At the beginning of December 2012 I commented that Pixie and I had never received any promo mailers from the Sac & Fox despite the signs they posted when they got rid of all their match play.

Since that time, neither Pixie nor I so much as crossed the threshold of that casino. There are other casinos in Shawnee that offer (not very generous) match play and half-assed matchplay (play $20, get $10 and so forth). So why play at the place that offers nothing?

And then, interestingly, Pixie got a March 2013 mailer from them. Her mailer consists of a whole array of $5.00 free play coupons, all with different dates in the month of March.

I didn’t get a mailer. Which is interesting, because we always played there at the same times and wagered similar amounts. (She has maybe 15% more accumulated points than me based on our play there during the first part of 2012.)

So, yesterday we stopped in (on our way to buffet dinner at the Fire Lake Grand) so Pixie could get her free play. Me? I wandered over to the Player’s Club and asked them to verify my mailing address. There’s always a chance I’ve got the wrong address in the database, right? (Oklahoma casinos are terrible about scanning the mag stripe on your ID and updating the mailing address in their database without asking you; when your ID has a physical address where you cannot receive mail, this is a problem.)

I didn’t say a word about why I was asking. Unsolicited, the woman at the player’s club said to me in a preachy, dismissive tone of voice:

“Are you asking because you didn’t get a promo mailer? Because I’m sure your address is fine. You just don’t get a mailer if you haven’t been in here and playing enough!”

I allowed as how I hadn’t been in since November, and she interrupted me:

“That’s why you didn’t get a mailer! It’s all based on your play from last month, so if you didn’t come in, no mailer.”

Patiently I explained that I had thought so, too, but that someone I knew had just gotten a mailer and we had neither one of us been into the casino since November, I just wanted to be sure about the address.

“That could only happen if she has played just a whole lot more than you.”

By this time I was getting pretty tired of the snotty service. But I just asked her, again, patiently, if she’d please just verify my mailing address. Finally she did, checking her screen and reading back to me my correct mailing address.

So, that’s the scoop, people. The player’s club at the Sac & Fox is claiming, rather rudely, that they only send mailers to people who have been playing recently. It’s not true. But we don’t know what other criteria they may be using. And apparently the player’s club reps don’t know either, or have been instructed not to give good info if they do know.

On the bright side, I noticed a new bank of brand-new AGS “Pay It Again” video poker machines, which would be the newest video poker machines in Shawnee and the only ones that aren’t ancient and horrible Game Kings. According to this page, the worst payout option available from the manufacturer of that machine is 96.92%, which means it would be a fairly inexpensive seat from which to rack up a lot of play. (That’s a poor return for a serious video poker player, but I strongly suspect it’s better than the default slot machine percentages in that casino.) So, now that Pixie has coupons, we may go back and give them a little bit of business while I see how much poker I have to play to start getting coupons of my own.

Remember when the Sac & Fox casinos had their match play taken out and shot, back in early October?

At the time they promised that match play coupons would be mailed out. Pixie and I haven’t seen any as of December 1. Have you? Please comment if so.

Thursday night (November 29) we were passing by the Sac & Fox Shawnee casino around midnight so we decided to drop in for giggles and see what they are currently advertising for promotions. The place was like a post-apocalyptic wasteland; the parking lot was so empty we literally thought the place was closed. Inside, it was nothing but bank on bank of lonely slot machines.

Recent changes: some machines were torn out in the middle of the casino, and there was carpentry equipment stacked there. A sign says that table games are being installed. Another construction sign shows an artist conception drawing of the casino facade with new signage and lights, indicating that there’s to be exterior renovation as well.

The only December promotion being advertised was an extremely stingy card swipe scheme. No free swipes for anybody; you have to show up during a fairly narrow time slot on Saturday afternoons in December, earn 50 points (which means “wager fifty dollars” at this casino although they won’t say so if you ask them) and then swipe your card at the player’s club for a 1-in-20 chance to win a prize. The prizes are not itemized but include a few tech gadgets (like televisions) and unspecified amounts of play (I’m not sure if it was free play or match play, I forgot to take notes) in amounts “up to” $500. For each additional fifty points you earn, you also get another swipe.

I call this promotion “extremely stingy” because of math. First of all, I think we can safely assume that “up to” means that most prizes will be “less than” $500. But even if we assumed that all prizes were worth $500 (and some of the tech prizes clearly are not) that would still work out to a $50 investment to earn a prize chance worth $25 ($500 divided by 20). That’s like the “half-assed match play” bet-$20-get-$10 promotions at the Seminole casinos and the Fire Lake Grand. It would be worth playing this promotion if all the prizes really were valued at $500; but the actual prize distribution is not published, and I think we can safely assume that a lot more people will be winning $5 or $25 or $100 than will be winning $500 in play or expensive tech gadgets. If you are putting $50 at risk to earn a prize chance worth $.25 ($5 divided by 20) that’s hardly worth getting out of bed for.

It’s been funny to observe how empty some of the casinos have gotten recently after abandoning popular promotions. I wonder how long they will be content to sit empty on Thursday nights before they come to understand that promotions are what get people to get in their cars and make the long drives to come and gamble?

It is the editorial position here at Okie Gamblers that when Oklahoma casinos fail to honor their advertised match play, we should do our best to publicize that behavior. The only way to incentivize casinos to behave better is to call them out when they deal unfairly.

This is from the advertising placard for the October promotions at the Holdenville Creek Nation Casino (one of our favorites):

That’s an unequivocal offer for $10 match play for ladies on Wednesdays in October.

So, on Wednesday October 31 we stopped in. I went to talk to the Silver Swords machine while Pixie went to put her $10 in the Skee-Ball game.

She played her $10. The little blue coins did not light up.

She went to the promotions desk. They said “No, it’s Halloween, no Ladies Day match play today. The Halloween promotions are drawings, it’s on the sign.”

Here’s what the advertising placard says about the Halloween promotion:

You could deduce from that — I guess — that the Halloween drawings might replace the (less generous) Ladies Day drawings scheduled for the same day. Although I have been to plenty of other casinos that have special drawings going on simultaneously with their regularly scheduled weekly promotions. In any case, we weren’t there for the drawings, and we weren’t expecting both sets to be happening.

However, there’s nothing about that Halloween advertising that hints or suggests that the Ladies Day match play would not be offered as advertised.

So once Pixie learned she wouldn’t be getting her promotional play, she was DONE. I imagine she’ll get over it eventually, but she hasn’t yet. And she didn’t have any interest in playing through the thirty or forty bucks we usually put at risk when we go there. So I cashed out my winnings of the moment (about $20) and we got the heck out of there.

Insult to injury: Holdenville doesn’t have a ticket-cashing machine, so to cash my ticket, I went to the cashiers window (located at the very back of the casino). On the glass in front of the cashiers were a pair of very tiny (index-card-sized) signs, which said something like “No Ladies Day Match Play Today” (I’m working from memory). So somebody in casino management knew this was a problem that gamblers would want to know about, but they buried the notice at the very back of the casino, where you won’t likely see it until you are cashing out before leaving. Was there any sign on the entrance doors, or near them? We checked on our way out, but you already know the answer: there was not.

Although just about every Oklahoma casino has a “senior day” promotion (often it’s $10 match play), there is not consensus as to how old a “senior” has to be to qualify. Usually it’s 55, but in some cases, it’s only 50. I thought I’d start to compile a casino-by-casino list, since the casinos cannot be relied upon to publish this information with their promotional advertising. The list is perforce incomplete; I shall return to it as I gain more data points. Feel free to provide any missing casinos and ages in the comments!

Holdenville Creek Nation Casino: Senior day is currently Monday. Eligible at age 55 and up.
Seminole Trading Post Casino at Wewoka: Senior day is currently Sunday. Eligible at age 50 and up.
Seminole Nation Casino at I-40 Exit: Senior day is currently Sunday. Eligible at age 50 and up.
Seminole River Mist Casino (near Konowa & Ada): Senior day is currently Sunday. Eligible at age 50 and up.
Eagle Bluff Creek Nation Casino at Okemah: Senior day is currently Monday. Eligible at age 55 and up.
Sac & Fox Nation Casino at Stroud: apparently no senior promotion.
Sac & Fox Nation Casino at Shawnee: apparently no senior promotion.
Fire Lake Grand Casino near Shawnee: Senior day is currently Sunday. Eligible at age 55 and up.
Fire Lake Casino (“the old Fire Lake”) at Shawnee: Senior day is currently Sunday. Eligible at age 55 and up.
Thunderbird Casino at Shawnee: Senior day is currently Wednesday. Eligible at age 55 and up.
Thunderbird Casino outside Norman: Senior day is currently Wednesday. Eligible at age 55 and up.

Kickapoo Casino at Harrah: Senior day is currently Tuesday. Eligible age: unknown
Creek Nation Casino at Bristow: Senior day is currently Tuesday. Eligible age: unknown
Riverwind Casino at Norman: Senior day is currently unknown. Eligible age: unknown
Choctaw Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa: Senior day is currently unknown. Eligible age: unknown
River Spirit Casino in Tulsa: Senior day is currently unknown. Eligible age: unknown
Creek Nation One-Fire Casino in Okmulgee: Senior day is currently unknown. Eligible age: unknown
Creek Nation White Buffalo Casino at Duck Creek: Senior day is currently unknown. Eligible age: unknown

This looks like one of those fake funny pictures somebody stages to post on the internet. But no. I swear I saw it with my own eyes and snapped the scene with my own cell phone camera, about six months ago outside the Seminole Trading Post Casino in Wewoka:

I’d say that driver is qualified to display that handicapped sticker…

Yesterday (Sunday) we stopped in briefly at the Seminole Casino I-40 location to spend a little more time in their new expansion. A day after our Saturday visit, there was one change and a few more things to notice.

First, they finally put up a sign alerting people to the need for a new player card. But where do you suppose they put it up? Was it at the door where people could see it upon entering? No it was not! Instead, they put it on a tiny placard stand facing away from the door, to the left of the players club desk, where it was entirely concealed from people coming in by the press of people still in line. Player communications: you’re doing it wrong.

Second, the lines at the players club desk were still very long and still very slow. This casino is substantially bigger than prior to the expansion … so why only the same two work stations at the player club counter? Why not lay on a little extra help to make the conversion go more smoothly?

Third, the refreshments station did not get upgraded with the rest of the facility; they just moved the old coffee and pop machines over. Somebody didn’t get the coffee maker set up properly; the coffee was musty and weak and undrinkable, tasting like old filters and dishwater. And the popcorn machine? It didn’t make the cut for the move. No more free popcorn available (at least so far).

Fourth, they are putting some machines out on the new floor that apparently can’t work with the new players cards; they have placards saying the machines don’t take the cards or award any points. These include both of their banks of Fort Knox progressive machines, and a few others. One hopes this is temporary, but the placards don’t say so.

Fifth, we had a difficult time finding a parking place. They’ve put spiffy new paving on the gravel parking lot, but it’s still not much larger than the old parking lot (where they built the expansion) was. The casino is a LOT bigger … so why not put in ample parking in the huge field adjacent to the parking lot?

Although our visit was brief, we did enjoy ourselves. I’m listing problems that people may be interested in, but the space itself continues to impress. It’s a large bright cheerful gambling floor with a great many attractive games.

So Pixie and I got into the I-40 Seminole casino today to see the new facility. “The Future Is Here!” says the outside casino signboard — so what does it look like?

First impressions were fairly poor. Construction is not complete, and workmen are still sawing and hammering in the area that appears to be intended for food vending, with no barriers or walls of any kind between the construction zone and the casino floor. Much is unfinished (including 2×4 lumber for handrails on the spiffy new entrance portal stairs) and chaos reins. In typical Seminole-casino fashion, the transition appears to have been mostly unplanned, with no thought given to managing transition issues that should have been obvious.

For instance: in a very positive change, the casino is moving from the ancient LCD displays by the card reader slots on the machines, to modern video screens with the same slot club interface as that in use at the Fire Lake Casinos and at the Holdenville Creek Nation casino. They are also (like Holdenville) allowing immediate redemption of promotions right at the machine as soon as the little blue stack-of-coins icon lights up — no more long waits in line at the players club desk for your promotional voucher. The bad news? Your “Lucky Player’s Club” card that formerly worked at all three Seminole casinos in Oklahoma no longer works at this facility; everybody had to stand in an (understaffed, terribly slow) line to get a new card. You’ll now need two cards, that will look identical except for different color lettering and a different player number, if you want to gamble at all three casinos. Worse yet, they had NO SIGNAGE WHATSOEVER about this change. We had to learn it the hard way (when our cards would not read in the new machines) and then ask a floor employee before learning that we needed to stand in that huge non-moving line before we could gamble. Eventually they started making announcements, but their PA system is badly designed (or the acoustics are poor) because the announcements were very difficult to hear and understand.

On the brighter side, the new casino floor is large and bright with high ceilings and good spacing between the machines. There are many new machines, including a few modern additions like the four different “Collosal Reels” games and a lot of new IGT multigame machines. A few old favorites are gone (my beloved Penny Poker and Press-It-Up Poker machines did not make it onto the new floor) and there is no video poker whatsoever, but there’s plenty of new and interesting machines to play.

I was told that the old floor is currently completely closed, but that it will eventually be renovated and reopened. Perhaps some of my older favorites will reappear then, if (I’m not sure about this) they can be retrofitted with the new-style players card screens and interfaces. I also noticed that the non-functional ticket-cashing machine that’s been sitting dark for months in the old casino did not get moved onto the new floor yet and so there’s still no ticket-cashing machine in this casino.

We are very pleased to no longer have to stand in line to claim promotional play; that was an antiquated annoyance that needs to vanish from all of Oklahoma’s casinos. We noticed that our points on the old card were converted (without us being told or asked) into promotional play on the new card; we also got $5.00 each as “new players club members” according to the on-screen announcement (again we were not told this at the player’s club desk).

There were no new promotions, “Grand Opening” signs, balloons, or free hot dogs; indeed, there seems to have been no effort whatsoever to generate excitement about the new facility or promote it in any way. Just another example of the baffling lack of marketing that is the singular characteristic of casinos in Oklahoma!

Looks like the I-40 Seminole Casino will be closed for most of Thursday and then re-open in its newly expanded state “12:00 PM” on Friday, October 12:

Of course the notation “12:00 PM” is ambiguous but I am assuming noon on Friday is the time they are trying to convey.

Scuttlebutt around the casino is that there won’t be any sort of grand opening or promotions connected with the new facility. I heard “there might be something new next month, but nothing right now” several times.

If you’ve been by lately, you’ll have seen the huge new tent-like temporary structure they built for the expansion. It’s looking very nice with a huge portico and brightly colored lights playing on the highway end. However I was disappointed to notice today that more than half the old machines (the better half, for the most part) from the old casino have been removed in the last few days, and so I am presuming they have been installed in the new site. So much for my dreams of bank after bank of new machines!

Meanwhile, the existing facility is starting to feel like a store that’s 3/4ths of the way through its post-bankruptcy sale, with empty holes where banks of machines used to be and random stacks of unused casino chairs everywhere.

I also noticed that the unused ticket-changing machine (that’s been sitting there, dark, for the last three months, while people stand in line at the cashiers’ cage) is still sitting, dark, in the old casino space. I’d been hoping that they’d move it into the new facility and finally start using it! But, apparently, no such luck.

Short version: all of the match play at the Sac & Fox Shawnee casino is going away as of Sunday October 14th.

October 22 update:
As of today’s date, neither Pixie nor I have received any mailed promotion from the Sac & Fox casinos. We’ve gambled there 2-4 times a week for the past four or five months, and yes, we did confirm our mailing addresses. So it would appear that “In October your free play will be mailed to you” was a simple lie, intended to make the promotions cancellation appear less dramatic than it was. Of course it’s very possible they are sending promotions to select heavy players, but for average gamblers not putting whole paychecks on the line, there don’t appear to be any mailed promotions whatsoever. If you’ve seen any mailers from them, please comment! We’d love to know what promotions you are getting, along with an idea about how much you’ve typically gambled there.

October 10 update: The employee at the promotions desk at the Sac & Fox Stroud casino confirmed for me today that the match play offers are “all going away” at the Stroud location as well; this is not unexpected since the two casinos are usually identical, promotions-wise. However this employee was “not sure if it’s going to happen this week.”

If you’ve been gambling regularly in Oklahoma casinos in the last six months or so, you’ll have noticed that match play promotions have been being radically pared back. A typical pattern six months ago was one or more $10 match play opportunities during the week and one or two weekend offers of $20 or $25. These have been vanishing everywhere, replaced with lame drawings, $5 match promotions, and what we not-so-lovingly call “half-assed match play” where you play $20 to get $10. Casinos we’d routinely take long drives to visit (Okema/Creek Nation/Eagle Bluff, are you listening?) went from generous promotions ($25 match two nights a week, $10 some other night, $10 each on mens/ladies day) to near nothing ($5 each on mens/ladies day, now reduced to a tiny four-hour window in the evening). And consequently, now we just wave at the sign as we drive by on the highway. We love to gamble, but most of these little casinos aren’t all that entertaining if the house won’t give back a little bit of advantage to get us in the door and give us a fighting chance to pay for our gasoline.

Just the other day I had observed to Pixie on one of our long drives that the last bastion of generous match play was the pair of Sac & Fox casinos in Shawnee and Stroud. For as long as we’ve been playing, they’ve offered genuine match play every day of the week, in amounts ranging from $10 to $20. On $20 days it’s enough to get us out on the highway and heading that way, and on $10 days it’s at least a guarantee that we’ll stop by if we’re passing through or near Shawnee. Stroud? Well, the Sac & Fox Stroud is a long way from anywhere we go, but on $20 match play days we’ll still head that way. No promotion? Not going there! Or not unless we’re going by on the turnpike, as happens maybe once in sixty days or so.

We were having that conversation while trying to puzzle out two things. First of all, around the beginning of the month we noticed that the Sac & Fox in Shawnee didn’t update its promotional posters; up through yesterday they were still flying the September posters in the huge marquee bulletin board by the main entrance. Why were they still talking about the September piggie bank promo instead of whatever October’s promos are supposed to be?

Second, and possibly unrelated: late last month the Sac & Fox Shawnee suddenly got stingy with the free beverages. Typically at these casinos, if you are still drinking your tiny cup of free coffee when you walk out the door, nobody seems to care. A few of the bigger casinos that serve drinks exercise “cup control” at the doors, but that’s understandable if they wish to prevent people walking out with open containers of booze. Otherwise, you walk out with your coffee and drive away drinking it. Until recently, that was the deal at the Sac & Fox, and why not? Nobody is going to burn a buck in gasoline to come and steal five ounces of bad machine coffee that costs maybe six or seven cents to serve.

And yet, there I was gambling at the Sac & Fox on September 28, when a bizarre announcement came over the loudspeakers: “ATTENTION Sac & Fox players, you are NO LONGER allowed to remove your beverage cups from the casino. Please drink or dispose of your beverages before leaving.” (That’s from memory, not verbatim; but that was the gist.)

And sure enough, they were bloody serious about it! Not only did signs go up on the doors, but they rejiggered their security kiosk from just inside the doors (and only sporadically manned) to a position between the double doors (and permanently manned with two beverage-control security officers).

Two weeks later, the full-time security on the door is still there, and people are still throwing coffee in the garbage as they leave. I’m sure that’s saving the casino so much money!

So anyway, Pixie and I were musing about that senseless change and the lack of new promotional posters, and we hit upon the notion that maybe they had a new manager. And I don’t know if that’s true, but yesterday when we stopped in, they were handing out these little cards at the promotional desk and telling everybody that the last day of regular match play will be Sunday the 14th:

“Our daily promotions are changing! In October your free play will be mailed to you and the amount you receive in the mail is based off the points you earn. So please be sure to use your Player’s Club card when gaming. THANK YOU.”

Or, as the nice player’s club employee summarized it more accurately: “No more match play. It’s all going to be mailed out coupons, now.”

Wow, bummer, dude.

I find the use of the phrase “free play” on the little hand-out card somewhat telling in this context. Excepting on my birthday, I’ve never received a dime of free play at the Sac & Fox; match play is not the same thing at all. But if they have a new manager who is offended by the monstrous revenue bleed that is people leaving with half-cups of the free beverages, maybe he/she is also horrified by “all the free money we are giving away” or some such foolishness.

In any case, it’s bad news for players. In my experience, Oklahoma casinos are not good at maintaining mailing addresses; they are constantly swiping your ID and will often replace your mailing address on file with the physical address on your ID. However, if you ask them to update the mailing address manually, they’ll smile and say it’s done, but it doesn’t reliably “take” in the database, or it gets wiped out the next time they swipe your card. What’s worse, even when they are successfully sending mailers, they aren’t consistent about promotions. I can’t tell you how many times Pixie and I will go to the same casinos on the same schedule, gambling similar amounts of money, only for one of us to receive a promotional mailer while the other gets nothing. It happens more often than it doesn’t happen, that’s for sure!

So, I don’t expect that the Sac & Fox will routinely send out coupon mailers. Obviously time will tell what the coupons consist of, but we aren’t big-money gamblers; we typically gamble no more than about two to five dollars for every promotional dollar during any given visit. It’s hard to imagine any “based off the points you earn” coupon regime that could deliver coupons to match the $95 in weekly match play that the Sac & Fox has been offering.

As I told the nice lady at the promotions desk, “That’s unfortunate! We’ll really miss seeing y’all as often as we have been.”

Location: Holdenville, Oklahoma [211 East Willow Street, 74848]
Phone Number: (405) 379-3321
Website: None
Hours: Sun-Thu 10am-midnight, Fri-Sat 10am-2am
Number of Gaming Machines: about 135
Promotions Quality: Fair
Management: Fair
Employees: Friendly, Helpful
Game Modernity: Very Good
Game Selection: Good
Video Poker: None
Table Games: None
Collecting Promotions: all-electronic, no hassle, no standing in line

Free Beverages: Modest [1 pop machine, iced tea, coffee (no decaf)]
Free Food: None
Paid Dining: Vending machine snacks
Alcohol Available: none

Holdenville Creek Nation Casino is a small, friendly, locals-oriented casino with slot payouts that “feel” reasonably loose. Although their promotions are declining in recent months (match play opportunities keep getting fewer/smaller, and they no longer offer free play on their Sunday “customer appreciation day” as of October 2012) Pixie and I try to visit whenever they offer match play. Security is very good, the parking lot is heavily monitored, the “tweaker factor” is fairly low, and all-in-all, it’s just a pleasant place to gamble. We especially appreciate that they seem to add new machines fairly often. Once or twice we’ve even seen a new machine here before we saw it at any other Oklahoma casino.

Our current [Oct. 2012] favorite machines: Crystal Forest, Skee-Ball, Shadow Of The Panther

November 2012 update: Unfortunately, the Holdenville Creek Nation Casino has earned an entry on the wall of shame for failing to honor one of its advertised promotions.