Understanding Comps

Is That Free Casino Gift Really Worth It?

MGM Springfield bag promotion
Written by Joshua

I see a lot of conversations on various social forums and so on about the free gifts casinos give out. Increasingly it’s one of disgruntled feedback, as many talk about how good the gifts used to be, or how fragile many of them see.

Like any casino promotion or comp, it’s important to understand what the value of this is to you vs. whether claiming this gift (and playing at the casino that day, since you’re initiating a gaming day by picking up your comp) is worth it vs. any other promotions on the calendar.

So today, let’s look at those gifts with a critical eye and determine whether it’s worth it for you.

Do You Need the Item Being Gifted?

A gift can have additional value if you were already in the market for one. One casino trip, I was there for a multi-night stay, and the day we were checking out they had a pan gift giveaway.

As it happened we could use the pan, and it’s turned out to be a favorite out of the ones we have in the household. So for our use case and our already being there, it worked out alright.

On multiple occasions they’ve run the “get a gift weekly and complete the set” for bed spreads, but they virtually always target a Queen size bed, whereas we have a King here, so those have no value at all for us.

Of course, when you get to things like gift cards, it’s pretty simple in terms of whether you want the gift card to that place or not. Occasionally I’ve seen generic Visa or Mastercard gift cards as an option, which breaks open the doors and brings it closer to a free play offer in my mind.

So that can be a first screening step to deciding whether it’s worth going to pick up the item.

How Much is that Gift Worth?

Many times casinos will get items in bulk that you can also get on your own. The value of these items can vary greatly, and so that can have an impact on your decision.

I looked up the pan we had been gifted when we were discussing getting another one, and found them available for $20 – actually two for $20, because they were doing that thing that direct mail often loves to do by making you take two so they can up the overall order value instead of selling one for $10. So that was a $10 pan, a large delta from my standard casino offer.

If you’re getting casino offers for free play or comp dollars that far exceed the value of the gifts being offered, it may not make sense to take the gift; you could just take the comp dollars or free play, reduce your spend for that casino day by that amount, buy the gift and pocket the difference!

It’s easy to get a sense of the value of the item, because most of the items can be easily Googled to check on various stores, eBay and so on. Casinos source these items from various locations, so the price you may see online could vary, but you’ll get a good overall sense of the value of the item.

Some (including one casino by me) are now even issuing vouchers to simply order the items off of Amazon; you simply pick up the voucher instead of the item, and it can be ordered and shipped to you instead of carrying it around the casino, a visual most of us are probably used to at casinos that do these gift days.

The value of a gift can vary widely; I once got a name-brand clutch that I would not use, but relative to the value of the offers I got was good enough to warrant picking it up, as not only did it come on a day that stacked my free play offer, which was very helpful, but I was able to gift the clutch to someone who saw great value in it. If I wanted to sell the clutch, it had enough value to do so, but in my case it gave me a great gift option.

By comparison, one of my locals was giving away branded merch like a very basic icescraper at one point – not exactly an item worth going out of your way to claim, especially on a day like a Monday.

Sometimes there’s a gift like a free cruise, which can certainly have a high face value, but it helps to know the true cost of a free cruise. And sometimes gifts like concert or show tickets can have a specific value beyond the face value cost, especially if it’s someone you really want to see.

What’s the Effort to Get the Gift?

Putting aside lugging some of these big items around in the casino, like mentioned earlier, the time it takes you to get to and from the casino, as well as the potential line you’ll encounter once you get to the casino, should be factored into the level of effort you’ll be comfortable investing.

I’ve stood in 30 minute lines to get a $25 gift card, which I only did because I was able to claim other casino offers the same day so I was able to maximize my benefit. I’ve also literally entered an empty ballroom at a casino to collect the exact same prize, and on a weekend at that, because either their line management/gift handling was very smooth or things calmed down after an initial wave.

You can’t always have eyes and ears to take a look at how long a gift line will be, so you should keep the level of effort in mind when it comes to the gift pick-up, and factor that into whether it’s worth your time. An hour drive each direction and a 30 minute line to pick up a $20 gift is not necessarily worth your time, but if you are already at the casino for other reasons the calculus may change.

Are You Willing to Gamble That Day?

Remember that picking up a gift is an activity tracked to your card, and therefore counts as a gaming day. If you are not planning on gambling, or not that much, it could impact your future offers. And if the gift isn’t the sort of value you’d normally claim, it could cost you in offer reductions if you’re not going to play or play enough.

Some casino chains (*cough* Caesars *cough*) will now sometimes require players to play a certain number of tier credits to qualify for a prize, or turn off comps if a gift or free play is claimed without any gaming activity, so if you value your offers, keep in mind what that means when you make the decision to pick up a gift.

Hopefully this helps you think through whether a given casino gift is worth it to you. Do you have other criteria with which you evaluate this? Share in the comments!

About the author

Joshua

My name is Joshua, and I’m a 30-something who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, games that give you a potential edge, casino promotions and systems and how you can get the most out of it.

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