Online Demo Games Paying Off for Trop AC

It’s no secret that many players can become nervous or intimidated when they sit down at a new table game or unfamiliar slot machine, not knowing what to expect and fearful of making a mistake.

But a funny thing happened when the Tropicana Resort Casino in Atlantic City went live with its online gaming platform in November. The casino found that players had sought out the “demo mode” versions of table games and slots on the site and were practicing the games at home or on Tropicana’s new mobile app to familiarize themselves with the games before laying down real money either online or at the brick-and-mortar casino in Atlantic City.

For the Tropicana, it’s a win-win situation, according to Steve Callender, general manager of the Tropicana Resort Casino.

“Our partner is Gamesys, and they developed the concept of practice games for, and we were very supportive of it,” Callender said. “We thought it was a great idea for people to explore and experience the games without having to put any money in to just have fun.”

He said casino executives have talked to players who shared that they enjoyed the demo games. Some were new players who had previously played online, and others were Tropicana players who returned to the Atlantic City casino after a long hiatus.

“For whatever reason, they just hadn’t come to the shore anymore, but this gives us an opportunity to market to them in different ways,” he said.

Callender knows people get intimidated sometimes by not really understanding all the rules of the game. Now, he said, “People tell me they’re playing different games in the demo mode and get used to them, and then they click over to the real money,” he said.

He also said that the games play the same as those in the casino or online.

“You’re playing the real game, the blackjack game, the roulette game or a slot game. It plays exactly as it does online whether you’re playing a game with funds or not,” he said. “We want these games to be the mirror image of what happens on that machine when they’re playing online so they know exactly what they’re getting.”

Callender said he believes online gaming will be a boon to the Atlantic City market, and the Trop already has seen its numbers rise from about $841,000 in January to $1.35 million in February. In addition, he’s seeing positive signs in the Tropicana’s ability to reach out to not only new online players but also those who haven’t visited the casino in a while. “We’re talking to more customers than we have in a long time,” he said. “People who haven’t come to Atlantic City in a long time, we’re back in touch with them now. When you don’t come for a while, you stop getting offers, and you’re kind of out of sight, out of mind.”

Now the casino is creating new merged offers for players whether they’re online or brick-and-mortar customers “so folks have a reason again to come to Atlantic City when they have time,” Callendar said.

For the new online players, it’s an opportunity to drive new business. “I think we’re going to get some land-based trips out of them when the timing is right—whether it’s getting invited to a tournament or getting to see a show that they’re interested in, we’re going to be making offers to them,” he said.

And, Callender noted, the Tropicana and Atlantic City have a lot to offer. “What we’ve done at the Tropicana is we’ve added a lot of nongaming amenities so we’re giving people a reason to come here beyond gaming,” he said. “We have over 50 restaurants and shops so people can get a full experience here, and up and down the Boardwalk you can find places that are making sure their product is in good shape and the experience is entertaining.”

At the Tropicana, its Havana-themed The Quarter offers two nightclubs, a comedy showroom, a 2,000-seat performing arts theater, and a variety of restaurants and bars, including the popular Cuba Libre.

While he acknowledged the tough times in Atlantic City, Callender said casinos such as the Tropicana are working hard to win visitation, including going after the convention business.

“It’s a combination of marketing and just leveraging your assets,” he said. “So even though it’s difficult in the middle of the week, our weekends are great. We are doing our best to offer some things that people can’t get at other places.”

One thing that the market has going for it is that it’s a true destination, said Callender, who started working in Atlantic City the day legalized gaming opened for business 35 years ago.

Other states have properties sprinkled all over. “Here,” he said, “we have all these places that are all five minutes away from each other. People like it here. We have a lot of people who live in places where there is convenience gaming around them, but they come here because they like the experience.”