Online gambling is illegal in the United States, but that hasn't stopped Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment, another Web Business 50 winner, from offering a virtual casino as part of its Total Rewards loyalty program. The Play for Fun gaming page, which was launched in September 2000, allows members to sharpen their skills at blackjack or learn to play other casino favorites such as roulette. According to Harrah's, more than 30,000 users visited the virtual casino in July, spending an average of more than 23 minutes per visit.
David Norton, vice president of loyalty marketing, says that although other virtual gaming sites are popping up all over the Web, he believes that Harrah's will thrive. More important, the site will help cement the users' relationship with the resort, Norton says. "The games introduce them to other things. Things like promotions and hot deals, and it gives them an incentive to come to one of our properties."
Over the long term, the virtual casino should help Harrah's build a better customer experience for people who visit the casinos, says Tim Stanley, vice president of IT development.
"As we implement an even more personalised experience on the website, we would also expect to utilise customers' product preferences to tailor their experience on and offline," Stanley says. "That info can come from both their actual activity and preferences demonstrated on the casino floor as well as from data learned from Play for Fun."
And if and when online gambling is ever legalised in the United States, Harrah's Entertainment no doubt will have a healthy piece of the action.