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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Change only happens when customers demand it

19 June 2015

Dear Mark: After reading some of your recent columns about gambling in the Detroit Free Press after a recent trip to Vegas, I thought I would share some observations of how Vegas is prying more money out of our pockets.

Regarding ways to pass time at low cost, as I have done in the past, I sat down and played video poker at a bar-mounted machine, and ordered a beer. I got an $8.50 bill for a 12 oz. beer. I asked why I had to pay if I was gambling and was told drinks are now free only on the casino floor.

Add on the "resort fee" most casinos are charging (which, by the way, wouldn't entitle me to use the driving range on their golf course), and you can clearly see why each trip to Vegas seems to be becoming more expensive. Gary M.


Once upon a time, Gary, there was an implied contract between the casino and the player that the casino would offer the gambler free beverages, $3.49 feeding frenzies in the buffet and $0.99 denizens of the deep for players who were willing to put their hard-earned money in play. That contract is now null and void.

Actually, one former Las Vegas casino operator, Bob Stupak, warned us years ago when he intoned the realities of casino gambling in US News and World Report by stating, “It’s our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can.” Bravo! At least this past owner came clean on the realities of casino gambling.

Today, casinos have raised the hold percentages, cut club benefits/comps, tightened video poker paytables and tried to cram 6/5 Blackjack down our throats all while cutting the perks, a PBR no less, for our play.

The casino industry I was weaned from was built on fair gambling, cheap food, free spirits and great customer service. Say goodbye to that! Corporate America now runs gambling, ruled by bean counters whose sole purpose is to control expenses while procuring more profits for the house.

Here is where you come in, Gary. Your $8.50 drink is a non-gaming amenity that financially complements the casino’s gambling operation, which their accountants believe provides growth. Your $8.50 cocktail used to be a loss leader; now it is a profitable part of their business.

Personally, I believe $8.50 for a Pabst Blue Ribbon while a patron is playing video poker at a casino bar STINKS! I get that food prices won’t retreat to my early years in gaming, but before I get out of this business as I close in on 40 years, wishful thinking on my part hopes that we will see a return to the basics of focusing on honest gambling and excellent customer service. Such as Rule #1: the customer is always right. Followed by Rule #2: if the customer is wrong, see Rule #1.

As to your mentioned “resort fees,” they are a (usually unadvertised) mandatory fee tacked onto your nightly room rate. In Las Vegas, you will be hard-pressed to find any hotel that does not charge them.

In addition to your nightly room rate, you are now being "asked" to shell out an extra $5 to $30 a night in fees. Furthermore, there are some Vegas hotels happy to charge you a little something extra above the resort fee for a guaranteed room type, early check-in, late check-out, even for double beds — all taxed, mind you, after they are added. This gives off the odor of ordure, too!

All I can recommend here, Gary, is to make sure you read the fine print before you book your room. Resort fees tend to be omitted from advertised rates.

Also, there is no harm in trying to get those resort fees waived, especially if you advise management that you do not intend to use any of the facilities. You will be more successful if you have status with the hotel/casino loyalty program or work directly with a casino host.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “When we put 50 machines in, I consider them 50 more mousetraps. You have to have a mousetrap to catch a mouse.” —Bob Stupak, former Las Vegas casino owner
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.