Casino whales are players who bet large amounts of money. Since these players lose so much money, competition for their attention is intense. Whales tend to prefer certain games. Baccarat, for instance, is a high-stakes game favored by high rollers; while skill-based games such as poker seem to be less-favored because many high-stakes players play for the thrill of the gamble, rather than profits.
Contrary to some beliefs though, the revenue from casino whales comprises only a small amount of the typical casino's business. The majority of casino revenue comes from lower- and middle-class customers.
Casinos strive to lure high rollers by giving out plenty of perks - luxury suites, use of private jets, and personal handlers to fulfill every flight of fancy, from wire transfers to fishing trips to Alaska. Many of these perks given out to whales are purely in self-interest - such private jets get the whales easily to casinos and back home overnight. Some of the benefits are very personalized, such as their favorite meals from a particular place, or specifically cooked by their in-house chef. Because whales are aware of how much money the casinos make from them, they often ask for seemingly impossible requests, knowing that they will likely get fulfilled since the casino does not want to risk losing them.
Casinos have to be particularly careful in courting whales from other countries because the lack of knowledge about another culture can create problems. Many casinos have historically marketed to whales in in rich Asian countries (especially before Macau became popular). These relationships are managed by employees of the casinos called "hosts", who keep detailed dossiers on the likes and dislikes of each particular whale.
On the gambling floor, some whales may get a percentage of cash back from their losses. This share can be as high as 50% if the whale plays higher-margin games and stay away from low-margin games, such as blackjack (assuming it was played with good basic strategy). Rarely, instead of receiving straight cash back, a casino whale may be able to play one of the games with modified rules, which are structured to be more favorable to the player.
Although most casino have well-developed perks programs, sometimes a whale will receive so many benefits that the casino creates a new level of perks based on the program in honor of the whale. Like all of their operations, casinos use mathematical formulas to determine a total budget of how much money to spend in courting the whale and giving him perks while gambling.
In order to know how much of their profits to sacrifice, the casinos must have an accurate estimate as to how much the whale is likely to lose. Obviously since luck can swing both ways in the short-term, the losses are only theoretical. The formula to determine the theoretical losses are broadly based on: the amount of the average individual wager (per hand, or spin), times the average per hour (hands per hours, etc.), times the number of hours played, and then adjusted for skill (in a game like blackjack, where choices determine the odds, or craps where different bets can have vastly different odds).
Because these benefits are based only on theoretical losses, there are plenty of times where a whale will beat a casino for millions of dollars, while also receiving millions of dollars of perks. In these situations, the casino will hope that the whale will come back, and this is where the relationships with the casino hosts factor in strongly.
Undoubtedly, there are situations where whales are set up with illegal benefits such as hookers or drugs by the casinos. But the details of these stories are usually not told by anyone, unless you get someone who is unusually open about their experiences, such as Artie Lange.
Because casinos benefit at the expense of the whale, their relationships with whales can become unhealthy. Some of the whales may be gambling addicts who blow large amounts of money. Some of them may be alcoholics who do not necessarily want to be plied with alcohol, even if they say that they do. There have been plenty of civil lawsuits filed by whales against casinos over the losses they suffered. Mostly, they claim they were taken advantage of.
Like anyone motivated by money, casinos get into trouble by extending credit to whales based on the assumption that these mega-wealthy business people have unlimited access to cash.
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