Not free any more

In Comps and Free Stuff I told you about player’s club and loyalty cards and how to get free stuff like drinks. I also told you about the December 15th changes whereby MGM properties are restricting how you can earn points on your M Life card. It seems that this was only the beginning….

It started at Mirage and now it’s spread to Caesars Palace. Mirage recently introduced a voucher system for video poker players seeking free drinks. It’s always been one of the essential perks of playing slots that the drinks are free. Not any more it seems as your play is now being monitored to see whether you qualify! Details are sketchy as to what the qualification criteria are but this is a massive step in the wrong direction. This smells like a trial by Caesars Entertainment (Harrahs) to see how this system works and how many people it offends. Let’s see if they roll it out elsewhere.

traffic lightSomething similar has started at Caesars Palace itself in the Race and Sports Book Bar. The casino has installed three small lights on the back of each video poker machine at the bar; green, red and blue.  It seems these are to determine if players are worthy of comped drinks. Blue, it seems, means the machine is in use, green appears to mean ‘sufficient play to warrant fee drinks’ and red the opposite.

Again I don’t yet know how much you have to play to ‘go green’, please tell me if you have any direct information on this but this scheme also seems to fly in the face of established tradition. Video poker is a casino ‘cash cow’. If they’re clamping down on comps for these players how long can it be before free beverages disappear in the less profitable areas like the poker rooms?

This bar area in Caesars Palace has always been a problem. It sits too close to the nightclub and Strip entrance and too many non-players tend to sit and congregate in the area of the sportsbook, particularly at night. A voucher system has been in place for years here (and in many other sportsbooks also). You’ve only been able to get a drink voucher from the cashier when placing sports bets. This in itself isn’t unreasonable as the chairs on offer look mighty comfortable to a non-player but when the video poker machines start to be regulated where’s it all going to end?

It was a blow when the Venetian stopped handing out free bottles of Fiji water but that was self-inflicted. One guy got caught with a backpack full of the stuff. Whether he was going to take it home or sell doesn’t really matter but he ruined it for everyone. Now they serve those crappy little unbranded bottles you expect of a cheap room not the Venetian.

It seems that the squeeze on free stuff doesn’t stop at video poker but will also extend to FREE PARKING. On a comic level Hasbro have announced that ‘free parking’ will be removed from all new editions of the Vegas themed Monopoly board game. Why? Well, it seems that free parking in the city for real is on the point of extinction and its MGM that’s again doing the squeezing.

free parkingAfter months of speculation about parking at the new Las Vegas Arena, MGM has announced it will invest a lot of money to expand its parking capacity partly by constructing a new parking structure near Excalibur. Work is apparently to commence later in 2016 to last about a year. Mobile technology will seemingly allow patrons to check space availability prior to arrival and there will be lights to direct us to free spaces.

That’s the upside but there inevitably is a downside which is MGM’s’ stated intention to introduce parking fees for valet services or self-park garages. The early indication is that an overnight guest utilizing a self-park facility will pay $10 or less. Free-parking status is expected to be earned through M life. You recall the various tiers. Likelihood is you’ll need to get to at least Gold level to get free parking or they might as well give it to everyone.

So, are Caesars Entertainment and the other majors going to follow suit like everyone did with resort fees? The early word on the street is: Cosmopolitan, no. Stations, no. Wynn Resorts is “monitoring the situation.” Caesars Entertainment and Sands, no comment. Some commentators think that means ‘yes’. Let’s see.

Of course parking was never really free any more than the drinks were because you paid for it by losing at the slots and the tables. The thing is you’re still going to gamble and lose but you’re going to have to pay more for the privilege. Look for charges to start creeping in later on in 2016. Please let me know if you come across this.

The movies

moviesOn a lighter note the Jason Bourne trilogy has been in town with filming of various scenes for the fifth movie in the franchise. Matt Damon has been seen performing inside Aria and in a car chase up and down the Strip. Among other things this indicates the extent to which Aria as a property is taking over from the older iconic properties like Bellagio as backdrops of choice. There were SWAT trucks and various emergency vehicles performing a choreographed routine in Aria’s driveway which could be easily cordoned off.

Self-check in

If you try to check in at busy periods like 4pm on a Friday you’ll see just how many people the casino employs to process you. People cost money so to save themselves as much as possible self-check in machines are making an appearance. This was first trialled at Flamingo but it seems the patrons were too dumb to make it work and they were removed. They popped up again at The Linq. It seems the younger crowd that property attracts could cope and they have both stayed and, seemingly, proved a success.

You don’t have to use the machines but the choice seems to be a lengthy queue to be serviced by a human or to use the machine. I would happily do the latter but you can still see a human at Diamond Registration without the long line. At last I’m getting something for all that money I lost!

The machines are now re-appearing at Flamingo and even at Caesars Palace so they’re clearly here to stay. MGM properties will doubtless not be far behind and I would imagine it won’t be long until the things offer you a vast array of extras for a price.

Uber

taxiIf you’re a Uber fan then it’s good news as you can now use the facility throughout the Vegas Valley and it seems the price you’ll pay is considerably less than using a conventional taxi. I’m not so sure a first time visitor on vacation wants to be calling for a private cab when arriving at the airport but if you’re a regular user then this could save you money. The catch is going to be waiting time given the current surfeit of Vegas cabs means very little if any waiting. I also imagine as more locals use Uber there will be even more spare taxis fighting for reducing business.

These aren’t my figures so I can’t vouch for their accuracy but it seems a trip from McCarron Airport to the Strip will save you about $10, a trip from the Strip to Downtown $15 and a long distance visit to Red Rock looks likely to save up to $35. Certainly worth thinking about.

Mariah Carey

It has been announced that Mariah Carey will return to Las Vegas for her hit headlining residency “MARIAH #1 TO INFINITY” at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Apparently eighteen further shows are to take place between June 7th and June 25th and August 24th and September 11th. Tickets are to go on sale on Friday 29th January.

May it please m’lud

barristerFor the interested among you Las Vegas has a legal system all of its own and it’s epitomized by the ongoing case of Suen v Las Vegas Sands (the Venetian / Palazzo to you and I). For the second time in six years the Nevada Supreme Court  are now considering the matter of the behind-the-scenes dealing that allowed Las Vegas Sands Corporation to enter the lucrative Macau casino market.

Mr Suen’s case involves payment for his alleged role in Las Vegas Sands gaining a Macau gaming license which now accounts for nearly 60 percent of Las Vegas Sands’ annual net revenue and 66 percent of the company’s annual profits (and you thought they did well in Vegas!). The company owns Sands Macau, Venetian Macau, Sands Cotai Central and the Four Seasons Macau. When the $2.7 billion ‘The Parisian’ opens later this year, the company will own more than 13,000 hotel rooms there.

Attorneys representing Las Vegas Sands argue that Suen “did virtually nothing” to help the casino company earn its gaming license but two Clark County juries have disagreed finding in favour of the Claimant to the tune of $43.8 million in 2008 after a long trial and again in 2013 when they awarded him $70 million after the first award was set aside. Watch this space!

Written by eilv