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Lamenting The Rising Costs of Gambling in Las Vegas

Question: I've been to Vegas three times in the past couple of years, and it seems like Vegas is finding more and more ways to separate me from my cash. I used to enjoy sitting at a casino bar, playing video poker and drinking free beers. But last time I tried this, I was charged nearly $9 for a normal bottle of beer and was told that free drinks were now only for players on the casino floor. If you tack on the 'resort fee' which nearly every hotel charges now, and which doesn't actually let you use any of the resort's facilities, Vegas is getting really costly. What's your take?

Back in the day, casinos and their players had an unspoken agreement – the players would get free drinks, $2.99 steak and eggs in the coffee shop, and dirt-cheap rooms, and all they had to do was put their money on the table or in the machines. Well, those days are long gone.

Modern casinos, not just in Vegas but across the country and around the world, are cutting comps, raising their hold percentages, trimming payouts, and even trying to foist 6-5 blackjack on their loyal players. A $9 MGD is simply the next logical, and awful step.

There was a time when casino managers and owners actually cared about offering fair gambling rules, free booze, cheap buffets, and personal customer service. But, as the casinos of America have gone corporate, these ideals have fallen by the wayside. Nowadays, it's all about making money.

We shouldn't be surprised, actually. Bob Stupak, one of the most famous and well-respected casino operators of yesteryear warned us all that this was going to happen. He laid the realities of the modern casino industry out on the table by telling a major newspaper that a casino's sole duty was to “extract as much money from the customer” as was possible.

There is nothing right about charging $9 for beer, especially while you are actually gambling; it shouldn't matter where in the casino you actually sit. But while many people see it that way, the bean counters that run corporate casinos see that $9 as a perfectly acceptable way to boost their bottom line. In the past, casino lost a lot of money on free drinks, your $9 is their way to make up for that. Realistically, things will never return to how they were in previous decades, and it's a huge shame to see the customer service aspect of the casino industry thrown away like this.

As for the 'resort fees' for those who don't know, they have become the standard at just about every Las Vegas casino out there. Mostly unadvertised, these fees range from $5 to $30 per night and are added on the actual, advertised rate of your room. Theoretically, these extra fees entitle you to use the swimming pool, driving range, spa, etc. But in reality, good luck getting anything more than the basic services you would have expected anyway.

Resort fees can sometimes be waived if you plan to not actually use any of the accompanying facilities (except the casino, of course!). It's best if you are a member of the casino's loyalty program and if you book the room directly with the hotel staff or through a casino host. You might not be able to avoid them, but it's worth a shot.

About The Author

Insider casino expert Mark Pilarski worked nearly every job in his 18 years in the casino industry, from dealer to cashier to shift manager. Armed with that experience, he created the legendary Hooked on Winning casino advice audio series and he currently lectures and writes gambling columns for various websites, newspapers, and magazines.

  • "Betting on the banker in baccarat has a mere 1.06% casino edge, but the casino charges a 5% commission on it. The casino has a 1.26% edge on player bets and a huge 14.36% edge on tie bets."

  • "Every table game has its own maximum and minimum allowable bets, which are always indicated by a small sign on the table. Often the sign colour corresponds to the same colour chip, $5 tables are red, etc."

  • "Slot machines are the bread and butter of the casino industry, accounting for three quarters of casino profits. All slot machines are pre-programmed to keep a portion of the cash put into them."

  • "The casinos doesn't have all the advantages, you can always stop playing whenever you want. Be smart and quit while you're ahead or before you lose more money than you can handle."

  • "Although roulette has a relatively high house edge, you can play for longer because an average table only sees about thirty spins an hour, compared to sixty games an hour for blackjack."

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