The Benefit of the “Benefit of the Doubt” Rule

Have you ever complained out loud, in company, about the inhuman treatment dished out at the DMV, the post office, your bank or any other archetypal bastion of bureaucracy? You take a number, wait endlessly for the most impersonal service imaginable, and you finally leave fuming and dissatisfied that you omitted to complete Form XYZ 999. Unfortunately, you have no choice but to complete the form and return for another attempt at clearing the red tape. Then, and only then can you legally unleash your classic Corvette on the unsuspecting public.

You return and complete the given task because you really have no choice. But I wonder how guests, who have choices, feel about returning to a casino where they had the following experiences.

Player 1 spends $500 at the roulette table over the course of three or four hours of play. Frustrated with his lack of progress, he colors up his remaining chips and is given $57 in the form of two green checks, a red and a couple of singles. He examines the chips and decides, as a parting gesture, to dispense with his odd $7 by placing them on the courtesy bet (0,00), pocketing the two green checks for safe-keeping. Lady Luck is on his side as the ball lands cleanly in Zero. Sadly, Lady Luck had not bargained for the $10 minimum bet requirement, and our player has his $7 returned with a procedurally mandated rebuke advising him of the table minimum.

Meanwhile, at a nearby craps game, a seasoned and battle-hardened grinder is close to the end of an eight-hour session. Cynical as he is, he has a $5 don’t pass bet up with a point of nine. Deciding, wisely, to take the lay he carefully heels a $5 and $1 check and prepares for the worst. “Eureka, seven out,” he thinks, but, again this gentleman has fallen foul of the minimum bet that requires a lay of $7.50 to win $5. His $6 is returned with a reprimand for failure to play by the rules.

Nearby at the baccarat tables, a player raises the alarm when his winning side bet is inadvertently removed. It’s a $50 bet that’s gone missing, so, surveillance is called in to verify the player’s honesty. Sure enough the eye confirms the presence of the bet—$50. Hold on though, this is an exotic bet that returns odds of 8-to-1 with a tie on 6 and 100 to 1 with a 6 card tie on 6. This particular tie was of the 8-to-1 variety. No matter, the maximum bet is $25 lest the 100-to-1 option should prove too difficult to fade. So, according to the rules, the player has his $25 excess returned and is paid the balance of $200.

In each of the above examples, more vigilant dealing and supervision could have prevented the error before its commission. So, the error is, in fact, ours. Why, then, do we choose to make our error the guest’s problem and then compound that error with a poor decision supported by the “rules”?

We understand the “rule,” but do we understand the reason for it? More importantly, does the supervisor charged with enforcing the rule understand the reason for it? Since the above examples are drawn from actual observations, I would suggest we have a disconnect.

From a training perspective, the industry has concentrated largely on “this is what you do,” often ignoring “this is why you do it.” This starts with dealer training school—inside hand, outside hand, color for color, spread this, prove that, etc. This rote method of learning has something of a brainwash effect. Progression to the supervisory level has only usually required either a bad shoulder or a drop in the toke rate, together with a submission to the “rules.”

This is where the language of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” comes from.

Paradoxically, one of the most common situations we encounter is dealt with far more reasonably: The “did he or didn’t he” signal for a hit on blackjack. Often, the floor supervisor did not see the incident, the dealer is unsure and the player is looking bemused at his total of 24 against the dealer’s deuce. Surveillance coverage can be ambiguous, so common sense and practice dictate a “mulligan” for the player and the game continues. We may even have a procedure that covers this situation, absent a “rule” that says the player is always “taking a shot.”

All floor supervisors are not created equal, and they may range from the garrulous and congenial to a “rules Nazi.” We need a new rule to satisfy this broad spectrum, particularly for those who crave structure and execute their duties in the black and white world of procedure manuals. I propose one such mandatory rule, which I shall call the “Benefit of the Doubt” rule. This shall read as follows:

“Except where life or limb is endangered, every guest is entitled to break every rule we have at least once. Each rule infraction shall be followed by a polite explanation of the house requirements for future reference.”

Under this rule, your floor supervisors will be obliged to speak to your guests on a positive note. You never know, you may end up taking more bets and satisfying more customers. Isn’t that the business we are in?

Simultaneously, we can address the common dealer complaint that goes, “He/she never backs up the dealer.” Front-line decision making should consider what best serves the purpose of the operation, i.e. the maximization of revenue. Given that retention of players is a considerably less expensive exercise than the development of new players, a policy of always backing up the dealer will, overall, negatively impact the operation and, by association dealer income. (Readers of a previous article I wrote for CEM in 2009 titled “T.I.P.S” may remember the equation, Revenue = Tips.) Thus, a good supervisory decision is always one that supports the dealer, because it is intended to maximize revenue, thereby maximizing dealer tips.

Introduce a training element that explains why we do what we do, and how that best serves all concerned and you are on your way to a better educated, more productive level of supervision. Don’t forget to call this session “How to Make More Tips,” because if Tips = Revenue, it follows that Revenue = Tips.

By the way, I was at the DMV recently for a complicated change of registration. I was served by a very friendly employee at Window 13 and left 20 minutes later completely satisfied. Now, if only I had a Corvette.

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