Casino comps can be used, and they can be abused. And the line between use and abuse is drawn by the casino—not you.
In this post, I offer some explanations about casino comps, how they can be used, and how casinos might claim that you’re abusing them.
What Are Casino Comps?
When you gamble at a casino, they give you free stuff based on the amount of action you’re bringing to the casino to incentivize you to visit the casino more often and gamble more when you’re there. These comps usually take the form of free drinks, free food, free rooms, entertainment tickets, and so on.
And of course, when I use the word “free,” I use it loosely.
Most casinos track how much money you’re wagering via your slots club card. It’s a plastic card that resembles a credit card. You insert it into a gambling machine, and it adds up how much money you’ve put into action at the casino.
Your comps are rewarded as a (tiny) percentage of that action.
Some comps, most notably the free drinks, don’t require anything from you beyond sitting down and starting to play. Getting free meals at the restaurants require a little more commitment and action than that, but they’re usually easy to get, too.
Casino Promotions and Comps
Many casinos offer promotions where you get extra comps beyond the standard deal.
Here’s a hypothetical example: Suppose you’re playing at a casino where 500 comp points resulted in you getting a free ticket to a show. And since it’s a promotion, the casino doesn’t even deduct the comp points from your total. It’s just a bonus.
If you can sell that show ticket, that comp promotion suddenly has a real dollar amount attached to it, doesn’t it? How hard is it to sell show tickets?
I read about one such promotion where the gambler was getting tickets to a show that was sold out every night. You could get your free ticket, then sell it to someone standing in the line. If you sold said ticket for more than $60, it was considered scalping, but any price below that was fair game.
If you asked the casino beforehand if this were okay, they’d probably tell you no. They have funny attitudes about comps.
And a lot of times, you’ll get bigger and better comps that you’re required to use before you leave. These are called use it or lose it comps.
Casinos Prefer That You NOT Sell Comps to Other People
Suppose the casino comped you a bottle of champagne that normally cost $500. They would like nothing better than for you to drink the entire bottle and go gambling.
But if they find out you sold that bottle for $100 to a buddy, they’re not going to be happy. They’ll think you’re cheating their system.
If you have a big family, these comps become more valuable as you’re willing to put them to use. Getting comps that your extended family can use doesn’t cross any lines.
Also, you can feel a lot better about getting value for comps by using the barter system instead of outright selling your comps. I read about a gambler who used to give his chiropractor free show tickets several times a year. That gambler rarely paid for a visit to the chiropractor.
This kind of barer could theoretically work for anyone in the service business that you deal with regularly. Maybe your accountant would enjoy some free show tickets? Does this kind of barter count as comp abuse?
I’m sure the casinos have a different idea about what constitutes “abuse” than most gamblers. Casinos tend to see things in absolutes. They don’t mind spending money, but they only want to spend money that’s going to result in you gambling more.
Of course, if being able to barter your comps motivates you to gamble more, the casino still wins. But try telling them that.
The Importance of Discretion
Anyone who’s read much about advantage play knows that discretion is a critical virtue for gamblers to have. If you announce that you’re counting cards at the blackjack table, you can’t expect to play long at all.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re giving away your comps, bartering them with people, or outright selling them. The casinos won’t like it, and you won’t be able to change their minds.
Free Buffets Have Hidden Costs
It’s hard to maintain a healthy weight in the United States. Advertisements for fast food and chain restaurants are ubiquitous. Most of them offer few, if any, low calorie options.
It’s even harder to maintain a healthy weight if you’re a Las Vegas gambler. Casinos have some of the best restaurants in the world, and they’re always competing to provide better dining for their customers. And the comps that you earn at the casino are often in the form of free food.
And free food at the buffet can be the worst comp for your health, maybe even worse than the free drinks. After all, gaining weight happens gradually over time, while alcohol has immediate and obvious effects on your well-being.
If you’re just getting started as a gambler, buffets might be the way to go. You might not have a lot of money for food, so you might only be eating one big meal a day.
Buffets don’t have to be unhealthy, though. The trick is to choose the foods with the least amount of preparation.
For example, every buffet I’ve ever visited had plenty of raw fruits and vegetables available at the salad bar. Everyone knows you need lots of fruits and veggies in your diet if you want to be healthy. By choosing the ones that have been processed the least, you’re saving yourself a lot of calories.
You can even find plenty of lean protein sources that are simply prepared. Look for the carving station that’s available at most casino buffets now and help yourself to some of the roast. Turkey is probably the best choice, but chicken is good, too. Even the roast beef is a good choice if it’s lean, and you cut off the fat.
If you visit the same casinos repeatedly, most of the buffets there serve the same menu all the time. I’ve found it easier to lose weight and maintain that weight loss by eating the same foods every day. Vegas buffets make that easier to do. It just requires some mindfulness and self-discipline on your part.
Casino Promotions on the Internet
Savvy gamblers quickly figured out how to best take advantage of these bonus offers. Online casinos changed their rules in response to make it almost impossible to profit from such offers.
If you’re depositing $1,000 and getting an additional $2,000 in bonus money for free, it might seem like this is a can’t-lose proposition for you. But read the fine print.
The casino requires you to gamble your original stake and that bonus money a minimum amount before being able to make a withdrawal request. They also usually require that you make these wagers on their slot machines, which have a higher house edge, than their table games or video poker games.
Even a wagering requirement of 15X your deposit plus bonus will usually wipe out your entire bankroll.
Most casino games that qualify for your bonus wagering requirements have a house edge of around 5%.
This means that your expected loss is $2,250; that’s the entire amount of your bonus along with $250 of your original stake.
And a casino with a wagering requirement of 15x is rare as hen’s teeth. You’re more likely to deal with a casino which has a wagering requirement of 25x or 30x your initial stake.
And even if you do beat the odds and fulfill your wagering requirements and show a profit afterward, the casino is going to look closely at your action to see if you stayed “within the spirit of the rules.”
You’ll have an easier time using and abusing casino comps at brick and mortar casinos.
Some gamblers even turn down the bonus offers at online casinos so that they don’t have to deal with wagering requirements at all.
Casino comps are a great deal, but they’re not as great a deal as you initially might think. If your plan is to get a bunch of cool casino comps and sell them to make a profit, you might be running into trouble. Barter is probably a better approach, although even then, the casinos won’t like it. Be discreet.
As far as online casino comps go, you can probably forget about getting any kind of advantage by using them. It’s common for online casinos to clamp down really hard on any perceived bonus abuse.