Gambling City

We are Cash Back

Change Only Happens When Customers Demand It

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: After reading your columns about gambling in the Detroit Free Press, I thought I would share some observations of how Vegas is getting ever more money out of our pockets.

In an effort to pass time at low cost, I sat down and played video poker at a casino bar, and ordered a beer as I have done in the past. My bill was $8.50 for a single 12 oz. beer. I asked the bartender why I had to pay if I was gambling and he advised that drinks are now free only while playing on the casino floor.

Add to that the "resort fee" casinos are charging (which wouldn't even entitle me to use the driving range or the golf course), and you can see why every trip to Vegas is becoming more and more expensive. Gary M.

Gary, there used to be an implied contract between the player and the casino, that a gambler could expect the casino to offer them free beverages, $2.99 meals in the buffet, and occasionally a comped room for players who were willing to put their hard-earned money in play. That contract is now long gone.

Years ago, a former Las Vegas casino owner, Bob Stupak, warned us in US News and World Report when he said, “It’s our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can.” Well, I say, "Bravo!" At least this owner was willing to come clean about the realities of casino gambling.

These days, the casinos have raised their hold percentages, cut club benefits and comps, tightened video poker paytables, and tried to make us accept 6/5 Blackjack, all while cutting the perks for our play.

The casino world I was weaned on was built on cheap food, free spirits, fair gambling, and excellent customer service. You can say goodbye to all of that! Corporate America is now in charge of gambling and casinos are ruled by bean counters whose sole purpose is to control expenses while procuring more profits for the house.

This is where you come into the picture, Gary. Your drink at $8.50, is a non-gaming amenity that helps the casino’s gambling operation financially, which their accountants believe provides growth. In the past, your $8.50 beer was a loss-leader, now it is a profitable part of their business.

To my mind, $8.50 for a Pabst Blue Ribbon, while a gambler is playing video poker at a casino bar STINKS! I understand food prices won’t retreat to what they were in my early years in the gaming industry, but before I get out of this business after nearly 40 years, my wish would be that we will see a return to the basics of focusing on fair and honest gambling, as well as excellent customer service. Let's remember Rule #1: The customer is always right. Followed by Rule #2: If the customer is wrong, see Rule #1.

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

So, in addition to the nightly room rate, we are now "asked" to pony up an extra $5 to $30 a night in fees. Furthermore, there are some Las Vegas hotels that are quite happy to charge you a little something extra above and beyond the resort fee for a guaranteed room type, early check-in, late check-out, even for double beds, all of which are 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.

Also, trying to get those resort fees waived, especially if you advise management that you do not intend to use any of the facilities, is a good idea. Of course, you will be more successful in this if you have status with the hotel/casino loyalty program and/or you 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