January 04, 2017
Case Study

Email Marketing: A 400% increase in the rate of ticket sales by gamifying promotional emails


Primm Valley Resort and Casino, part of the Affinity Gaming family of casinos, wanted to leverage insights from behavioral economics to create campaigns that would be not only fun, but motivating.  

With email that meant embedding a bite-sized games into the experience, allowing customers to play and win prizes they otherwise would have been given for free.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa


Affinity Gaming is the parent company umbrella for 11 casinos across four states, with five in Nevada, three in Colorado, two in Missouri and one in Iowa.

“They're all mainly very local casinos, highly local, very, very local audience except for Primm, which is sort of an anomaly because it's on the Nevada/California state line,” said Melani Evans, Director of Corporate Marketing, Affinity Gaming.

Primm Valley Resort and Casino has a lot of traffic, she added, because it’s many customers’ last stop before driving into California.

“It's a very cool, unique destination. We have to treat that as a destination market,” she said. “That's what we were discussing for the concert that we had.”


With a concert that featured rock band The Cult, Evans and her team decided to play off of customers’ penchant for playing games to promote events.

Instead of just presenting an offer to customers, making that offer into a chance for them to win using behavior they already engaged in seemed like a perfect way to engage with the local market. Previously for campaigns like this, the team had just offered hotel-ticket packages.

“I was running just a social campaign for them and spending $500 and just putting it out there, hotel plus ticket package, and targeting people with just the base offer,” Evans said.

She saw good results, but there was a lot more opportunity in being able to say, “’Play for your chance to win something free,’ which we all know in our business incentivizes people,” she said. “It’s the same premise, we're still offering a hotel and ticket package, but we're giving a chance to win.”


The team ran gamified email promotions for Primm Valley Resort and Casino for a performance by comedian Tracy Morgan and concert by The Cult.

“That show in general, Tracy Morgan, it was not selling the way that we expected it to. So, our goal was to ramp up the sales of that, not just for tickets but hotel packages too,” Evans said.

In both cases, there was a 400% increase in the rate of ticket sales compared to prior efforts once the team started gamified emails.

For example, the Tracy Morgan campaign began on July 1, and his show was scheduled for October 22. Evans had been proceeding with the usual process of promoting hotel and ticket packages until September 30th. At that point, only 22 packages had sold.

From October 1 until October 20th, they began the emails promoting a gamified giveaway and sold an additional 22 packages in just 21 days — the same amount that had sold through all of July, August and September.

Step #1. Play into human nature

Originally, the idea was to gamify a chance to win tickets to see rock band The Cult playing at Primm Valley Casino Resorts on October 8.

The game was sent out in an email blast to retail customers was called “Pick an Amp.” Customers would randomly select a digital amp in order to reveal a prize such as free tickets.

The team wanted to do a trial run with this event before beginning to use games like it to promote other events held at the resort.

Step #2. Don’t just get customers to click — get them to engage

“July 1st through September 30th was just me running a social media campaign that said, "Hotel plus ticket package at this rate,’” said Evans.

Then on October 1st through the 21st, the team ran the Tracy Morgan package and gamified it. There were two prizes for the “Pick-a-Tracy” game, which is fairly self-explanatory — people would simply click on a Tracy head to reveal a prize underneath. Hopefully, one of the two grand prize of two tickets and a hotel stay.

The team sent an email blast to segmented retail customers, and as opposed to saying something like, “Get your tickets, click the link,” she said, the email they sent out focused on language like, “Play for your chance to win free tickets from us.”

They decided to double down on the gamified campaign, and Evans used the rest of her budget for that campaign, just $200, to invest in social media to promote the campaign as well.

The campaign said, "Play a game and win free tickets to Tracy Morgan."

The traditional advertising over the first three months cost $500 and sold 22 packages, and with the $200 left over in the last month to advertise the game, Evans was able to sell the same amount.

“I got the exact same amount of packages in that short period of time, that I did in the course of three months … and actually, the amount I spent was only $181. I didn't even make the $200 mark,” she said.

The traditional campaign only got 638 clicks, whereas the game version that only ran for a month got 2,721 clicks.

“The thing is, the only thing that changed was the copy … That was it. I only changed literally just the copy. It said, ‘Play for your chance to win,’ as opposed to, ‘Click here to buy a package,’” she said.

Step #3. Use what you know is working

“It's a human nature thing,” said Evans. “I'm a marketer, and I do the same thing … I'm going to play for my chance to win because everyone likes to win.”

The previous special event game promotions were such a success that the team decided to incorporate them into monthly hotel e-newsletters. It was for a different property, Silver Sevens in Las Vegas, which according to Evans is a “highly local market.”

The email is sent to local customers who are also active — meaning someone who has visited the property in the last year. The email offers free food or a chance to win up to a certain amount of money by playing the game.

The team will also send messages of this type to “defectors,” or customers who haven’t visited the casino in three to 12 months.

“That puts you into a campaign that says you've defected against us, but you live within zero to 30 miles of the casino … [and] we want you to come back,” she said.

Evans has put this into other concert packages, for instance one with The O’Jays, and has looked at ways to expand the opportunities, she said.

“We had customers that would play the game. They would book a package and call us afterwards and go, ‘Hey, can I upgrade my tickets though? Is there an opportunity for that?’”

The team responded to this by changing the result after customers play for a chance to win. Now, when clicking, the customer sees that they have an “exclusive package rating starting at [x],” and they have the ability to upgrade their tickets.

The O’Jays package saw a 97% clickthrough redemption rate, meaning that customers continued through to the website and played the game, one day after launching.


“The takeaway that we've really seen is that, not even a gambling customer, just consumers in general, want the ability to win. It's just that exciting thing,” said Evans.

Both the gamified campaign to see The Cult in concert and Tracy Morgan’s stand-up saw a 400% increase in the rate of ticket sales compared to prior campaigns.

“[Customers] are more inclined to participate in something if there's a chance to win something. Even if it's a package rate for them, they feel like they still want it because they played something. So, they're more engaged,” Evans concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. The Cult Facebook ad
  2. Tracy Morgan Facebook ad
  3. Tracy Morgan form
  4. The O’Jays game
  5. The O’Jays offers


Affinity Gaming

OfferCraft – Affinity Gaming’s vendor

Related Resources

Download the Quick Guide to Email Marketing

Email Marketing: Boston Proper increased conversion 13% by implementing cart and browse abandonment campaigns

Email Marketing: How a U.K. toy company used behavioral marketing to triple email revenue and increase returning shoppers by 60%

Email Marketing 2016: Nine case studies that show how marketers challenged “best practices” in key driver email campaigns

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