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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.

  • "Dealers are prohibited from making any direct transactions with players. You must place your money on the table where the dealer will convert it to chips and place the chips in front of you."

  • "Video slot machines don't have the pay table displayed on the front. Instead, you should take a look at the help screen before you start to study the winning combinations and the bonus games, if offered."

  • "Although all slot machines look alike, no two models of machine are the same. Some are far better than others, and you should learn how to evaluate each machine to see if its worth playing."

  • "Across from the stickman sits the boxman. The boxman is in charge of the craps table, he watches the dealers to ensure correct payouts, verifies the dice, and controls the drop box."

  • "The Random Number Generator on each slot machine uses a complicated formula to generate numbers. This algorithm is known to the authorities, who can test machines to ensure they are working properly."

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