He was thirsty and they were hungry to keep him happy.
A VIP — Very Important Player — was at a poker table at Barona Resort & Casino’s high-limit room Parlor ’32 and he wanted something to drink. Specifically, a Coke Zero.
Yet, despite having a seemingly endless variety of beverages to offer in Parlor ’32, including six different kinds of water, there was no Coke Zero.
That’s when a Parlor ’32 attendant, whose primary responsibility is to keep high rollers satisfied — and rolling — went into go-the-extra-mile mode. He took off for Costco, where he bought an entire flat of Coke Zero so the player could have as much as he wanted during his stay.
What may be seen as a small gesture could reap big rewards: It’s that kind of VIP service that distinguishes casino high-limit rooms from the rest of the gaming floor. Awash with amenities like personal butler services, concierges, gourmet meals, relaxation lounges, plush leather chairs at the poker tables, discreet, dedicated cash cages, private restrooms and more, these casinos-within-a casino pamper high-level, preferred players on the highest level.
“Players expect a beautiful room, they expect high-end appointments and they expect the creature comforts,” said Troy Simpson, Barona’s assistant general manager. “Anything you need is going to be taken care of back here (at Parlor ’32). We’re here to provide the utmost gambling experience.”
For Barona, and the seven other San Diego-area casinos offering higher-stakes gambling within an exclusive, semi-private sanctuary, these rooms — and the VIPS they attract — are key to a healthy bottom line.
According to Andrew Goldberg, principal of the Las Vegas-based casino analytics firm KeepMyVIPS.com, “significant contributors,” or the top 5 percent to 10 percent of players, can generate as much as 90 percent of a casino’s total gaming revenue.
“The continued success of (a) casino is reliant on consistent, repeat, loyal patronage by these VIPs,” Goldberg said at a session at the National Indian Gaming Association convention held in San Diego earlier this month.
Superior customer service and in-tune, proactive casino hosts can help retain those big revenue producers, which is essential, he said. Goldberg’s data shows that among the top 10 percent in one year, 38 percent fell out of that top tier in the next year, while 40 percent to 50 percent also reduced the amount spent. Often, the VIPs have been lured to another casino.
“These are the same customers everyone else wants,” Goldberg said, adding that competition can be local or from Las Vegas, “which can out-amenity you.”
Barona, Simpson said, is adept keeping its high-rollers coming back, allowing the casino to capture “the lionshare of high-limit players” in the southern half of San Diego County. While individual casinos do not release their revenue figures, Simpson said Barona earns 60 percent of the gambling revenue generated in that part of the county. He also said Barona offers significantly higher maximum bets — including $10,000 per hand at Parlor ’32 tables.
Barona also works to keep big players in their seats while at Parlor ’32, Simpson said, with a high staff-to-player ratio and such extras as jackpot winnings automatically deposited into the machine. (Slot players on the main casino floor have to wait on an attendant and settle their tax forms at the time of the win.)
“They want to be in the action,” Simpson said of VIP players. “Nobody wants to have to wait to do paperwork.”
Parlor ’32 — which gives a nod to the year 1932, when the Barona Reservation was founded — offers such amenities as a dedicated cashier, two exclusive restrooms, and the ability to request that a table or machine be reserved for you in advance, having a poker table designated non-smoking, or even having a specific machine be brought onto the floor. It also serves as the discreet entryway to Barona’s two private casinos, one gilded and glamorous, one clubby and posh.
But Simpson was also quick to note that you don’t have to be a Barona VIP to get VIP treatment.
“Parlor ’32 is a piece of what we do; it’s not everything we do,” he said. “It’s not necessarily any more important as keeping everybody here happy. We have 2,500-plus machines and 150 tables on the other side of these walls. Our commitment is to be the perfect gambling experience for everybody — no matter where they play.”
Looking for some high-level perks and pampering? Below is a snapshot of what the San Diego-area offers by way of high-limit rooms, as provided by individual casinos.
Barona Resort & Casino
Number of slots and tables: 106 slots (53 smoking, 53 non-smoking); 15 tables (tables can be converted to non-smoking upon request); slot denominations up to $100; bets on video poker up to $1,200; table games up to $10,000 per hand
Special amenities: private restrooms; food service; dedicated cage
Number of slots and tables: 34 slots; four table games (blackjack and baccarat)
Special amenities: private restroom for VIP guests; private access to Prime Cut steakhouse; nightly reception in Prime Cut from 6-8 p.m. for Onyx players (top tier of Sweetwater Rewards players club), reception is hosted by a Jamul Casino VIP Host and includes gourmet hors d’oeuvres.
Harrah’s Resort Southern California
Number of slots and tables: 100 slots; 10 tables (five EZ Baccarat, three double-deck blackjack, two six-deck shoe blackjack)
Special amenities: Diamond lounge; food service; TVs for sports and promotions; assigned staff to issue markers; Jackpot Aggregation for speedy hand pays.
Pala Casino Spa & Resort
Number of slots and tables: 136 slots (varying from video reels to stepper and video poker games in multiple denominations up to $100); 11 tables (including double-deck and shoe blackjack and midi-baccarat); table games offer $25 to $100 limits, with a max of $5,000
Special amenities: VIP High Limit Lounge with a full-service bar offering a wide selection of beers, wines and premium spirits, and an Asian-influenced menu that includes a variety of soups and hot and cold food selections; dedicated cage window; concierge booth with 24-hour service; private restroom.
Pechanga Resort & Casino
Number of slots and tables: Over 200 slots and video poker machines in denominations from $1 up to $100; the region’s largest double-deck blackjack gaming salon, plus regular blackjack, Midi EZ Baccarat and Emperor’s Pai Gow (bets can range from $25 to $5,000)
Special amenities: The 14,000-square-foot high-limit room offers secluded rooms within it for guests wishing to play private blackjack and baccarat (private table limits can be worked out with VIP hosts and casino management); dedicated hosts; private restrooms; secluded cash cage; a full-service bar with uniquely branded cocktails; multiple flat screen TVs.
Sycuan Casino Resort
Number of slots and tables: 47 slots; eight tables
Special amenities: The brand new high-limit room is in the expanded gaming area that opened on March 27 as part of Sycuan’s $260 million hotel resort. It features a private VIP lounge; dedicated VIP hosts; special food and drink service; dedicated cage; private bathrooms.
Valley View Casino & Hotel
Number of slots and tables: 125 slot and video poker machines, offering four denominations of play — 25 cents, $1, $5 and $10
Special amenities: The new high-limit room, which opened on Friday, is part of Valley View’s $50 million expansion and renovation; it offers a luxury VIP lounge.
Viejas Casino & Resort
Number of slots and tables: 84 slots; nine gaming tables (three baccarat, six blackjack)
Special amenities: The 1,900-square-foot high-limit room offers a dedicated cage and cashiers services; dedicated concierge; food service and tray-passed treats