Jul 20, 2016
Hollywood Casino Columbus PITA!
In many recent Articles, particularly a few in my News & Notes series, I have hinted at a Promotion at the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, Ohio (and possibly other locations) that has been going on for a few months. While I doubt that anyone would care that the Promotion was being written about, from the casino side, some people have maintained that it is possible that a Promotion might be cancelled if it is written about on these Forums or on WizardofOdds.com because then they are led to believe that the Promotion can be Advantage Played.
It is for those reasons that I have not spelled out the Promotion in detail, but I am spelling it out now. The Promotion is their, ‘Play $500 on us,’ Promotion which is a Loss Rebate by which a new Player’s Club Member can enjoy having same-day losses of up to $500 reimbursed in the form of Free Play.
While seeking out more information on this Promotion so my girlfriend could play it, as she had not had a Hollywood card before, I was (as expected) told a litany of different things. In one conversation, I was told that the Loss Rebate Free Play would be awarded over the course of three subsequent visits and would be available for a week at a time with the full amount being awarded in Free Play within thirty days.
Of course, what I was initially told seemed strange to me because, how are you going to break the Free Play up over three visits? That number simply did not make sense to me as I could not discern how anyone could possibly break the Free Play up equally over three visits, particularly if $500 (or more) was lost on the first day. What would they do? $175, $175 and $150?
Because this did not make sense to me, I made a number of other calls and talked to a number of other Player’s Club representatives about the Promotion. While I, once again, got a litany of different answers what I will call the, ‘Consensus,’ response was that, upon losing, an individual would get an E-Mail within thirty days that would state when the Free Play was available. In the event the individual lost certain lesser amounts than $500, then there would be two sets of dates during which the Free Play would be reimbursed. In the event that the individual lost closer to $500, $500 exactly, or more than $500, then the Free Play would be paid out in four different installments all with their own date ranges.
My girlfriend played this Promotion in late May, and as anyone would expect, we were sure not only to lose slightly in excess of $500 (and verify the amount lost at the Player’s Club before leaving) or, otherwise, to have a sizable win. I am obviously not going to discuss the specific machine(s) that was/were played or anything along those lines because I am not going to publicly state what my opinion of the best play is. However, on that note, I have written Articles that have dealt with Loss Rebates in general terms, and offered some general suggestions on strong ways to play those.
Again, my girlfriend played this Promotion in late May, and we did not expect that it would take the full thirty days to receive the E-Mail. In the meantime, she did receive correspondence via E-Mail (and physical mail) concerning Promotions, ongoing events at the casino, Marketing pertaining to the dining options, and a small amount of Free Play that would, ‘Normally,’ be awarded based, presumably, on the ADT loss of her initial visit. However, nowhere in these correspondences was there any information about the Loss Rebate reimbursement.
After roughly three weeks, I began calling the casino in order to figure out what was going on. The first thing that I did was leave messages via their automated system that promises that the individual leaving the message will be called back within two business days. The first thing that I want to say is that absolutely DOES NOT happen. Not only did I make calls regarding the Loss Rebate, but I left messages with other departments that claimed to be left for other reasons, as well, just to see if I would get a return call from any departments.
In order to be discreet, I left messages that contained my name and number, I left messages that contained my number but not my name, I left messages that contained my girlfriend’s phone number and (with permission) one or two other numbers upon which the person who the number belongs to would get back to me that Hollywood Casino had called them. I called with my number blocked, unblocked, called from my girlfriend’s phone and called from other phone lines and left messages, again, not all of these messages were purported to concern the Loss Rebate.
The number of return calls I received as a direct result of all of these messages was exactly ZERO. Throughout the course of about two weeks a total of ten (or so) messages left resulted in exactly zero callbacks. That should tell you about how seriously Hollywood Casino Columbus cares about its customer service. ZERO.
Eventually, I got the idea that if I would call and go through the automated system asking for security that I would get to speak to an actual person. As it turns out, that tactic works more often than not and your call gets transferred to the actual Player’s Club rather than an automated machine upon which to leave a message that will not be responded to, or alternatively, some sort of inbound call center that I have no idea where it is based.
I spoke to a number of people in the Player’s Club who said that they did not have any access to any information concerning individual cards with respect to the Loss Rebate. I became concerned that we had actually missed the Loss Rebate reimbursement and, upon making that inquiry, was told that mere Player’s Club Representatives have no idea whether that is the case or not as they lack the capability to check on previous offers. I suspect that such is probably not entirely true, but if it is, that is information that these representatives should be able to access.
I finally managed to get in contact with a casino host who said he would look into the matter as relates my girlfriend’s card and that reimbursement. Though he spoke to me at length in our initial conversation, he was not able to resolve anything on that call and promised to get back to me within a finite period of time that I don’t quite remember. What I do remember is that he did not get back to me within that period of time, and so I called him again. Ultimately, he finally returned one of my calls stating that he had nothing to do with anything along those lines and I could either try talking to the Player’s Club or discussing the matter with Gaming Enforcement.
Who the Hell suggests that a player take anything up with Gaming Enforcement!? What the casino should NOT want is for anything to be taken up with Gaming Enforcement.
I contacted the Player’s Club again, via security, and had to explain the entire situation anew. I initially tried to convince the Player’s Club Representative that their was nothing that they could do for me, as multiple representatives before had not been able to do anything for me, and I would need to talk to that person’s superior. The person, of course, insisted that they could at least try to help me and all but demanded I explain the problem prior to that person putting their superior on the phone.
I explained the problem, the representative apologized for not being able to do anything with that and got their superior on the phone.
I had a lengthy conversation with that person’s superior who will go unnamed and was quite pleasant to deal with on both that and one other conversation. This person explained that the offer would come via E-Mail on EXACTLY the 30th day with respect to the Loss Rebate information and when the Free Play would be on the card. I was more than satisfied with this explanation and was told to call back if such did not end up being the case.
Such did not end up being the case, therefore, I called back.
It was a little more difficult for me to reach the person in question than it had been previously. In fact, I had to explain the entire situation to ANOTHER Player’s Club Representative who told me, predictably, that they could not help me before finally transferring me to the voicemail of the superior. I left the individual a message stating that it had now been in excess of thirty days and no E-Mail or physical mail regarding the Promotion had been received.
After some discussion, I finally convinced the person to look at the account just to make sure that the Free Play stemming from the Promotion had not actually been missed and we somehow missed the E-Mail, or alternatively, the E-Mail went to the wrong place. The individual in question was able to confirm that those amounts of Free Play had never been on the card, were not presently on the card, and therefore, nothing had been missed or was being missed.
The individual then promised to look into my girlfriend’s account and get back to me with respect to when we could expect to receive the offers. Though he had been decent at returning phone calls before, to this date, that was the final conversation between myself and this person and further messages left directly with him (well, maybe just one) did not result in a return phone call.
Finally, we managed to get into contact with someone in the Marketing Department after procuring the person’s actual direct contact phone number. Even though it took two conversations, that individual was actually finally able to accomplish something on the same day. She claimed that there must have been a problem with the company that handles their mail (I thought this was supposed to be an E-Mail) and that the offers don’t actually get loaded onto the card until the mail goes out. That actually makes me curious as to whether this alleged third-party that handles the mail has any access to identifying information aside from name, address and Player’s Card number, after all, the casino does scan your Driver’s License into the system when you sign up for a card.
That fact notwithstanding, this individual was actually able to help. With some convincing and sweet talk, she was convinced that, given the inconvenience, the full amount of the Free Play should be loaded onto the card at once. That is especially true since it had been nearly forty-five days, at this point, from the day that the loss was originally incurred. However, this proposal did come with a caveat, the Free Play had to be used within twenty-four hours.
While that was admittedly a minor inconvenience, it was certainly better than throwing away $500 in Free Play. It is certainly possible, dare I say likely, that my girlfriend would have went to the casino and played that through (and then some) thereby giving the casino additional play when picking up the Free Play. However, given that we had to jump through hoops to get it, deal with customer service that describing as, ‘Sub-Par,’ would be unduly complimentary and having to get it within 24 hours, she didn’t do that. She ended up playing through the Free Play the required one time and rolling out with the result.
In my opinion, as relates my girlfriend, the entire Promotion was something of a FUBAR situation. The only redeeming event that occurred was the fact that the entirety of the Free Play was loaded in one shot, so as a result, we only had to return to that casino once. While the Player’s Club at Hollywood Casino, Marquee Rewards, is the same throughout, I believe that the casinos (to a certain degree) are effectively managed as separate entities. It is for that reason that I am not going to necessarily write off Hollywood properties completely, (unless I have a bad experience with one or two different ones) but we are certainly unlikely to pay Hollywood Casino Columbus a visit unless it is extremely convenient (or otherwise lucrative) for us to do so.
In other words, that casino will not see one dime of Negative Expectation play from us, ever. While I certainly play at a Positive Expectation more frequently (and for greater Expected Value) than I do at a Negative Expectation, I am certainly not above playing at a Negative Expectation sometimes, and HWCC has lost any potential chance of either my girlfriend or myself ever doing that there.
With all of that said, I have experienced other Hollywood Casino properties, and overall, have a moderately good opinion of the others that I have experienced. For example, one of the properties that are in a different state (but otherwise close to that one) I would highly recommend because it has a quiet atmosphere and the clientele trends older and less rowdy, so I enjoy both of those aspects. Furthermore, I also find the property I am referencing aesthetically pleasing and I think that it has one of the better layouts, in terms of being easily navigable, that I have seen. My only knock on that property, even being a smoker, is that I think they could stand to offer more diverse Video Poker choices in their Non-Smoking area. I’m really not a fan of it when casinos offer a Non-Smoking area, but either put a non-diverse set of game choices in there, or alternatively, have it be filled with entirely old machines. Wheeling Island is an example of this gripe as their non-smoking section has no Video Poker whatsoever.
Ultimately, I am going to suggest that the, ‘Play $500 on Us,’ Promotion at the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, Ohio should be avoided. I believe that it is possible, (though I am not saying it is definitely the case) that they make a person engaging in this Promotion jump through hoops to get the Free Play, or avoid loading the Free Play onto the card and sending the E-Mail, in the hopes that the person will forget about it and might engage in same day losses greater than those they would usually incur. Perhaps the goal is that the person will decide getting the Rebate is not worth their time. This might not be true, in general, but even if the issue with my girlfriend’s card was a one-time thing, the Customer Service treatment that took place after that (prior to talking to the final person, and typically, one would not have that person’s direct phone number) was lacking in every possible respect.
Once again, this is not an indictment of Hollywood properties on the whole which, I believe, are essentially managed as individual properties in many regards. I believe that because a different Hollywood in another state is running an entirely different New Member Promotion by which someone signing up for the card simply receives $25 Free Play. That indicates to me that each property has some level of autonomy. I am simply stating that I would avoid this Promotion if the destination casino is Hollywood Casino Columbus because their Customer Service is nothing short of awful, and furthermore, I am not entirely convinced that the casino intends to do what the Promotional materials and Staff claims that it will do.
If potentially dealing with a similar PITA sounds appealing to you, by all means, go for it!
As I'm sure you are well aware, this situation is not unique. While on paper a promotion sounds good, it's the actual process that really kills the value for me. No one at the player's club ever knows anything about these special promotions and how they work. It's always unclear when I will get paid by the casino. One person will say 24 hrs, the next person will say at the end of 30 days. I am thinking of one instance in particular when I did not receive the prize in 30 days, I asked them about it, and they said 'oops, okay we will contact the special promo person about it. Give it another 30 days'. The inconvenience of some of these promos kills the value for me, especially when I have to figure in 5 Hr travel time. So yeah, if a promo sounds nice, that's not good enough all the time due to apathetic employees and an obfuscated player reward system.
the phrase "ain't worth it" comes to mind
That's often true, though there have been Promotions at many casinos that have run smoothly and for which the Player's Club actually knew what was going on. It largely just depends on the individual casino. I do agree that if you ask three different Player's Club representatives about a Promotion, that is also how many different answers you will usually get.
I suppose the aspect of it that surprises me most with casinos not having their ducks in a row is that you offer a Promotion in the hopes of getting new Player's Club signups...that makes sense...but then, when you fail to do the things that you say you are going to do and make it a PITA for people to get the exact thing that you offered them, (nothing more) that can leave people with a worse taste in their mouth than if you had not had a strong New Member Promotion in the first place. I'm not suggesting casinos shouldn't employ player-friendly Promotions, of course, just that they should properly execute them.
In fairness, most Promotions of that nature do not go THAT badly.
For the forum's sake, common sense cannot be calculated. Someone can plot and figure, but the odds of being stiffed once your money is taken are good. Too many hoops for you to jump through for it to not be obvious institutionally the scheme was planned out from the get go. There is plenty of money to be made when dishonesty is a tool a casino is willing to use. You worked hard getting your free play, too hard, and we can only guess how many people played hard and wound up with nothing. If a casino was a little more serious, you would get your free play and know when without hassle. They would also take into account higher rates of redemption and reduce the rebate. I'm a cynic, but with legitimate governments, an attorney general would never let such a big company even think they can get away with such a bold scam. Damn I am disgusted with Ohio.
Unfortunately, I tend to agree with most of what you said, though I will say the Vegas casinos generally have these types of things under control in my limited experience.
Wow, 1000 % unacceptable treatment from Hollywood.
I think you should submit a formal complaint with the Ohio Casino Control Commission (maybe confirm ahead of time with them that you can do this anonymously, if you prefer). Consider that to be (another) service to your fellow "gaming" patrons.
According to the OCCC website:
"The Commission seeks to ensure that all casinos are operating with high integrity, including that the games operate fairly to each patron and that the casinos are following best practices......
[b]As regulators of the state's four casinos, our mission is to hold the casino operator and employees accountable to Ohio’s very high standards."[/b]
Perhaps copy the Attorney General on your letter.
I would also suggest getting promotion rules in writing whenever possible.
I have another issue with them that might result in a complaint to Gaming, and while I'm certainly going to write about it later, I'm not saying anything specifically about it at this time.
Yeah, giving this some more thought, as far as the puppet Ohio Casino Control Commission is concerned, I think you would have had a much stronger case if you just waited for all this to unfold on its own and you did not get the Rebate . But in a nutshell, you (EVENTUALLY) got what you were promised, case closed.