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VOL. 128 | NO. 67 | Friday, April 5, 2013

House Money

Caesars Entertainment goes bold with new $1 million giveaway

By Andy Meek

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Like the gamblers who pace their floors, pull their levers and hover over their betting tables hoping for a payday, sometimes casino companies feel compelled to make uncommonly big bets of their own.

Caesars Entertainment kicked off a weekly $1 million giveaway at its three Tunica casinos at a recent Memphis Grizzlies game, when illusionist Rob Lake made an armored truck appear out of thin air.

(Photo Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment)

Starting Saturday, April 6, Caesars Entertainment will do just that, when the company releases the name of the first winner of $1 million to kick off one of the richest casino promotions in history.

It’s being described as one of the richest promotions of all time because the following Saturday, Caesars is drawing another name from entries at its Harrah’s, Horseshoe and Tunica Roadhouse casinos in Tunica to award another $1 million.

Same for the Saturday after that. And the Saturday after that. One million dollars awarded each week, with no end date for now.

“We said if we’re going to make a statement, let’s make a statement like we’ve never made before,” said R. Scott Barber, Caesars Mid-South regional president.

The “statement” he referred to is Caesars’ nationwide promotion “Millionaire Maker,” powered by Caesars’ Total Rewards program. Barber said that over the years, the gaming company’s promotions seemed to keep getting increasingly complicated “and frankly even confused some of us on occasion.”

So Caesars wanted to make this one simple.

To be eligible to win, Total Rewards members have to swipe their Total Rewards card at a Total Rewards center at the company’s Harrah’s, Horseshoe or Roadhouse casinos in Tunica once during the week between 4 a.m. Sunday and 8:30 p.m. the following Saturday.

Guests are entered again by playing with their Total Rewards card at those casinos. And then they wait to see if they’ll be transformed into newly minted millionaires.

The promotion is, for Caesars, a bet not unlike the kind its hardiest players might undertake. The scale of the promotion is such that Caesars hopes to attract new customers to the brand and bring back existing customers more often than they might otherwise play, according to Barber.

And he has some numbers to underscore the context.

The economic slump hit Tunica’s temples of luck hard. The area’s casino market finished 2007 pulling in about $1.2 billion. But Barber said last year the market finished barely above $800 million in revenue, meaning it’s seen more than $400 million in revenue evaporate in recent years.

“It was literally to the point where we said, ‘We’ve got to try something new,’” Barber explained. “We’ve got to do something that can jumpstart visitation and hopefully stimulate some revenue growth back in the marketplace.”

Caesars preceded the promotion with a splashy event that took place in Downtown Memphis.

Prior to the March 29 Memphis Grizzlies game, illusionist Rob Lake performed a feat on FedExForum’s outdoor plaza. As a crowd of onlookers watched, he made an armored truck appear out of thin air.

The point being that Caesars is making millionaires out of thin air, so it makes sense to do the same for the vessel that delivers the cash.

“This is an actual guaranteed win promotion,” Barber said. “It’s highly unusual and by far the largest promotion we’ve ever run in the history of our entire company.”

Caesars marketing vice president Jesse Keaveny said customers don’t need to be present to win.

“We designed this as a very simplistic offering,” Keaveny said. “So there are no gimmicks. It’s not a chance to win, it’s an actual winner each week.”

The company is offering to pay out the winnings as a lump sum or as $200,000 a year for five years.

Caesars owns three of the nine casinos in the immediate Tunica area. Also as part of the contest, the announcement of each week’s winner will be simulcast among the three casinos.

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