McMurry Gambles on Casino Magazine

McMurry Publishing Inc., Phoenix, plans this week to begin distributing the first magazine targeting patrons of individual casinos with content that varies depending on gamblers' playing habits.

The custom publisher plans to send 100,000 copies of Parlay magazine to players who roam the pits of three casinos that monitor visitors' activities through a loyalty program using magnetic strip cards. Gamblers ranging from high rollers to slot junkies collect points redeemable for gifts and special events by swiping the cards — similar to ATM cards — at machines and game tables as they play.

McMurry's new clients — Traverse Bay Casino Resorts, Traverse City, MI; Casino Apache, Mescalero, NM; and Treasure Bay Casino, Biloxi, MS — use the cards to track which games individuals play, how long they play and in what denominations they wager. At Traverse Bay, a gaming house owned by the Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, visitors accrue points on their cards based on their “value of play,” said Mark Belanger, the resort's director of marketing.

McMurry will handle publishing, printing and distribution of the magazine. Though Parlay's cover art will not vary from casino to casino, the first issue's 24 pages of content will be 100 percent customizable, said Chris McMurry, the publisher's chief operating officer. Each casino also can break its customer base into segments, meaning, for example, that roulette players might receive stories with tips on how to bet in that particular game.

More importantly, the casinos hope to prod players along in the evolution they undergo as they advance to more complicated games, McMurry said. Gamblers who play the slots might normally avoid moving onto the blackjack pits because they fear embarrassing themselves. Parlay is designed to coax those readers along by giving them articles on blackjack protocol and strategy.

“One of the reasons people don't play blackjack or craps or some of the more sophisticated games is that they're scared of them. They don't understand how to play,” McMurry said. Parlay will attempt to ease those players into the higher-stakes games.

For example, an article the three casinos could choose for their first issue is subtitled, “A Craps Virgin Enters the Fray of the Fastest, Loudest and Most Intimidating Game on the Floor!” Additional information touts the game's good odds.

Casinos increasingly use customer tracking similar to the affinity and membership programs sponsored by other industries. The tracking collects customers' demographic data and monitors spending habits. Gamblers can redeem collected points for gifts such as camcorders, compact discs, and men's and ladies' watches. Traverse Bay intermittently announces to the gaming floor that anyone using his or her “player development card” for a certain period of time is eligible to win tickets to events like Detroit Piston games.

The cards also hold simple demographic information, including name and address, and staff members who take applications for the cards are trained to ask gamblers further questions ranging from whether they play golf to the name of their favorite Scotch, Belanger said.

Parlay, which is slated as a quarterly, will not carry outside advertising. McMurry publishes 21 magazines syndicated for particular industries or sponsored by individual businesses, primarily for the banking and healthcare fields.

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