The Gift That Keeps On… Getting Returned

Not every gift that casinos give to their whales is appreciated. Las Vegas expert Ira David Sternberg recounts gift-giving faux pas and how to make it right.

The Gift That Keeps On… Getting Returned

It’s January, that magical time of year when thoughts turn to returning unwanted gifts you received at Christmas. And it’s the same for high rollers.

Traditionally, casinos give their best customers luxury gifts for Christmas. From the casino marketing point of view, it makes sense to give “whales” unique presents to show appreciation for their business.

But, for the man or woman who already has everything, these gifts better be well targeted. While one can only surmise how casino executives decide what to give their best customers, some presents can clearly miss the mark:

• Private jet. Sounds like a perfect gift. But one casino made the mistake of giving it to a player who is an eco-warrior. The guy is worth billions, but he flies commercial. How did he return it? He’s having the jet towed back to Las Vegas with his Tesla.

• Name and Logo Rights. Now this is rare: A casino property gifting its name and logo rights to one of their high rollers to use for a nonprofit operation. The casino host didn’t reckon on the player using it for a rehabilitation center for compulsive gamblers. Luckily, the state refused to license the facility, claiming the name and logo would cause confusion in treatment. Ya think? (Name and logo returned, but the player kept the 10,000 casino-branded chips that were part of the gift.)

• Rare Whiskey. Ever hear of Macallan’s magnum opus, a 1926 60-year-old single malt, designed by Valerio Adami? It is arguably the rarest whisky in the world. Unfortunately, it was given to a teetotaler. But how to return it? FedEx won’t insure it, so an armored car is a solid choice. Expenses paid by the casino, of course.

• Unlimited Buffet. Imagine all you can eat for a year, including caviar, lobster tails and filet mignon? In this case, another miss. The casino gave it to a whale who was trying to diet. Time to substitute with a year’s supply of physical training. Back to casino marketing goes the buffet… or is it F&B?

• Visit to the White House Package. What could be more prestigious than an invite to the Inaugural Ball and a visit to the White House Oval Office to meet the President? This rare gift is orchestrated by the casino’s lobbying team, which works with top government officials. Problem? Of course. It could depend on who’s elected. What happens if the wrong candidate (from your player’s perspective) is elected? How do they return that gift? Is it transferable to a relative that disagrees with them politically?

So, what have we learned? Casino marketing needs to do better research on its high rollers, so the gifts are spot on. And casinos should consider expanding their Christmas gift giving to include their low rollers as well.

But what happens when those players start returning their fruit cakes?

Articles by Author: Ira David Sternberg

Ira David Sternberg is host of “Talk About Las Vegas With Ira,” a weekly podcast that features engaging conversations with celebrities, entertainers, writers, and personalities. He is a veteran casino publicist with executive experience at the Tropicana and Las Vegas Hilton, as well as a writer and broadcaster. Listen to Ira’s weekly shows at He can be reached at