Las Vegas Strip Casinos to Stop Providing Free Drinks to Non-Playing Visitors
Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International each have rolled out programs in the last year to stop giving free drinks to visitors who do not gamble. Now, patrons must play to get a free cocktail.
For decades, free drinks at Las Vegas casinos have been the standard. While players view free alcohol as a nice giveaway, casino managers see the booze as an investment or a promotional expense. When players have a few drinks, many of them have significantly fewer inhibitions about their gambling habits.
Since those policies went into place decades ago, employees at casino companies have noticed some visitors take the free drinks, but do not bet that much. They come to the casino for a handout. MGM Resorts instituted a policy last year to counter freeloaders, while Caesars Entertainment is in the midst of instituting a similar policy.
Caesars Entertainment’s Free Alcohol Policy
Rich Broome, Executive VP of Communications at Caesars Entertainment, said his company wants to reward its loyal customers. Broome said, “We are making a concerted effort to reward our larger-spending customers. This discourages people who are just looking for a free drink.”
Players will not notice changes on the gaming floors, at least at present. The policy currently applies to specific Caesars Entertainment casinos in Nevada and only in the bar areas of those casinos. Players have to use the gaming machines in the bar space in order to receive free alcoholic beverages.
It is a policy that has existed for a long time, in fact. That policy was seldom or never enforced. Now, Caesars bar managers in Las Vegas, Laughlin, Lake Tahoe, and Reno are being instructed to deny free drinks to players who do not gamble on the EGMs.
MGM Resorts International’s Free Drinks Technology
MGM Resorts not only has a policy, but it uses technology to enhance and formalize its policies. MGM Grand and TopGolf uses a validation system to assure the people receiving complimentary drinks are actually gambling.
Alan Feldman, EVP of MGM Resorts, said the era when casinos were giving free stuff to anyone who would walk in the door is gone. Las Vegas welcomed 43 million tourists last year, so the casino operations are not lacking visitors. Feldman said, “In the 1950s, the industry was trying to incentivize. Now, it’s a reward.”
Ardent Complimentary Validation System
The technology used by MGM Entertainment is the “Ardent Complimentary Validation System“, which was developed by Ardent Progressive Systems and Games. The system has proven to be a useful tool at MGM’s casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, like the MGM Grand, Bellagio, and Mandalay Bay. Feldman says the company might expand its use to Atlantic City and Tunica.
Meanwhile, Ardent Progressive Systems and Games has sold its validation system to many other casinos in the Las Vegas area, including Las Vegas Sands Corp casinos like the Venetian Las Vegas and the Palazzo Las Vegas. The Westgate Hotel & Casino, formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton, also uses Ardent. So does the Hard Rock Las Vegas, Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, Golden Nugget, and Treasure Island.
How a Betting Validation System Works
Players might wonder how the systems work. Caesars Entertainment’s validation system is a good example. Players must wager a certain amount per minute ($4 a minute) for a “discreet green light” to appear. So long as the player keeps up the $4-a-minute pace, the light remains green. If the player falls off the pace, then a red light begins to flash.
Alan Feldman would not give the pace needed to maintain free drinks at MGM Entertainment sites. He suggested players should ask the bartender for the standard in their particular site.
No More Complimentary Drinks
In short, gamblers have to pay to drink now. While the players might win their bets and get free drinks, it is now explicit that the gambler needs to gamble. With three of the four casino giants of the Las Vegas Strip instituting such a policy (Wynn Resorts is the lone holdout), the illusion of free drinks appear to be gone for good.
Players should keep in mind the validation systems are used only in select casinos at the moment. Also, they only apply to the bar area of the casino, so people watching the betting action on the gaming floor still receive free drinks.
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