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Midwest Gaming & Travel

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Midwest Gaming & Travel is a monthly, four-color glossy magazine that combines the fun and excitement of casino gaming with the pleasure and relaxation of leisure destination travel. It has an editorial coverage area that extends across the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and to cities in neighboring states that enjoy a close proximity to riverboat, Native American, racetrack and landbased casinos. Midwest Gaming & Travel gaming experts, most of whom are authors of best-selling gaming books, explain games and provide advice and answer questions about all aspects of table games and slot play. Midwest Gaming Travel has grown to become the trusted source of information for readers across the country who are looking for gaming destinations in America's Heartland.
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An Open Letter to Casino Employees

The following article is from the May 2006 issue of Midwest Gaming & Travel.

Editor’s Note:

We all walk into casinos with certain basic expectations. We expect to be treated cordially, if not cheerfully by both floor personnel and the occasional manager we happen to meet. We expect to have questions answered and services rendered in a timely fashion. In short, we expect good customer service. We are, after all, consumers walking into not only a business, but also an entertainment venue. Unfortunately, there are times that we’ve all had when our expectations were not met. 

Recently we received a letter from Richard LoBello who is not only a long-time reader, but also a man who spent decades working in various capacities in casinos. It’s his “open letter to casino employees,” from managers to slot attendants. We know casino management reads our magazine because we hear from them regularly. So, we have a feeling that Richard’s comments and suggestions will not fall on deaf ears. 

Dear Casino Personnel,

Your customers won’t love you when they get bad service, but your competition will. Customer service is one of those over-used phrases about which we hear so much. When a new employee is hired, there is generally an orientation or contact with the human resources department. At this time, a smiling representative usually says something like, “Now go out there and be nice to the customers.” But that same employee might find himself on the casino floor at midnight, dealing with a difficult patron and wondering how he can please the person in this situation, with no support and no power to take care of the problem. There are six basic tips to keep in mind, if you don’t want to lose your customers, especially to other establishments.

Tip #1: Empower front line employees with the necessary tools to give good service. Naturally, not everyone can have carte blanche powers, but on the simple services, you should not have long delay times while an employee goes to his boss, then to his boss’s boss (who is invariably in a meeting) and so on. When this happens, the customer usually leaves frustrated and mutters, “I am never coming back to this place.” I was personally involved in a situation where a new customer, who had been gambling for a couple of hours, wanted a simple comp (free meal or service) so that he could go to the $3.95 buffet. My supervisor snapped, “He’s new and doesn’t have the points on his player’s card yet.” “Yes,” I replied, “but we can enter him in the system and you can sign it.” My supervisor just stomped off, reiterating that “We can’t comp everyone around here.” I was left to apologize to this gentleman, who informed me that it would be his last time coming to our casino. No wonder. Why is there so much money spent on advertising, yet when we get a new customer, he is often rudely treated and leaves disgruntled?

Tip #2: (I was sometimes guilty of this one.) Remember that the customer is not simply an interruption of your work, but the reason you are there in the first place. We get so busy and caught up in what we’re doing, that we sometimes forget this fact. We can all tell our bad stories about going to different businesses and being disregarded or treated badly. A friend of mine went into a tire store once, and stood there for about five minutes without getting a simple, “We’ll be right with you.” Just an acknowledgement that he was standing there would have been nice. He asked, “Can someone help me?” The surprising response was, “Mister we’re busy now, we will help you if you want to wait.” He of course went to another store where he was promptly helped, and consequently became a long-time customer. He then told the story to others, including myself who swore not to go to the first store. If you have that much business, you’re lucky. However, I don’t think that tire store, or other businesses operating in a similar manner, will have it for long. There aren’t many people who like being ignored when trying to be helped.

Tip #3: Win them over one or two at a time. I was walking by a slot machine to the break room when an elderly woman asked if I could get her some water so that she could take a pill. I told her I’d be glad to flag down a server. She replied, “Well, the waitress already told me that this wasn’t her area and then she walked off, so I have been waiting a while.” I went to the bar and got her a glass of water. I’ll never forget the pleased look on her face when she told her friend, “See, most people who work here are nice, that’s why I come back.” Let’s face it, most of this is pretty simple, yet sometimes overlooked. Phone manners are a good example also. If a potential customer, on her first contact by phone, is treated badly by operators and reservation clerks, she probably isn’t going to run over to your hotel and want to become a patron. Good eye contact, a smile, and a simple “Hello” mean a lot too. There are many great employees who go above and beyond their duties everyday. Many take great pride in their establishment. An example of this would be the employee who sees, for example, a glass on the floor. Rather than ignore it, he picks it up. He is improving the looks and the safety of the casino. It would be nice if this were the reaction of all employees. 

Tip #4: Settle small disputes in favor of the customer whenever possible. Why lose a good customer over a small amount like $10? It happens all the time. Perhaps someone thinks he has an extra charge on his hotel bill. Why argue or dispute it when the customer is getting angrier, and claiming that “It’s the principle of the thing.” How about a simple, “Would it make you happier if we took this charge off?” Presto! You now have a chance of a repeat customer for years to come, instead of one you may never see again. Of course, an employee always has to be cognizant of the occasional person who will try to take advantage. A dealer once called me over when I was a supervisor and said that he had missed a patron when she wanted a hit and then he ended up getting 21. The entire group at the table was looking to me for my decision, and one man said to his friend, “With all the casino’s money, he will still let the hand stand.” Since the bets were all small I said, “Folks, it was the dealer's mistake, so we will just kill the hand. Keep your bets.” They all lit up and said some nice things like, “I like this place.” Then they stayed and continued to play. If I would have let the hand stand, how many would have walked off and left? Instead some good will was created. There are situations, of course, in which surveillance would need to be involved. But it’s really more the little things that count in this battle to make customers happy. 

Tip #5: Have a vision statement for your company on customer service. If you have one, and really practice it, that’s a good thing. But, is everyone on board? Does this include upper management? Do they leave the tower upstairs and walk the floor at times, talking to guests and employees, showing themselves as good role models? It’s not only the front line workers who should be promoting the vision, the policy should be practiced from the people who answer the reservation phones to the last person patrons see on their visit. Is your attitude one of trying to surpass the expectations of everyone who comes into your property? Talk is cheap. Everyone from the new-hire to the top level should make this their motto. No one said this was going to be easy, but improving the bottom line never is. Sometimes you have to get back to basics. Put out a memo thanking the employees who went above and beyond to make this “a great New Year’s weekend,” or just a “great weekend.” Everyone likes a pat on the back at times. Give more and more pats. How about a luncheon or a gift to an employee a customer mentions by name on a comment card (which should actually be read). Employees need to know the vision is not just rhetoric.

Tip #6: Keep an eye on your competition. Are you becoming complacent? There’s an old saying, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Do you walk into other casinos and see what they are doing right or wrong? Sam Walton, who had great success with Wal-Mart, used to do this whether he had one store or hundreds. He would go into rival stores and ask questions. He tried to copy the good things, and not do the bad ones. I’m sure he learned an awful lot about his business this way. Wal-Mart and its competitors still do this. I’m sure he kept an eye on their customer service as well. If Sam did it, shouldn’t you? Remember that your employees are not part of your competition. They are on your team. Listen to them. “Anyone could have a good idea, not just me,” Mr. Walton would say. Park the ego outside and really tune in to your people. You might be surprised at some of the good ideas they have. Are your numbers slipping while the bigger casino down the street is knocking your socks off? Run, don’t walk, to see what they’re up to.

I once read a study that determined when a customer is angry, and the company resolves the problem to his satisfaction, it will have a much more loyal customer than it would have with a patron who came in and just had an “okay” experience. Remember, good word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Sometimes the simple things, like listening and trying to help, instead of saying, “This is not my department,” will go a long way in attracting customers, and more importantly, in keeping them. For a successful business, it is a front line battle to be won daily. 

  • Richard LoBello is a 25+ year veteran of table games in Nevada. His service, Bell Gaming Consultants, can help with game protection, personnel training, customer service, and more. You may contact Richard at (702) 375-0276 or email him at
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