Going with the Flow – Gambling With An Edge

This happened to somebody else in the late 1990s. I think it was at Caesars Palace about four or five owners ago. I don’t think I have written about it previously and it’s worth discussing. I might have some of the details wrong, but overall, it pretty much happened the way presented.

“Al” was playing at Caesars at an event for invited guests. It was the kind of event where you earn one drawing ticket for every $1,000 coin-in.  Then at the banquet on the last night, a drawing is held and lots of cash is given away.

Back then the tickets were made of cardboard, and you had to fill each out with your name and player’s card number. Lots of players had a special way of folding their tickets to improve their chances — but today’s story is about something else.

The rules said that you had to have your tickets in the drum by 7 p.m. and the drawing would begin shortly thereafter. Al played heavily for this promotion and showed up at 6:57 with his filled-out tickets in hand. To his horror, he discovered that the drum had already been moved to the stage and two prizes had already been given out. What to do?

Al saw two executive hosts near the back and told them they had to stop the drawing and that he had been cheated out of a chance to be picked for one of the first two prizes. The more senior of the hosts said, “Don’t make a scene. We’ll take care of you after the drawing is over. We’ll figure out how to make sure you end up okay.” 

So, what should Al do? If he was going to make a scene to protect his rights, he should speak up immediately. If he was going to trust this host, then he should just shut up.  

Al decided to trust the host and see what happened. 

After the event was over, Al was called in to see the Vice President of Promotions, or whatever the title was. He knew how many tickets Al had, how many tickets were issued, and how much money was being given away. Al’s fair share was about $4,000, although he could have been drawn for $1,000 or $20,000, or anywhere in between. Even not being drawn at all was a non-negligible possibility.

The vice president went through these numbers with Al and offered Al $5,000 worth of certificates at Caesars Forum, which was a high-end shopping center. Al would have preferred cash, but this wasn’t a terrible offer. 

Al’s first instinct was to hold out for $6,000 worth of certificates, but he recognized that it was an unintentional mistake, and the casino was attempting to be fair about this. They had, after all, given away the entire prize pool to other players and this $5,000 in shopping certificates was over and above what they had advertised they were going to give out.

Al didn’t want to appear unreasonable. He could envision holding out for $6,000, the casino giving it to him, but also telling him he was no longer welcome to play there.

So, Al accepted the offer. And then he searched the shopping center to figure out what he could buy that he could convert into the greatest amount of money. That part of the story is worth another entire blogpost, but I don’t have the details on that — and whatever he got more than 20 years ago would likely not be the best choice today. Just the fact that you know he did this might lead you to make better decisions when you receive gift certificates.

I think Al made the correct choice. Sometimes going with the flow is the best idea. Calling attention to the casino’s inadvertent mistake could backfire.

What would you have done?

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