Wednesday, May 2, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Jennalyn Schilke started going to Station casinos at age 7, romping in the Kids Quest child centers while her parents went to the casino floors.
"I've just always been around Station Casinos," she said. "It's always just been about having a lot of fun."
That kind of loyalty has helped Station Casinos remain a mainstay in the locals market over the years.
Now, Station is featuring longtime customers like Schilke in TV ads aimed at portraying the company as part of the community fabric in Las Vegas.
Schilke became part of the new promotions in the same way she became a Station customer — by tagging along with her mother. She was featured in the commercials, in which customers talk about how they spend their loyalty points, after accompanying her mother to an audition for the campaign.
"I didn't know I'd get picked," she said. "My mom was the one who actually got the invitation (to audition). She asked me if I wanted to go along, and I said, 'Sure.'"
Station casinos were built around the idea that not everyone in Las Vegas is a tourist and a lot of people in the city might like a casino closer to home than the Strip or downtown. Station expanded a bingo parlor on West Sahara Avenue into the Bingo Station in 1976, which eventually became Palace Station. The Frank Fertitta family added other Station casinos through the 1990s and finished Red Rock in 2006 as the first $1 billion casino aimed at the locals market.
David Schwartz, director of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research, said it wasn’t likely that getting lifelong customers was a long-term goal when Fertitta started Station.
"Frank Feritta saw a market that wasn't being served at the time, and he served it. Then, as Las Vegas grew, the company grew with it," Schwartz said. "Casino executives are more likely to market for this quarter than for the long term. If you walked into a boardroom and said you had a marketing plan for the next 60 years, you'd probably be laughed out. But when their customers say they want something, like a bowling alley or a movie theater, these casinos have provided that."
Station has survived a bankruptcy battle that ended with the Fertittas surrendering minority interest to their lenders. The company's ongoing battle with the Culinary Union over the union's efforts to unionize Station workers has been bitter, with both sides taking direct aim at the other in advertisements.
Station's new ads featuring Schilke and other loyal customers come on the heels of a campaign that characterized the Culinary Union’s actions as being bad for both Station and the Las Vegas economy. But company officials say the new promotions were unrelated to the Culinary campaign.
“Our ‘We Love Locals’ advertising campaign is all about what the title suggests, which is a celebration of the affection and appreciation we have for our loyal guests and that our guests have for our team members," said Lori Nelson, vice president of corporate communications for Station.