One way to justify gambling in Las Vegas was no matter how much you won or lost, you were still drinking for free. But according to the LA Times, two major casino companies are testing methods that may cut back on the comped alcoholic beverages.
Both Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts have been trying out similar systems on some of their bar-top video poker units. In the past, bartenders offered people playing these machines free drinks on their own accord. But with the new systems, the video poker machines themselves tip off bartenders as to when drinks should be comped based on patrons’ level of play. For Caesars, who has added its system to sports bars at all of its Las Vegas Strip properties as well as its other Nevada resorts, the back of the machine changes from a red light to a green light whenever a gambler has reached a drink-worthy level of wagering. With MGM Resorts, which is testing out its system at one bar each at the MGM Grand and Mirage, players have to wait for the machine to print out a free drink voucher before they can get their next tipple.
MGM spins the new play-based system as a way to help bartenders. “The new technology has eliminated the guessing game for bartenders about how many drinks each guest is eligible to receive based on play,” the company told the Times in a statement. (Because if there’s one thing bartenders hate, it’s giving out free drinks and receiving the typical tip that comes along with them). Meanwhile, Caesars was willing to admit the change was about the money, telling the Times that the new “comp validation system” allows its casinos “to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units.”
Of course, a few bar-top video poker machines are only a very small percentage of all the ways to grab a free drink in Las Vegas. And though cutting down on comped drinks cuts to the heart of everything excessive Vegas stands for, I can understand targeting people who are going to try to drink for free by camping out at a bar and just throwing some spare bills into a video poker machine every now and then: Trying to drink for free at a bar is about as on the nose as you can get for letting a casino know you’re there for the free booze. At least hunt down a low-limit Pai Gow poker table where you can get your free drinks while stretching your money: There’s a reason they call it the “drinking man’s game.” (Pro-tip!)
Still, as casinos become increasingly stingy with comps, players have reason to be worried that Vegas might turn free drinks into a thing of the past. It used to be a pit boss had the authority to comp anyone they wanted a steak dinner and a bed to sleep in; now low rollers have to swipe their card at a kiosk to see if they’re eligible for a free Pepsi. With casinos continuing to pop up all in lots of other places across the US, screwing with Vegas’s free drink policy could be the rum and coke that breaks the camel’s back.