Atlantic City Casino Promotion Bashed By Watchdogs Is a Big Hit with Gamblers

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The “You can’t lose” promotion, which promised to refund losses at slot machines Atlantic City’s Revel, appears to be a big winner for the casino—even if consumer advocates think the deal is misleading at best.

Atlantic City has experienced hard times over the past few years, a spell during which the economy has faltered and gambling has spread rapidly throughout the country—thereby eliminating the need to head to the Jersey Shore to play the slots. Last year, the city’s casinos grossed $3 billion, down from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006.

A.C.’s woes continued this past July, when the destination’s 12 casinos collectively generated $297.2 million, a 3.6% decrease from the July 2012 total, $308.2 million, according to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. July revenues dropped steeply in particular at the Tropicana and Trump Plaza, down 26% and 25% respectively, compared to last year.

(MORE: Casino Revenues Are Up in 2012 — Thanks in Part to Gambling in Kansas)

Not all Atlantic City casinos have been faring poorly, however. The Revel, which opened in the spring of 2012, took in $23.4 million in slot machine and table game revenues last month, a 33% increase over the July 2012 total of $17.5 million. The Press of Atlantic City reported that Revel’s rise hasn’t come merely as a result of being the newest player in A.C., but due to some very special promotions:

Normally mired near the bottom of the pack in monthly revenue, Revel jumped to sixth place with the help of its new “Gamblers Wanted” marketing strategy. The campaign included a “You can’t lose!” promotion that promised to refund gamblers’ slot losses.

Apparently, many gamblers jumped on Revel’s amazing-sounding promotion, which promised to refund slot losses of more than $100 from July 1 to 31. Of course, the promotion wasn’t quite as generous as the marketers would have you believe. The catch, as the Star-Ledger’s “Bamboozled” column,, and other consumer watchdogs have pointed out, is that the “refund” doesn’t come in the form of cash or money back on a credit card, but as credits that can be used on future slot play at Revel. What’s more, instead of awarding the credits in one lump sum, they’re doled out in 5% increments weekly over the course of 20 weeks, and each allotment of credits must be used the week they’re “refunded” or they disappear.

The Philadelphia Inquirer explained how the promotion works in real life:

Say you lose $1,000. (Losses are covered between $100 and $100,000.) Each week, beginning Aug. 5, you’ll have 50 bettable bucks put on your Revel Card, and you’ll have to visit Revel to use them. Each week you miss between then and mid-December, say goodbye to that week’s amount.

It’s not so much a refund as a chance to risk your money all over again.

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It’s noteworthy that while the “You can’t lose” promotion seems to have been a big winner for Revel, one of the reasons the casino is able to boast a large increase in revenues this July is because it experienced such a lackluster opening summer. Revel even had to file for bankruptcy protection less than a year after opening its doors.

And while most Atlantic City casinos saw their businesses decline in July, one managed to surpass Revel in rising revenues. The Borgata took in $64 million last month, a $10 million increase over July 2012, compared to Revel’s $6 million year-over-year increase for July.

Borgata executives say that the company can partly thank Revel’s “You can’t lose” promotion for the Borgata’s non-losing July. As the Associated Press reported:

Executive vice president Joe Lupo said the casino profited from displeasure with Revel’s slot promotion.

“We clearly benefited from the perception that some properties in this city made their customers jump through hoops,” he said.