Marketing Communication Ink

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Turn A Negative Into a Positive PR Opportunity.

Winning Blackjack hand

Winning Blackjack hand

About a year ago, I read something about a company suing one of its customers, and how, generally speaking, it’s not considered good business practice. Pretty much goes without saying. And yet, here we go again.

I just read about another such case … in fact if you can believe this — and I can’t — a casino suing its customers for winning! Are you kidding me?

Apparently the suit stems from an incident occurring last April at the Golden Nugget casino, in Atlantic City NJ, where a group of 14 betters at a baccarat table noticed a pattern to the order of the cards being dealt. Turns out, the playing cards were unshuffled, even though the casino had purchased what they thought were pre-shuffled decks. As game play went on, the players, realizing that the hands were coming out in a predictive, repeating order, increased their bets from $10 per hand to $5000 per wager, and went on to register an incredible 41 straight winning hands, resulting in a 1.5 million dollar net loss for the casino. The Golden Nugget wants their money back.

Here’s Where The Casino Went Wrong

Now, first, we all know that casinos are highly regulated, monitored, and have security cameras up the ying yang.  So where were the pit bosses and the security experts who watch every move on monitor, you might ask? It’s not like they didn’t notice something was amiss, especially when crowds around the table started forming as the wins kept building. Apparently, the casino staff did realize something was happening but, suspecting the players were cheating, allowed the game to continue presumably to catch them in the act. Shouldn’t be the players’ problem, if you ask me.

Second, casinos don’t mind winning money, so what makes them think they can sue when they lose?

Third, do their lawyers seriously think they can win this case?! Or do they just think they can intimidate their customers into returning the funds? The article further reports that one of the winning players was rousted from his bed, middle of the night, “slammed” into a wall, and interrogated in a separate room for 8 hours. Now that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, if it hasn’t been filed already.

Apparently, both sides have now filed suits, and the latest is that the casino has agreed to drop their charges against the players, if the players drop their suit against the casino. But, unhappy at being labeled “cheaters” and having rung up the dollars in legal fees, the players are not willing to drop their counter suit. (And incidentally, I should point out, that the players are individuals from many different parts of the country, not any sort of organized group.)

Turning a Loss Into a Positive PR Opportunity – My Real Point of This Story

While the Golden Nugget casino certainly can and should be suing the makers of the supposedly  “pre-shuffled cards” (who have admitted their error in inadvertently providing unshuffled playing decks), was also suing their customers the right thing to do?

Couldn’t they have EARNED WAY MORE GOODWILL by instead turning this into a positive PR story about their lucky winners? I believe there are any number of things they could have done to turn this into a positive, if only they’d thought about it.

For example, here are just a few ideas for earning goodwill and positive press:

Miscellaneous Playing Cards

  • Invite the winners back … offer them comp rooms and meals in exchange for photos and a PR story. I bet (no pun intended) that many of the players would gladly have returned for another visit, sat back down at the tables (and probably lost a good deal of their winnings back to the casino), had they been treated nicely to begin with. I also bet they would have told all their friends about the great experience – how well the Golden Nugget treated them, and no doubt would have spread their happy story by word of mouth, Twitter, Facebook, maybe guest appearances on some news show, and so on. After all, how many times are you ever going to see a winning hand dealt 41 times in a row?
  • The casino could then have churned out their own PR story to be told and retold in TV news, print and online versions of newspapers and magazines, newsletters, gambling blogs, perhaps a YouTube video, maybe even TV commercials?
  • And, the casino could have continued to perpetuate the story by holding annual or semi-annual baccarat events and invited these players back as celebrities to mix and mingle with high-stakes players.

I’ve only spent about 3 seconds thinking of ways this could have been turned into a positive PR opportunity, but I’m sure there are tons of ways the casino could have spun the story to bring in new players who would all be hoping the same good fortune happens to them.

And, what a positive PR story that would have been!  I’m not saying the 1.5 million the casino lost is anything to sneeze at … surely they win and lose that kind of money every week, if not every day. And in the scheme of things, for them, it would not have been an unreasonable investment to buy tremendous PR and goodwill. Certainly it seems a better idea, to me, than suing their customers to get their money back.

It just goes to show the importance of having a crisis communications plan in hand. Next time, they should consult with their Marketing team, rather than their lawyers.

So, what’s your opinion?

Photo credits: Winning Blackjack hand, Flickr by Images_of_Money. Playing cards by Flickr by incurable_hippie.


2 comments on “Turn A Negative Into a Positive PR Opportunity.

  1. Kasey
    September 15, 2012

    Congrats, you’ve won me over. I totally agree with everything you’ve said.


    • suzykedz
      September 15, 2012

      Hi Kasey – thanks and good luck with your own blog – which I see you’re also just getting off the ground. Since you’ve traveled to other parts of the world, perhaps you’ll have some amazing photos and stories to share with the world — just like Patrick — who is now also following, and has some fantastic photos of his own. Thanks to all my readers, and keep the comments coming!

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