What Stays in Vegas | Adam Tanner

Summary of: What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data?lifeblood of Big Business?and the End of Privacy as We Know It: The World of Personal Data?lifeblood of Big Business?and the End of Privacy as We Know It
By: Adam Tanner


In the book ‘What Stays in Vegas’ by Adam Tanner, the veil is lifted on the world of personal data collection and its implications for individual privacy. In an age where social media, big data, and personalized marketing are ubiquitous, personal information has become the lifeblood of big business. This book delves into the transformation of Las Vegas from a city of vice and secrets to a hub of data collection and targeted marketing, with particular focus on the role of casinos, loyalty programs, data brokers, and controversial data-gathering techniques. As you dive into this book summary, prepare to gain insights into how personal data is harvested, analyzed, sold, and used to create incredible profits for both private corporations and the government, all while potentially jeopardizing our privacy.

Hidden Data Collection

Without our knowledge, data collectors are gathering information about us everywhere. While government data gathering raises concerns, private corporations have no restraints in collecting data for marketing and other unsavory purposes. They employ a range of methodologies, including the collection of arrest photos, Facebook likes, and revenge porn. The book delves into the implications of this insidious and invisible data collection, revealing the darker side of the Big Data Age.

Las Vegas’ Transformation

The aftermath of September 11, 2001, had a significant impact on the Las Vegas tourism industry. As a result, Las Vegas rebranded itself with the famous slogan “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” This mindset became ingrained in the city’s culture and attracted tourists to indulge in their lifestyles privately. In conjunction with the rise of big data, systematic data gathering is now pervasive in Las Vegas, making it less private and more profitable. Las Vegas casinos use personal data to understand clients and provide a personalized experience to retain them. Gary Loveman, a former Harvard Business School professor, played a major role in the city’s transformation with his expertise in customer loyalty and data analysis. Despite facing opposition from traditional casino employees, Loveman’s focus on data and analysis led to fruitful results. By identifying the winning percentage returned by slot machines, Loveman helped refocus Caesars from building luxurious properties to harvesting personal data. While there are concerns regarding the unauthorized use of personal data, the benefits of using it to improve customers’ experiences outweigh the risks.

Loyalty Programs in Casinos

Casinos have borrowed from the airline industry to create loyalty programs that encourage customers to share their personal information in exchange for rewards. The early loyalty programs had no electronics, making it difficult to identify their most profitable customers. As electronics became cheaper, scannable electronic cards became widespread. Data brokers gained information about people by collecting the electronic clues people left behind just by living a regular life. Casinos began to store and correlate customer data, using modeling to identify key data such as when customers were likely to return. Harrah’s, in particular, calculated that loyalty programs could anchor customers more firmly in one casino. They divided clients into different levels based on how long and how lavishly they played, rewarding them accordingly. By tracking visitor data, casinos discovered that some of their most profitable customers were the moderate gamblers who played frequently, rather than the occasional high rollers. The vast customer database allowed the casinos to personalize their approach and lure customers at the right time. However, the article warns that data breaches caused by the gathering of all this information can have severe consequences.

The New Data Age in Casino Marketing

Modern casinos are using public data to target potential gamblers more effectively. Data brokers provide immense amounts of information to casinos, which use it to cut marketing costs and appeal to customers on a personal level. The controversial techniques used by data brokers allow them to identify people’s medical conditions, hobbies, and private activities, making small bits of personal data more valuable than ever.

Gone are the days of hiring detectives to gather information on big-time gamblers. With the emergence of modern data gathering, information is cheap, legal, and readily available. Casinos can now use public information, such as newlyweds’ anniversaries, to send targeted promotions to potential customers, reducing their marketing costs and making their mailings more useful.

This is possible because casinos are turning to data brokers like Spokeo, which offer immense amounts of public information, combined with marketing and commercial records, to companies wanting to focus their promotions. This allows them to shift from blanket mailings to targeted ads, appealing to customers on a more personal level.

However, data brokers’ controversial techniques raise ethical questions, as they can use people’s medical histories and private activities to identify them as inferior insurance risks or gamblers, for instance. The immense value of this personal data has made it small bits of information more valuable than ever.

Overall, modern data gathering has enabled casinos to target potential customers more efficiently and has completely changed the game of casino marketing. But the use of personal data by data brokers leads to ethical concerns that need to be addressed.

The Power of “Likes”

Facebook’s “Likes” can inadvertently reveal personal information about its users, according to studies. The musical Wicked is favored by many gay men, while liking basketball or the Wu-Tang Clan can indicate heterosexuality. Even the number of self-identified gay friends you have may reveal your own sexual orientation. With millions of users, Facebook has become a valuable tool for researchers, who can use the data to discover facts about their subjects.

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