They have the highest house edge of any machines in the casino. In fact, no one has ever come out ahead playing them – ever. They loom in the hallways and lobbies – brightly lit machines with no conscience, who neither ask for nor give quarter – or quarters for that matter. Many a player will rush to them and start pressing buttons, hoping to make a quick withdrawal. And the players pay a hefty, hefty price on these machines because no one has ever won on them. No one has even broken even on them. Ever!
I’m not talking about your garden-variety slot or video-poker machines. I’m talking about those ATM Credit Card Advance machines, sprinkled all over casino creation, that charge unconscionable interest rates of upwards of three percent on a single withdrawal, often adding fees of up to and over ten percent of the total money withdrawn. (Fees? Fees? Isn’t the interest the fee?) Casino players who use these machines are making the dumbest possible move they can make – dumber than splitting tens at blackjack, dumber than betting Big Red at craps and dumber than playing Sic Bo.
What’s worse, using those currency-sucking monsters is so unnecessary! In fact, no smart casino player should ever give them a look much less a mention when right in the casino sits a flesh and blood human being who will give you money; who wants to give you money; whose job is to give you money, money for free – with no interest and no fees – and he or she will also give you anywhere from seven to forty-five days to pay it all back, depending on how much you borrowed. Now, casino players can’t ask for anything better than that other than a win the very next time they play. Yes, I am talking about casino credit.
Every casino has a special credit department whose sole reason for existing is to give away money. (Okay, let’s not be naive. They give it away in the hopes that you’ll lose it in the casino. But that’s so obvious I don’t have to say that, do I?) The upsides to getting casino credit are numerous and obvious. The downsides are small and even more obvious.
The first benefit to a casino credit line is that you don’t have to carry wads of cash when you travel by car, bus, train or plane to your favorite casino venue. The second benefit to credit is that the money you have in your gambling bank account can sit there for up to six weeks gaining interest before you have to pay back the casino what you owe it. (You do have a gambling bank account don’t you? Money tucked aside that is used strictly for playing purposes? If not, start one, now, even before you get credit.) If you win, you pay back your marker immediately. If you lose, the casino takes it out of your account. Contrast this with those awful credit card advance machines that immediately dock your account and rip their pound of interest flesh from your economic carcass as well.
A third, generally unspoken, unpublicized benefit to getting casino credit has to do with how you’re perceived once you have, use and pay back a credit line. Although I could get no casino executives to state for the record that “credit players” are viewed in a more favorable light than “money players,” the fact is that they are. The casino assumes that credit players are willing to lose the amount of their credit line (which may or may not be true). A simple mind experiment can prove this.
Two players enter a game and both cash in for $1,000. Joe gives cash and Joan takes out a $1,000 marker against her credit line of $10,000. Both Joe and Joan now lose their $1,000 in short order. Who would you bet on to go for a second $1,000 – Joe, the cash player, or Joan with the $10,000 line? I pick Joan because I know (or think I know) that she has $10,000 in play money she’s willing to gamble. I have no idea how much Joe has. For all I know, that $1,000 was for his kid’s braces and he’s in a powerful lot of trouble when his wife, Big Gert, finds out that little Lulu is still going to resemble Bugs Bunny when she hits junior high next year.
Casinos also think that credit players are more motivated players. In fact, this is probably true. My experience tells me that credit players tend to come to casinos more frequently than other players. Casinos like that. Interestingly enough, between four and ten percent of table-game players have established credit lines and anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the table game drop in Atlantic City, at least, comes from these players. Casinos that attract big action tend to have more credit players than casinos that attract small to moderate action.
Even more interesting, only about one to two percent of slot players have established credit. Why so few? Because many slot players don’t know that credit exists for them as well. But it does. In the future you are going to see a big push to get credit for slot players from the casinos.
How do you get that credit line? Easy! Just call your favorite casino and ask them to send you a credit application. Most casinos in a given venue use similar forms. In Vegas, the forms tend to be modest. They’ll ask for your name, address, phone, social security number and the bank account you’ll use for your credit line.
On the other hand, Atlantic City desires more information. Most casinos there will want to know your full name, address, phone number, where you work or if you’re self-employed, your yearly income, your outstanding indebtedness, the name of your bank, and the account you want to write your markers against. Some Atlantic City casinos will go one step further and ask to know your net worth.
You’ll then sign a release form which will allow the casino’s credit checkers to make sure you have enough money in the specified account to pay back the amount of the credit you’re requesting. This is an important item. When you apply make sure you have more than enough in one account to fully cover the entire line of credit you want.
The casinos will then do a credit check to make sure you’re a good risk. The whole process takes about a week.
What are your chances of being turned down?
Stated one casino credit manager who wished to remain nameless: “I’d say that approximately three-fourths of the people who ask for credit get it. The only area where there might be some difference of opinion between us and the patron is on how much credit we should give. First time credit applications are often for sums that we feel might be a little too high. If someone asks for $10,000, we might say ‘Let us give you $5,000 and we can readjust that figure in the future.’ The people we turn down are usually people who just have a history of not paying their bills. Remember we’re giving a loan for up to six weeks with no interest and we want to make sure we’re going to get that money back.”
What percentage of the money borrowed by players is not returned? The figure varies from casino to casino and state to state, and is a closely guarded secret, but I estimate that less than three percent of the total money borrowed by credit players is not paid back in a timely fashion.
Once your credit is approved, your next trip to the casino will probably see you take out your first marker. A marker is a promissory note that can be drawn directly against your bank account. In fact, it looks like an oversized generic check, which is exactly what it is.
Once you’re at the table of your choice, you’ll say to the dealer: “I’d like to take out a marker, please.” The floor person will be called over and he or she will ask you, “For how much?” Once you tell the floor person how much you want, you’ll probably be asked for your player’s card. In such a case, the casino floor person will fill out most of the information on a marker form and ask you to sign it. If you don’t hand in a player’s card, or if the casino is very busy, the floor person will give you a small sheet of paper where you’ll write your name, address, phone number, the name of your bank, and how much you want to take out. Then you’ll sign your name.
It usually takes two to five minutes for the marker to arrive. When it does, you’ll sign it and the floor person will put it on the table and the dealer will count out the appropriate number of chips (credit players in Las Vegas and some other venues will get the chips even before the marker arrives). Slot players will usually do their transactions at the cashier’s cage.
That’s it, you’re in the game. It’s a lot faster than the ATMs and a lot more economical.
How and when you pay back your marker is a product of how you did at the tables. It is customary to pay back all the money you borrowed at the end of your trip if you won. If you don’t pay after a winning stay, it is considered a very bad thing called walking with the chips. Casinos frown upon players who “walk” because they feel (rightly) that not only have you won money from them at the tables (fair and square) but you’ve taken a loan that now will get you interest for however long it sits in your account before the marker is redeemed (unfair and not square).
Some high-rolling, self-employed business people have attempted to use their casino credit lines as short-term business loans at no interest. If casinos discover you doing this, they will not only cut off your credit, they’ll say bad things about you behind your back and you won’t get credit at other casinos when the word gets out that you’re a “chip walker.” So never walk with the chips.
How much time do casinos give you to pay the piper? If you borrowed up to $1,000, you usually have seven days to pay up. If you borrowed between $1,001 and $5,000, you usually have 14 days; and if you borrowed $5,001 or more, you have between 30 and 45 days. Each state will have slightly different timetables but the above is representative.
But what if you borrowed $1,001 and only (only?) lost $500 of it? Here you have a choice. You can pay back the $500 that is left and wait the two weeks for the casino to collect the rest, or you can simply write a check for the other $500 on the spot. (Some casinos want first-time credit players to do this until it is firmly established that they are not risks.)
I know why players would want to get credit, but why would casinos want to give it? Some players believe that casinos give out credit as a part of a plot to get them to play for bigger money than they can afford and for longer periods of time than they should. Although this is not the reason casinos give out credit, it is a pitfall that players should be aware of and is the one big downside to casino credit. Your credit line should be in keeping with your budget. Don’t take out a $10,000 credit line if you are a five-dollar player with a gambling bankroll of $500. The temptation to plunge into your credit line for more money might just prove too great to resist on a bad day or night.
Casinos give out credit as a customer service, a loyalty inducer, and a convenience. Players should be aware that markers are money in the bank – your bank – and while they are interest free, they aren’t obligation free. Should you lose in the casino, you will be expected to pay back what you borrowed. Make sure you can afford to do so.
But given the other alternatives of carrying wads of cash and/or borrowing from those bent-nosed ATM loan sharks in the lobby, establishing casino credit is the intelligent way to go.
Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores.
***Above article based on Frank’s book Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!