Putting Bills Into a Machine

At most casinos, you accumulate slot club points. Sometimes these are good for comps only. Sometimes you can redeem them for cash and/or free play. 

When you redeem slot club points for cash or free play, this is taxable income. I know that many players “forget” to report this, but it’s taxable nonetheless.

Eventually one needs to redeem these points — one way or the other. In this blog, I’m only addressing the situation where the points can be monetized into free play or cash. Often these points can also be redeemed for comps.

If I have a losing year gambling (I’ve had four of them in the past 28 years), I redeem everything I can before the end of the year. This ends up reducing my loss, and, for professional gamblers at least, reduces my taxes. If I receive $1,000 in free play in a losing year, there isn’t any direct tax implication. If I let it stay in the casino’s control and redeem the money in a year that I win, it has direct tax implications.

If I’m visiting an out-of-town casino, I cash out at the end of my stay whether I’m ahead or behind this year. After all, I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Even if I’m planning  to return next year, a lot of things can happen between now and then preventing my return. 

I’ve reported that I play at both Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina and Eldorado in Reno. For me, these are both out of town. At the same time, these are both part of the Caesars system which allows me to redeem my points at any of their properties — including ones within ten miles of where I live. So in this case, I don’t count these properties as out-of-town visits requiring me to cash out my points at the end of each trip.

But there’s another reason I cash out my points at these properties. That is, at Caesars properties, when it comes time for a host to comp away my food and beverage charges accumulated during my trips, the host is required to spend my points (Reward Credits or RCs) before he can comp anything. 

If my Reward Credit balance is zero, the host is allowed to (but not required to) comp my food and other charges. Therefore, I convert my points to free play before I check out. 

This is not costless. At Caesars properties (most of them anyway), you can redeem RCs at a 1-for-2 basis for free play. That is, $1,000 in food comps turns into $500 free play. Still, if your host and will comp the food charges, converting the RCs to free play is money in the bank. 

If I weren’t a big enough player so the host can comp, then it might well make sense to keep a balance of RCs. But since I usually play enough to earn host comps, I tend to zero out my Reward Credits.

At some Caesars properties, a player is limited to converting 100,000 Reward Credits (worth $1,000 in comps) to $500 in free play per day. If you have a really big balance of Reward Credits, it’ll take you some time to convert them all. 

I don’t know the ins and outs of the slot club at other casino mega-clubs that are good at several properties (like MGM, or Penn National, etc.) because my play is restricted at these properties. A smart player will learn the ins and outs of each club where he/she plays.


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