Why 55? Casinos just shrug

I am the youngest person in line at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, and among the men, I probably have the most hair.

That's because this line is for a Monday-morning slot tournament restricted to those age 55 and older, and I just reached that milestone a few months ago. And because there has to be some benefit to aging, here I am in line for my shot at a piece of $3,600 in free slot play.

It's my third whack at a plus-55 casino perk, and I take a seat at a nearby machine and push the SPIN button…

The question that has gnawed at me since leaving the 39-54 demographic. Why do casinos make 55 their magic “senior” number?

Do they think we suddenly have more time?

 More money?

An urge to blow it all?

It turns out, they just like the number.

For example, for almost four years, Calder Casino and Race Course has given $10 in free slot play to those 55 and over who earn at least 20 player's club points.

Like most casinos, points are based on “coin in,” not whether you win or lose. Most Calder slots require $5 coin in to earn a point, and my turn at a cold Triple Butterfly Sevens machine meant I needed three $20s to earn my points ($100 worth of spins). But the machine was smoking at the end, and I cashed out for $86. Then I walked over to the player's club stand and obtained my $10 free play — which I lost in a handful of spins.

Senior marketing director Wade West said Calder's Tuesday “55-plus” promotion attracts a lot of players. They are trying a $5.55 “Tavern Express Lunch” of a deli sandwich and soup or another side item on Tuesdays as well. They use the 55 mph speed limit sign as a hook.

“We don't call it senior day,” West said. “From a marketing standpoint it sounds good, and you don't want to go to 65-plus because you'd eliminate a whole group of people.”

The same is true at Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach, where my newfound eligibility in the regular “Golden Jesters” promotion gave me a shot at $25 in free play. Players such as me who earned 10 slot points could flip over one a playing card. Any red card yielded $5 and face cards paid out $25. Alas, my card was black. Zilched.

 Because older players often have more free time — and an interest in his book — American Casino Guide publisher Steve Bourie, of Hollywood, lists senior benefits at some of the 700 casinos he has listed in his book.

 “I'd tend to say most are 55, and I have no idea why,” he said. “Maybe that's a demographic that appeals to the broadest number.

 “It just sort seems to the number they picked out of the air. Maybe one casino started and the others followed to remain competitive.”

And 55 is not an absolute benchmark. The Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach, for example, has events for those 50-plus.

So my last hope of this tour is at Seminole Coconut Creek, where I had to earn one “comp dollar” to be eligible. The casino doesn't spell it out this way, but it seems as though a comp dollar is like 100 points, and it's $3 coin in per point. So it looks like $300 coin in. More bad news for me: It takes $120 on the Triple-7 Double Strike machine to get there, which I accumulate by betting $1.25 or $2.50 per spin. Now it's on to the slot tournament.

For the uninitiated, a slot tournament simply involves players pushing a “spin” button for three minutes and the highest score wins. There is no strategy.

But there is also no stress, and in the first minute, my score climbs. Alas, the brief luck fades, and the machine automatically clicks off at the 3-minute mark and with me in 63rd place. The top 30 get in the money.

So my first three forays into the 55-plus world proved to be unprofitable, other than the fact that I did them all while on the clock for reporting this story. Hopefully, better news lies ahead, and I have decades in front of me to pursue the loot.



Pictures: Hollywood Beach Broadwalk