Player tracking systems revealed more than a pit boss ever could: over time, Harrah’s can create a portrait of the person’s risk profile, including how much money a player typically loses before they stop playing and what kinds of gifts to give them to keep them on the gaming floor. Sometimes, that can be a penthouse suite; other times, it can be as little as giving a player $15 in cash. In 2012, This American Life charted the lurid and unsettling extreme of how these systems can be used in a story about a Harrah’s in Indiana that enticed a woman to keep playing with unlimited hotel suites, diamond jewelry, and free trips to the Kentucky Derby. The perks fueled her gaming habit until she was $125,000 in debt.
Every casino today has a form of the data system invented at Harrah’s — most of them are now built by Bally. “We are the envy of probably every consumer products industry out there because of the amount of data that we really have on our players,” said Price. Newer systems can even visualize heat maps of casino activity — an operator can see precisely how much is being spent in a specific time period in localized areas.