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.

  • "Slow and steady is the best strategy for slot playing. That way you can play for a longer time with the same money and take advantage of more casino perks, like free drinks."

  • "Mechanical slot machines have everything you need to known written on the front glass. You can immediately see the type, how much it costs to play, and how much you can win for each combination."

  • "If you want to join a craps game, wait for a break when the dice are in the centre of the table. Then place your money down on the table and wait for your chips."

  • "It is fairly common for casinos to offer free blackjack or craps lessons. Not only can you learn how to play these games for free, but often times lessons include bonuses like match coupons."

  • "Casinos never make rule changes that benefit the player; if you see a new rule, it's bad for you. For example, some casinos are starting to pay 6:5 for blackjacks instead of the better 3:2."

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