Reno casinos offer massages to lure gamblers
RENO (AP) – As gambling revenue in Washoe County casinos continues to shrink under pressure from a tough economy and California tribal gambling, Crystal Gil and her Massage Bliss business are battling back, one back rub at a time.
Gil recently has negotiated contracts with of two of Washoe County’s largest properties – the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino and the downtown Silver Legacy Resort Casino – to set up her massage therapists on their casino floors.
Gil’s youthful and licensed therapists provide back, neck and shoulder massages to tired, cranky or worn-out gamblers while they sit and play. Casino executives see the massages as a way to keep the players playing with a strategy that experts called a unique way of boosting business in a recession.
“A lot of people will play at a table game or the slots for hours and hours,” said George Owens, director of slot operations at the Silver Legacy. “But sometimes they want to take a break, maybe their shoulders hurt and they’ll want to walk around. But they can’t walk around sometimes because they don’t want to lose their machine. This way, they can just stay at their machines and enjoy a nice massage while they play their game.”
In perhaps a minor way, Owens sees the massages as a weapon to battle the competitive Northern California tribal gambling market. Calls to Thunder Valley and Red Hawk – Reno’s two largest tribal casino rivals – confirmed that those casinos do not offer massages on their casino floors.
“It is another reason for people to come to Reno because we are not seeing this amenity in the Native American gaming market in California,” Owens said.
Although new to Reno, massages on casino floors became popular in Las Vegas a few years ago during major poker tournaments, such as the World Series of Poker. During the past four years, massage therapists have provided massages to the players at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino during the World Series.
The World Series of Poker massages have become so popular that the number of therapists working the tournament has increased from 60 in 2006 to 250 this year, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
In Reno, Gil’s goal is to have her massage therapists on every casino floor.
When she pitches her concept to gambling executives, she stresses that massages keep players in the casino longer.
“I have personally seen people stay and play longer after a massage,” Gil said. “We had a gentleman and his wife who had driven in from Humboldt County and he had a such a horrible stiff neck that he actually got up from his machine to go lay down. He was absolutely miserable. The shift manager came over and found me. We gave him a massage for 30 minutes. It made him feel so good that he stayed and played for several hours.”
Indeed, the massages have a way of melting you into your chair on the casino floor, one Silver Legacy patron said.
“I don’t want to leave,” said Joe LeBel of Ione, Calif., as he sat at a poker table and enjoyed a massage. “We were going to go to dinner but I have forgotten about that, too. So this is going to help me lose some weight, too.”
The massages should work especially well in Reno when considering the drive-in market from Northern California, Owens said.
“We have guests come in after a long drive from San Francisco and they are tense,” Owens said. “They walk in and want to rest but now we can offer them a massage right on the casino floor. They can sit down at a slot, get a massage and start gaming right away.”
A massage costs $1.50 per minute, which usually ends up to be a $15 charge for a 10-minute massage.
Massage Bliss works the casino floor at the Silver Legacy from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the therapists work from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Business seemed to pick up around 9 p.m., Gil said.
“There is just something about 9 o’ clock in a casino,” Gil said. “That is when we get extremely busy. Nine at night. It seems to be a magical number.”