Database Effort Yields Winnings in Loyalty Promotion

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Penn National Gaming Inc. got a response rate of more than 37 percent from a targeted direct mail effort to certain members of its loyalty program promoting one of its popular appreciation nights.


Penn National Gaming, Wyomissing, PA, is a leading owner and operator of casinos, racetracks and off-track wagering facilities in the United States and Canada.


In 1999, the company implemented Streamline, loyalty database software for the gaming industry from Smart Button Associates, Newark, DE, that lets clients understand the value of their players and motivate them to become more profitable as well as acquire new customers.


The software runs at Penn National Racecourse and the Pocono Downs in addition to 11 off-track wagering facilities in Pennsylvania. These sites let patrons watch and wager on live thoroughbred racing held across the country that is simulcast at the facilities.


Streamline runs Penn National's loyalty program, Players' Choice Club, which has more than 130,000 members. Penn National focuses on the past 12 months of customers' activity. There are 18,000 members with activity on their accounts in the past 12 months.


"We take all of the data from our players who use a card [for wagering], and we transfer that information into the Smart Button software, and they convert that data into points that can be redeemed by the players," said Bill Bork, director, pari-mutuel marketing at Penn National Gaming.


In April, Penn National developed a Reading Fan Appreciation Day promotion at its Reading, PA, location for Players' Choice customers who bet an average of $25 or more per trip for three or more trips over one calendar year. Fan Appreciation Day was April 16, and DM pieces were in-home two weeks before the event. The promotion ran on this date to encourage visitors to the Reading location on a traditionally slow night, the Friday after Easter Sunday.


To retrieve the names, Penn National used its Players' Choice Club database.


"The points are the foundation of our system, but we use the data that we collect from people wagering and earning points to invite them to special events and promotions," Bork said. "Since we have the data that proves that they, on average, wagered $25 per trip, we know what we can expect if we invite them in for a special event."


Penn National chose this group because "they have already proven that they are active customers," he said. "They came in at least three times in the last 12 months, and most of them, more. They've shown an interest in horseracing and wagering, and we want to cultivate that and see ... if we can get them into the next customer segment."


Bork said Penn National divides its promotions into three categories: acquisition, lost customers and loyalty. The company runs three or four acquisition and lost customer programs apiece and more than five loyalty programs yearly. Lost customer programs aim to get back customers who may have lapsed in their play for six or 12 months.


Customers who fit the criteria for the Reading event were invited to a free buffet with free admission and a free racing program. The invitation noted that prize drawings would be held through the evening. The promotion also was designed to illustrate the benefits of Players' Choice Club membership.


On the day of the promotion, the total number of players was 77 percent better than an average of three days: the same day the year before; the same day the week before; and the same day the week following.


And the total wagered by customers at the Reading location on races that took place at Penn National Racecourse in Harrisburg, PA, climbed 47.2 percent over the average for the three days used in the attendance comparison. The postcard sent for the promotion had a return rate of 37.2 percent.


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