more of them — discipline based on the comp exception report. If the consequences of appearing on the list often are too high, hosts will naturally become more conservative and avoid comping in any borderline case. Doing so undermines the overall marketing strategy, as it frustrates guests and gives your casino a reputation for stinginess. But the hosts should not be blamed, as they are acting rationally in the environment you’ve created. Over-comping will get them in trouble, while under-comping is safe, anonymous, and won’t be questioned. That’s another reason to consider auditing denials.

Comp exceptions can be expensive and a sign of an undisciplined host. But at least the guests who receive the comps are satisfied. Comp denials, on the other hand, can be just as expensive, or more so, if they are motivating your customers to reduce visitation to your property.