The high-limit life: Some play for show, others play in peace

By Nick Sortal


The carpet is a little plusher, the slot machines are more secluded – and the price of gambling is much higher. Every casino has a special area for those who want to go big with bets. A security person usually stands near the entryway, but anybody can walk in.


“There are really two types of big players,” says Mike DeLuca Jr., slots director of Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach. “There are the players who want a ton of attention, the peacocks. But more times than not, the high rollers don’t want people to know who they are. They drive normal cars and they want to be left alone.”


DeLuca notes that racetrack casinos such as Mardi Gras can’t offer high rollers the amenities that the Seminole casinos can. The tribe pays the state for exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games. But high-limit players in Hallandale Beach often drop thousands of dollars, and a few even hundreds of thousands, in a sitting. “For many, this is their release from what made them wealthy,” DeLuca says.


Seminole Coconut Creek Casino VP of Marketing Jonathan Marcus says those who frequent his high-limit area are often regulars who casino hosts know. “That’s where a casino host really comes into play; he’ll say, ‘Joe Smith is coming in and he wants to reserve blackjack,’” Marcus says. “Now, we know he likes Caymus wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, so we have that waiting for him.”


Marcus compares treatment of high-limit players to flying first class. “They want a higher level of service, but they pay for it by wagering more.”


Casinos help out the bigger players in that respect, though, especially with slots. A slot costing $1 or even $5 per spin often is programmed to pay back about 97 percent of the money put in. Machines that cost a penny or a nickel often return only about 90 percent. The blackjack tables often have friendlier rules.


Calder Casino in Miami Gardens has changed its more luxurious area to “VIP slots” instead of “high-limit slots,” partially because sometimes the bigger players prefer to play “penny slots,” which are misnamed because a maximum bet on such machines often approaches $1. Like Mardi Gras and a few others, Calder has a VIP room for bigger players, with snacks, TVs, lounge chairs and beverages. Getting access to that room – VIP status – requires zealous slot play.


“The guests’ experience is our top priority,” says Matt Harper, director of marketing at Calder Casino. “Our goal is to treat every customer who walks through the door with VIP-level service, and having incentives like our VIP lounge and a dedicated host team gives guests more reasons to attain a higher card status.”


Nick Sortal’s gambling news appears daily at southfloridagambling.com.

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