Rewards programs in the gaming industry present a unique set of challenges.
Just ask Joan Ellingson, who serves as Account Executive for Strategic Partners at First Bankcard. She’s been helping steer First Bankcard's integration with MGM Resorts International’s (MGMRI) M life® Rewards MasterCard® program since just after its inception.
“MGM is very data-smart,” she says. “They capture a lot of information from customers—gaming habits, hotel stays, credit limits, average FICO® Scores—all of which helps to create accurate forecasts. It’s up to us to use this data in a meaningful way.”
To do so, Joan and her team needed the program to reflect the breadth of MGMRI’s business. A card linked strictly to gaming wouldn’t do the trick; as anyone who has been to Las Vegas recently knows, casinos are heavily diversified entertainment centers these days. In addition to the blackjack tables and nightclubs, they pull in significant spending from more family-oriented activities such as shows, restaurants, and shopping.
In fact, gaming is now a minority portion of MGM’s business, with more than 70% of revenue coming from other sources. The loyalty program would need to tap into each of these revenue streams.
The program would necessarily be limited in one significant way. Since gambling is restricted to those age 21 and up, cardholders needed to be of legal gambling age as well. This is a restriction that did not apply to any of First Bankcard’s existing partners, all of whom permit customers to sign up as soon as they turn 18. The age requirement created some complexities around enrollment and marketing the card to prospective customers.
To top it all off, the program needed to cater to multiple tiers of customer—from young families to high rollers and everyone in between. MGMRI wanted each of these customer segments to be eager to earn points through spending both on- and off-property, and then redeem their accumulated points on their next trip to Las Vegas. And most importantly, it needed to be simple to understand and easy to use.
Thankfully, putting together a customized, easy-to-use rewards program was right in First Bankcard’s wheelhouse.
To begin, First Bankcard helped MGMRI implement an offering it refers to as ‘3-2-1.’ On most purchases, customers receive one reward point per dollar spent. However, when they use the the card to make purchases at any MGMRI property, they get three points for every dollar spent, while all gas and grocery purchases earn two points for every dollar. The points can then be redeemed at slot machines, on hotel stays, in the spa, and on a slew of other custom experiences.
It also put together a five-tier program to cater to MGMRI’s different customer spending segments. These range from the Sapphire level—which spans 0–24,999 points and offers discounts on shopping and shows—through Pearl, Gold, and Platinum all the way up to the invite-only Noir. Invitees to join the Noir tier enjoy all the very best MGMRI has to offer, including complimentary limousine service to and from the airport and guaranteed reservations at exclusive shows and restaurants.
Looking forward, the First Bankcard team aims to get even deeper with its integration. Customer spending data and trends will become more robust over time, allowing for even more customized solutions.
First Bankcard offers flexibility and customization for each of its partners. Click here to find out more about becoming a partner.
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