You’ve heard the term “High Roller” or even the synonymous name “Whale”, but i’m here to dish out the juicy details on these exclusive VIP players. I was lucky enough to interview, Steve Callender, Senior Vice President of Casino Operations for the Tropicana Casino & Hotel in Atlantic City. With over 30 years invested in this industry, he has seen it all and is an expert in the high roller arena.
LIFESTYLE: What constitutes a high roller? And is there any special jargon used when referring to them?
CALLENDER: It depends on the casino. There are smaller places where someone will get a $100,000 credit line and be considered their “Whale” but with bigger places it starts around $1million. And, even though “Whale” is a common term, we don’t like to use it too much. We also try not to use people’s names for privacy purposes, so we’ll say “Hello Mr. C” or “Sir” , “Madame”.
The neat thing is that it’s not typical for these people to walk in with boat loads of cash. They have other options which include: notifying their host to have a credit line prepared, wiring money into the casino; or bring a cashiers check that will be put in the cage to draw from.
Can you imagine walking around with $1 million of cash in your pocket? Well Callender can. He reminisced about a time years ago when he was asked to escort a player down the boardwalk while having $1.5 million on his person!
LIFESTYLE: How does a high roller know who to ask for when they come to town? And how are the various perks determined for these players?
CALLENDER: A high roller who doesn’t already have a host at our property will just call the Trop and ask, who’s in charge of the casino? Then typically the call is transferred to me. As for the perks, people will call and say, “This is what I will be able to bet, so if I bring in this amount of money, what kind of deal can I get? “There is a lot of wheeling and dealing. It could be a mix of any number of things including a discount on your loss, a certain type of suite, and luxury transportation, including everything from door-to-door limousine service to your own private jet.
From our conversation, I learned that years ago there used to be brand loyalty, where these high rollers would only play in one place. However, now most players go from casino to casino and “share their wallet”. Plus, lately i’ve noticed that some casino’s will go to the extent of honoring your high-level player card from other casino’s within their own game rooms.
According to Callender, one of the great benefits the Tropicana offers in order to build loyalty and retention with their high rollers is they offer a maximum bid of $50,000 per hand in the Baccarat pit. This is very unique considering other casinos may only allow a max bet of $2,500. He adds, “Other places make sure you have a certain credit line or history before you bet that money. But with us, if you get lucky and are on a roll you can win a lot of money here”.
LIFESTYLE: Of course when you’re winning a lot of money ,the casino will want you to stay longer. What are some of the cool perks, amenities and services one could look forward to when a casino recruits you to stay?
CALLENDER: We give great gifts, and they all depend on your wins and losses. We offer lavish vacations, jewelry, gifts for doing certain things and even buy them cars! Our suites are magnificent and, depending on what you like, there are two, three and even four bedrooms with pool tables, saunas, work out rooms, entertainment venues, and unlimited movie selections. Recently, we invested $5 million in renovations by converting 88 regular rooms into 26 luxurious suites ranging from 450 -2078 square feet. Named the Cielo Suites, they are unbelievable and individually designed with butlers and round-the-clock service.
For high rollers at the Trump Taj Mahal, there are many different types of luxury suites available. The remarkable Penthouse suites stand 51 stories above the boardwalk and are inspired by classic European hotels and estates. Painstakingly planned by acclaimed interior designers Wilson and Associates. Enhanced by special comforts and attentive service that go far above and beyond. Once you enter the room you’ll find splendor at every turn. Hand-applied Venetian plaster finishes adorn the walls. Twinkling crystal chandeliers light your way. Extravagant, custom-made furniture with the richest upholstery and plushest pillows beckon you. Lush draperies crafted of the finest imported fabrics frame your panoramic view of the ocean, neighboring resorts and the world-famous boardwalk.
They boast that their most sumptuous suite, the Alexander suite is an opulent sprawling palace. You’re drawn in by the domes entry foyer, where a spectacular hand-painted mural adorns the walls. Breathtaking panoramic views of Atlantic City surround you like your personal playground. The large living room coaxes you to unwind and lounge on handmade furniture with lavish upholstery and custom finishes. A cloudlike California king-size bed awaits you with 560 thread count, and lavish oversized furniture pieces complete your sanctuary. Not only that but it’ll feel like home with elegant walk-in closets, a sitting area, and dressing rooms with custom vanities. Your master bath includes a delightful 6-ft length Whirlpool spa tub and oversized steam shower.
I had the opportunity to ask local South Jersey established designer and entrepreneur Cynthia Rose Cortopassi her opinion, as she worked on designing many high roller suites. She said, “These rooms encompass the best elements that money can buy; from rare furniture pieces to private elevators with grand entrances. The casinos really set out to spoil these guests.”
All this is complimentary when you are a high roller. You can order what you want when you want, and if they know you’re coming, then they will stock the bar and pantry with your hearts desire. According to Callender, requests can range from a specific type of exotic champagne to Michelob Light bottles. Whatever it is they will be available to you. “However” adds Callender, “although suites, lavish vacations, and luxurious amenities are all important, the real gambler is looking for how much they can beat you for in terms of money.”
LIFESTYLE: Can you give me a breakdown of the high-roller demographics?
CALLENDER: This has changed over the years. There are 22 year olds who made a fortune as athletes, poker players or .com’ers; and it also goes all the way up to the CEO’s, Company President’s, people who have been around a long time. They come from every state in the USA and even outside the country. I once had a guy fly in from Korea every week for a couple of years.
And when it comes to loyalty to his casino, it often depends on the relationships that are built. His hosts and dealers know who these VIP’s are, what they drink, and even how they bet. They are treated extremely well. To Callender this is crucial to their reputation. It’s all about the “Wow Factor” because these people don’t want to leave their beautiful homes to come to a place that is a step down in quality and class. Callender and his staff work hard to not only take care of their “Whales” with the most lavish extraordinary amenities, but he also stays very competitive in the market. An interesting fact, according to a few sources, is that the gambling industry has grown tenfold in the U.S. since 1975.
As you can see, only the finest quality and expertise goes into the design of these high-end suites. No matter where you stay in one of Atlantic City’s casinos, between the amenities and accommodations, you will definitely have a fabulous and memorable experience...and gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Whitney is an on-air multimedia personality, and works behind the scenes helping businesses gain extra exposure, through her WIN Promotions video production services.