Category Archives: Gambling

Caesars Entertainment Rolls Out Comp Drink Monitoring System to All Its Las Vegas Resorts

Las Vegas observers predicted this was coming, and now its here. Caesars Entertainment, which operates nine Sin City resorts, has rolled out its “Red Light, Green Light” (our term, not theirs) comp drink monitoring system to all its Las Vegas casinos.

The color-coded light system, installed on the back of video poker machines at casino and sports book bars, tells bartenders when a guest’s play warrants a free, or “comped,” drink.

Caesars Entertainment red light green light

Now, at Caesars Entertainment casinos, you have to get lit to get lit.

Las Vegas casinos have experimented with a variety of comp drink monitoring systems, the first being a voucher system at Mirage. The voucher system is now used in the lobby bar at MGM Grand as well.

Then, the Red Light, Green Light system appeared at the sports book bar at Caesars Palace.

Most recently, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas became the first Strip resort to implement a voucher system across all its casino bars, including its remodeled Chandelier bar.

The move by Caesars Entertainment to implement its comp drink monitoring system is a huge development in Las Vegas because the company owns so many casinos. Drink monitoring systems will now be the norm, and a company-wide roll-out at MGM Resorts resorts are sure to follow.

Caesars comp drink system

Today’s thing that looks like a face can also be a friend when you’re looking for a free drink.

We personally verified the comped drink system is in place at these Caesars Entertainment resorts: Bally’s (including Sully’s bar and Casino Bar), Cromwell (Lobby Bar), Linq (includes Tag Sports Bar, Catalyst and 3535 Bar), Flamingo (including X Bar and Bugsy’s, pictured below) and Harrah’s.

Our alert readers have confirmed that the system is in place at Rio, Caesars Palace, Paris and Planet Hollywood.

Remarkably, the Red Light, Green Light monitoring system seems to have been installed at all these Caesars Entertainment resorts within just a two-week window.

Bugsy's Bar Flamingo Las Vegas

Yes, the new system is in full effect at Bugsy’s Bar at Flamingo. One has to wonder what “Bugsy” Siegel (he hated that nickname, by the way) would think of the whole Red Light, Green Light thing. Oh, there would be whacking.

So, here’s how the system works, as best we can decipher, anyway. See, Caesars Entertainment hasn’t made any official announcements about the details of the monitoring system. Implementing the new system under-the-radar was a strategic decision to avoid potential backlash, as one bartender confirmed.

When you sit down at a video poker machine at a sports book or casino bar in a Caesars Entertainment resort, and put $20 into the machine, a blue light comes on. That signals to the bartender that you’ve “activated” the machine. Yes, there are guests who sit at these machines and put a dollar in and expect free drinks. They’re the ones this system is trying to address.

Once you choose your game, and begin play, you’ll need to play “max bet” for 4-5 hands (in most cases, $1.25 a pop, or five times 25 cents), then a green light comes on. That green light means you get a comped drink. Good times.

Las Vegas drink lights

Get the red, a dry spell’s ahead.™

As long as your green light is on, you’re good for comped drinks. This requires consistent play at max bet. There doesn’t appear to be a time requirement. You play, your light stays green, you’re hammered.

If you don’t play max bet, or if you play too slowly, you’ll get the red light. That signals to the bartender you no longer “qualify” for a free drink. You’ll need to meet the qualifications again before the liquor flows freely again.

That’s about it. Simple, but effective.

When we first learned of systems like this, we railed against them, but our position has evolved as we’ve learned more.

In essence, bartenders have always been the comped drink monitoring system. They watched the level and frequency of play and determined who earned a free drink. Now, it’s
automated.

When these systems first hit the casinos, bartenders weren’t thrilled. They felt it impeded their ability to give good customer service, and it also decreased their tips.

When asked during our most recent visit, one Bally’s bartender said, “They’re a blessing.” Now, the pressure is off the bartenders, and an automated system creates an environment where players know what’s expected, and the freeloaders know they can’t get away with scamming casinos for free drinks without a reasonable amount of play.

It’s worth noting bartenders say they have some discretion to veer from the rigidity of the Red Light, Green Light system for Seven Stars and Diamond tier loyalty club members. Those are some of Caesars Entertainment’s most lucrative customers, and it’s unlikely they’d nickel and dime them over cocktails that have a hard cost of mere pennies.

Caesars comp drink system

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because you’re in Vegas.

At the moment, the light system at Caesars Entertainment resorts can’t easily be seen by customers. They’re installed on the back of video poker machines, and most players don’t even realize they’re there. If you want to know which of your lights are showing, you can place your hand behind the light display to see the color reflected, or use your smartphone’s selfie mode to take a look. Or just ask your bartender. They’re not secretive about it at all.

One bartender suggested the lights should be clearly visible to players so guests could easily tell if they’ve earned another free drink. That suggestion, however, didn’t go over well with management due to concerns about the potential of a negative customer response.

The customers we’ve chatted with, though, understand the fundamental purpose of the comped drink system, and figure the only people it will impact are those who expect something for nothing. That arrangement has never actually existed in Las Vegas, despite many who mistakenly believe it did. They just didn’t understand how Vegas worked. Casino revenue has always paid for the free rooms, buffets and show tickets. People did the comping, not machines.

Cromwell comp drink system

Yep, even the Cromwell. At this point, we recommend just paying for your cocktail. It’s likely to be less expensive than feeding a machine in the hopes of earning a comped one.

The implementation of the Red Light, Green Light comped drink monitoring system at all Caesars Entertainment resorts in Las Vegas marks a dramatic turning point in the culture and business of Las Vegas casinos.

It means we’re going to see similar monitoring systems in all Las Vegas casino bars and, in time, on all slot machines across the entire casino floor.

These changes, along with downsized liquor pours and paid parking, have sparked heated discussion among Las Vegas visitors, many contending Las Vegas casinos are compromising the destination’s perceived value for short-term financial gain.

Ultimately, though, painful as they may seem, the changes are smart business, and casinos
are for-profit businesses. Always have been, always will be.

Update (9/27/16): Caesars Entertainment has confirmed that the comp drink monitoring system has been implemented at all its Nevada casinos. A statement reads: “Caesars Entertainment has implemented the comp validation system statewide throughout our Nevada resorts. This system enables us to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units.” See more on this story from our friends at KTNV.

It ain’t glitzy, but it is the reality, so play on.

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Transformation of The California Continues With Opening of Sports Book Bar

There’s been a steady stream of changes and renovations at downtown’s California casino,
including the unveiling of a new sports book bar.

Emphasis on bar.

California hotel sports book bar

A new place for dog players, futures, exotics, chalk eaters and other terms we don’t know the meaning of.

The new sports book bar includes a relocation of The Cal’s, wait for it, sports book. The sports
book was previously on the casino’s second floor, and it was sad. The former sports book is
expected to become additional meeting and banquet space.

The just-revealed sports book is shiny and new and happy, and is just inches away from a new casino bar, complete with eight video poker machines, comfy seating and hooch.

California sports book bar

It’s like the den you’d have if you had an uncle named Sheldon.

The Cal’s new sports book lounge has 18 video screens, with wiring telegraphing plans for two
more.

The new sports book bar is easily accessible, right on the casino floor.

We’re putting this among the best sports books downtown, right up there with Golden Nugget’s. Despite the fact we don’t do sports. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

The Cal sports book bar lounge

We are not keeping track of all the remotes.

The new sports book bar is part of a major overhaul of the California, which opened in
1975. Estimates of the hotel’s renovations put the investment in the $40 million range. The Cal cost $10 million to build.

The sports book bar follows the opening of another casino bar, the Holo Holo Bar, in the
space previously occupied by the San Francisco Pub.

Holo Holo Bar at California

Holo Holo means “to go out and have adventures” in Hawaiian. About 80% of guests at The Cal are from Hawaii.

The Cal’s entire casino has undergone a renovation over the last year or so. Read more
about the “mystery pillar” that no longer qualifies as a mystery.

The casino has gotten a serious facelift, including new carpeting, new lighting fixtures,
new detailing and paint. The whole place, described as “Hawaiian colonial,” looks brighter
and more modern.

This is where the transformation of The Cal’s casino began.

California casino renovation

Out with the old, in with the colonial.

Upstairs at the California, Aloha Specialties restaurant also got a refresh.

Aloha Specialties

Nothing too flashy, but new is new.

The hotel’s Redwood Bar & Grill, pictured below, has closed for a renovation, too.

Redwood Bar & Grill

Only in Vegas do we renovate things that don’t really need renovating.

Signs on the Redwood Bar & Grill encourage guests to visit a temporary home, at the Pullman
Grille inside Main Street Station. We haven’t tried it, but we have tried a relatively new restaurant at The Cal, California Noodle House, which gets ridiculously high praise from us, so save yourself some walking.

California Noodle House

We’ve yet to find anything we don’t like at California Noodle House, and we hate everything.

Chances are if you haven’t been to the California in awhile, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of the changes.

The Cal is one block north of Fremont Street Experience. (Full disclosure: We work in marketing for Fremont Street Experience, and The Cal is one of its partner casinos. Our opinions are our own. Except for the ones we got from 1990s sitcoms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Prices for food and drink at The Cal are downright cheap, even by downtown standards, so with all the newness, it’s a great time to stop by and check it out.

California hotel casino Las Vegas

Bonus: No resort fees. Unless you’re into the kind of thing.

While you’re there, of course, don’t forget to grab a cone at Lappert’s Ice Cream on the second
floor. Yes, they recently cut their ice cream selection in half (our beloved chocolate chip fell victim to the downsizing), but what’s left is still some of the best ice cream in Las Vegas.

Lappert's Ice Cream

If only [bring back] subliminal messages [our damned chocolate] worked [chip].

If you drop by The Cal, we’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment, Tweet us or send a message via carrier pigeon. Note: We only mentioned that last thing to confuse the Millennials.

California Newness

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How to Find the Loosest Slots in a Las Vegas Casino, Guaranteed

Wouldn’t it be great to know the loosest slots in any Las Vegas casino? Well, you can, and it’s easier than you might think.

A “loose” slot, of course, refers to a machine that pays out frequently and in large quantities, every player’s dream. Those machines are also described as being “hot.”

In the parlance of casinos, loose slots can be said to have the lowest casino “hold.” The hold percentage is the part of a machine’s “coin in” that the casino keeps. Hey, these casinos aren’t going to carpet themselves.

Las Vegas slot machine

Just no.

The lower the hold percentage, the more a slot machine pays back to guests. The secret to finding the loosest slots in a casino, then, is knowing which machines have the lowest hold percentage.

Many believe this information is a closely-held secret, but here’s an easy way to find out which slots are the loosest: Ask someone who knows.

Crazy, right? Every casino with slot machines has a Slot Manager, often called the Slot Operations Manager. This person, who you will never see without a suit and tie (yes, they tend to be male), knows precisely what the hold percentages are for given machines, or more typically for banks of machines.

It’s the Slot Manager’s job to monitor how machines are performing, if they’re delivering sufficient profit to the casino given the space they take, if new machines are needed, where they should be placed on the casino floor and myriad other duties.

If you want to know which slots in a casino are the “loosest,” simply ask a Slot Manager.

Loose slots

These are some of the loosest slots at The D Las Vegas. How do we know? We asked.

Here’s how.

Ask anyone on the floor if the Slot Manager is available to chat. Slot attendants and cocktail waitresses can be very helpful tracking them down. Hint: Be professional and courteous.

Introduce yourself to the Slot Manager and let them know you’re interested in locating the slots with the lowest hold percentage on the floor. Slot Managers are busy people, so while there’s no harm in schmoozing, don’t be shy about getting to the point.

In most cases, a Slot Manager will either point you toward a bank of machines or escort you there. Express your appreciation accordingly, and it’s time to play!

That’s it. No, really. It’s that easy.

All this begs the question: Why would a casino employee tell a player the best-playing slots in the casino?

Simple: Casinos just want people to play, they don’t care which machines they play on.

Why? Because no matter which machine you play, the house has the advantage. It’s built right into the machine’s microprocessor. Even if a machine has a great payback percentage, say 98%, it will keep $2 for every $100 put into the machine. Many machines keep significantly more.

loosest slots

As a rule, slots are looser at locals casinos than downtown casinos, and both pay back more than slots on The Strip. The more you know.

Now, if you can’t locate a Slot Manager, you can fall back on tried-and-true ways to find the best-paying slots.

A solid rule-of-thumb is the more active a bank of slots is, the higher the payouts tend to be. Casino regulars see patterns, so follow their lead.

It’s also good to know that the higher the machine’s denomination, the more generous and frequent the payouts. For example, a $5 coin machine is going to have a higher payout percentage than a quarter machine, and so on.

$500 coin slot machine

Go big or go home. It’s Vegas!

And finally, don’t discount the advice of those slot attendants and cocktail waitresses we mentioned. They, too, can see patterns in machine payouts. They may not be privy to the same information a Slot Manager has, but they can often point you toward the machines showing signs of being “hot.”

The next time you’re in a casino, remember our simple tip for finding the loosest slots: Ask a Slot Manager.

And remember to have fun when you play. That way, whether Lady Luck is in the mood or not, you’re always a winner.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 21: Good Vibrations, EasyPlay App and Howard Hughes

It’s time for another excruciating episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast!

This is episode 21, which means the podcast is finally old enough to gamble. What could possibly go wrong? (Don’t bother asking about the “Good Vibrations” thing. It’s better left unsaid.)

In this installment, we chat about the new real money slot tournament app from MGM Resorts, EasyPlay, and hear an exclusive interview with Michael Jabara, President & CEO of OneLive, Inc., the company that developed this new Web-based app.

EasyPlay app

The EasyPlay app from MGM Resorts lets players enter real money slot, bingo and video poker tournaments.

We also dive into the state of downtown Las Vegas and its future, and round up some of the Las Vegas news you know and love (mainly because you read this blog).

Rounding out the episode, we explore one of the colorful characters that made what Las Vegas is today, Howard Hughes.

It’s all that and so much less on this episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast, so take a listen, already.

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MGM Resorts Takes Real Money Slot Tournaments Mobile With Web-Based EasyPlay App

MGM Resorts has launched a new Web-based app, EasyPlay, being touted as the “first mobile casino slot platform in the country.”

The EasyPlay app allows players to participate in virtual slot and bingo tournaments away from the casino floor at MGM Resorts destinations. The difference between this app and other “just for fun” social casino games is the prizes are paid in cash, on site.

EasyPlay app mobile casino

It’s easy to play. Which may have inspired the name, EasyPlay. Just a hunch.

EasyPlay (the official style is “easyPLAY,” but we have an aversion to random capitalization and shouting) can be accessed free via a Web site.

For the time being, one must be logged into the Wi-Fi at an MGM Resorts hotel-casino to use the app and take part in the virtual tournaments. (EasyPlay tournaments are also be accessible on InteractivePro Tables located throughout MGM Resorts.)

There’s a small cost for tournament entries, and tournament jackpots vary based upon the number of participants.

The EasyPlay app makes it a breeze to see how many people are taking part in a given slot or bingo tournament and where you rank against other participants, all in real-time.

EasyPlay slot tournament app

EasyPlay was developed by a Las Vegas company, oneLIVE, Inc. We’ll let them get away with the random capitalization and shouting just this once because we sort of like their app.

MGM Resorts sees this app as the next evolution of casino gambling, although, technically, the tournament element keeps this type of mobile gambling from being considered “gambling,” because mobile gambling isn’t legal in the U.S. at the moment. It’s complicated.

Of course, MGM Resorts and the game developer have made sure EasyPlay has the blessing of Nevada Gaming Control Board.

MGM Resorts reps seem to have high hopes their new app will appeal to younger gamblers, specifically, those pesky Millennials. Will Millennials like slot machines more because they’re on a smartphone? It’s possible. They do seem to enjoy competition, and EasyPlay slot tournaments certainly provide that experience.

EasyPlay app

“What the hell is bingo?” ~Millennials

The EasyPlay app is being described as “the new keno,” which sounds about right. We’ll definitely use the app when we’re having lunch at a casino restaurant or a cocktail at a casino bar. But mainly that second thing.

The fact there are real money payouts certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

If you win one of the EasyPlay slot tournaments, just go to the casino cage, provide a valid I.D. and your e-mail address, and you’ll get your cash. (All the usual rules apply for wins greater than $1,200, you’ll have to fill out the appropriate tax forms.)

Other details: A payment method is set up within the app prior to play, entry credits can be purchased for varying amounts (starting for as little as $1), you can play free trial games, and the app lets you check winnings, credit balances and scheduled tournaments with ease.

EasyPlay casino app

Just scan the available tournaments and dive right in. You’ve got 25 spins to get the high score. No pressure.

If you have questions, visit an M Life players club desk (yes, we know it’s “M life,” don’t get us started) at your favorite MGM Resorts casino.

Here’s some sweet news coverage of the release of the EasyPlay app. By “sweet,” of course, we mean this Las Vegas blog is featured in it.

Casino social games have been a huge windfall for casino companies (yes, people spend millions of real dollars purchasing virtual coins), and casinos are champing at the bit for real money mobile gambling to be legalized.

In the meantime, virtual tournaments it is, and EasyPlay may end up being your new favorite obsession when visiting an MGM Resorts casino in Las Vegas. Those resorts include Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, Luxor, New York-New York and Excalibur. Sorry, but at Circus Circus, you’ll have to play slots the old-fashioned way. (Circus Circus is owned by MGM Resorts, but isn’t part of the M Life players club family.)

Here’s a tip: Even if your chances of winning a tournament look bleak, don’t give up. We’ve personally seen someone get six million points on one spin, so a miraculous, come-from-behind victory isn’t out of the question.

If you give EasyPlay a try, let us know what you think, and if you win a jackpot, our usual commission applies.

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10 Ways Thrillist Got Casinos, and Las Vegas, Wrong

We make no apologies for the fact this blog loves it some “listicles” (a catch-all for “information presented in list form”), and we also love a site that frequently publishes them, Thrillist.

Recently, though, Thrillist was responsible for a story we simply can’t let stand.

The piece is called “10 Sneaky Ways Las Vegas Casinos Take Your Money.” The article rehashes lots of outdated Las Vegas myths, jumps to lots of erroneous conclusions and states a number of falsehoods as truth, so we figured it would be fun to lend our two cents to the conversation.

If you don’t already live by the credo, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” now might be a good time to start.

1. Casinos are Windowless Traps

Right up front, Thrillist asserts “casinos are windowless traps.” We call bull.

Many newer casinos have windows and natural light. The extent to which this assertion is misguided can be easily illustrated by the fact casino companies are now building entire venues outside. Those include the multi-million dollar Linq promenade and The Park, between Monte Carlo and New York-New York.

Bliss Dance The Park Las Vegas

It’s true The Park at New York-New York is windowless, but that’s because it’s all outside.

The article also asks, “Where is the nearest exit?” Seriously? There are signs for exits everywhere. Fire and safety regulations require casinos to post exit signs everywhere. Being sneaky about exits simply wouldn’t be tolerated in casinos.

Although these tidbits make for a colorful conspiracy theory, they’re simply not true upon further scrutiny.

2. Casinos Don’t Have Clocks

The Thrillist article asks, “What time of day is it?” We say it’s time to get a clue about Las Vegas and the modern world.

While you can’t often find clocks inside a casino, why would you need one? Just about every person in a casino has a smartphone on them that shows the time!

Whether the trope about clocks is true or false, why would it matter if casinos provide clocks? Let’s put this old saw to rest, already.

Las Vegas dice clock, wrong Thrillist

Clocks? We’ve got a metric ass-ton of clocks.

3. Casino Cages Are Hard to Find

The Thrillist article posits, as fact, casino cages are difficult to find.

“It always seems that the casino cage is hard to find, requiring a walk deep into the casino—past many other games and temptations.”

The hooey is strong with this one.

There’s nothing sinister going on with the placement of casino cages. The location of cages is based upon security concerns, and signage for cages is everywhere.

Today’s casinos are all about customer service. Annoy a customer by hiding a cage and they won’t be back. Also, many casinos have players club desks at the cage, so why would they want to deter players from signing up?

Riviera cashier cage

Placement of casino cages has more to do with structural demands and security than anything nefarious.

In addition, most people playing in casinos are doing so at slot machines. Those machines spit out TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out) vouchers that can be redeemed at self-serve kiosks, more numerous than ever.

4. Casino Cages Are Intentionally Understaffed

The Thrillist story continues, “And once you find it, often there is a line with only one person there to service those who want to trade their chips in for cash.”

We have personally been to every casino in Las Vegas, for a time period spanning more than a decade, and we have never been to a casino cage with one attendant.

Again, slow service doesn’t benefit a casino. We presume there are also regulatory and security requirements about someone being left along with millions of dollars in cash.

If hogwash and hokum had a bastard child, it would be this.

5. Wild Casino Carpets “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”

We’ve heard this ridiculous theory for years now, and it’s never been true. We’re very familiar with the concept of “unpleasant design,” a concept covered masterfully in a recent episode of the exceptional 99% Invisible podcast. (Many Las Vegas casinos use sharp and pointed design elements on their outdoor features to keep vagrants from sitting or sleeping at their venue, for example.)

But casino carpets aren’t that.

The reason casino carpets are colorful, and have distinctive design details, is to disguise stains. Casino carpets get a lot of traffic, and much of that traffic is drunk and carrying liquor. Spills are frequent, and busy carpeting helps camouflage spills and stains. As usual, practicality wins over conspiracy.

Mermaids carpet

Las Vegas fans love casino carpet, even if it looks it was designed by someone with severe head trauma.

6. Casinos Teach Players Wrong

Thrillist encourages casino guests to be careful who they learn from, the implication being that if you take free gambling lessons at a casino, instructors don’t “exactly have a ton of incentive to teach the best bets that give players the best chance to win.”

Free gambling lessons are a popular service, and it’s not on the casino to teach every detail of a given game. The idea is to give an introduction to the game, and it’s on the player to learn the nuances, odds and strategies.

Ultimately, all casino games are stacked in favor of the house. Casinos don’t have to be “sneaky.” They need to make customers feel welcome, they need to differentiate themselves from their competition (free services do that) and they need to provide a memorable, safe, fun experience.

Gaming lessons

Casinos don’t teach guests to lose, they teach them to play. The winning and losing is all on us.

That said, we’re not oblivious to the ways casino games avoid having big, red arrows pointing to the better bets on a given table game. You won’t find any wording about “odds” bets on a craps table, despite that bet being one of the best in the casino. And you’ll almost always see the “Big 6” and “Big 8” bets (sucker bets) clearly marked.

But casinos aren’t teaching players wrong. They’re whetting our whistles, and what happens from there is up to us.

7. “Cash Advance Leads to Winless Trance”

This item seems to be included in the Thrillist article to warn us against using credit card cash advances. Great advice, but we’re baffled as to how this is a strategy by casinos to take
our money.

Yes, casino ATMs charge for withdrawals and cash advances. Fees are clearly stated during the transaction. Yes, credit cards charge interest for money we borrow.

Is any of this underhanded on the part of a casino? Of course not.

8. Dirty Hidden Fees, Part One: Resort Fees

Again, this item isn’t so much incorrect as it is irrelevant.

Thrillist says, “Many casino hotels charge what are called ‘resort fees’—daily charges tacked on to the hotel bill for ‘resort amenities’ rather than just including them in the cost of the hotel room—which is just a way to bump up what you thought was a reasonable bill.”

Fair definition, and nobody likes resort fees, but what in the name of all that’s Vegas do resort fees have to do with casinos?

Resort fees

At one time, Caesars Entertainment touted the fact it didn’t have resort fees. That was adorable.

We bash resort fees often, and predicted they’ll go away this year (don’t laugh) but they’re a worldwide problem in the hotel industry. Proportionately few of the offending hotels are in Las Vegas and only a tiny fraction have casinos in them. Somebody’s fluffing up their listicle!

Note: Thrillist uses a photo of the Fremont casino in its story, a downtown hotel that doesn’t charge resort fees.

9. Dirty Hidden Fees, Part Two: CNF Charges

Our blog is a likely source for this entry in the Thrillist article, as we’ve ranted about CNF charges frequently.

Thrillist says, “There are plenty of great restaurants in Vegas and plenty of places to eat in Vegas for $10 or less—but on [sic] of the most infuriating practices for a few restaurants, especially on the Strip, is the Concession and Franchise Fee (known as a CNF)—sticking it to diners for an extra 4.7% on every bill.”

So, we’re not saying Thrillist was wrong in bashing these asinine charges at places like Beer Park and Hexx at Paris, Cabo Wabo Cantina, Senor Frog’s and Rhumbar. We’re just saying what does this have to do with casinos?

CNF charges are a restaurant thing, so while sneaky, they’re not casino-related.

Las Vegas CNF fee

CNF charges are the ugliest kind of gratuitous fees, but they’re not a casino thing.

10. Casino Players Clubs Are Somehow Sneaky

Thrillist says casino players clubs are “the club you don’t want to be a part of,” then the article goes on to say “joining a players club at casinos will earn you ‘cash back’ and ‘players points,’ the more you gamble the more perks and points you get.” Well, they got it half right.

Getting perks and cash back for your play certainly sounds sneaky, doesn’t it?

Then Thrillist goes off the rails, stating “these clubs are designed to keep players at the tables and slot machines longer.”

How do we put this diplomatically? WTF are they talking about? Here’s the truth: Casino players clubs exist to track play and reward loyalty. They’re a marketing tool.

Loyalty clubs are like frequent flyer miles, and in fact, casino loyalty clubs were pretty much lifted from airline reward programs. Are airlines being “sneaky”?

Players club frame

Bonus: Players club cards make excellent picture frames. See our list of other alternate uses for your loyalty club cards.

Loyalty clubs offer players perks they wouldn’t get if a card weren’t used. So, it’s sort of the opposite of a sneaky way casinos take our money. It’s a way to give loyal customers something back.

Again, many of the misconceptions and myths in the Thrillist article are common.

But the bottom line is casinos don’t have to be sneaky to make money. They have two things on their side: Math and time.

For every bet made in a casino, the house gets a piece. When you lose, they get your money. If you win, they take a commission by paying out slightly less than the odds would dictate.

Roulette

A straight up bet on roulette should pay 37-to-1 based upon the odds, but pays 35-to-1. That difference is called the “vig,” or “juice.”

Every for-profit industry tries to make the most of things that trigger our biases and motivations. Casinos aren’t any worse or better than the others.

If you’re going to go after casinos for trying to make money with design or psychology, you also have to go after breakfast cereal companies for placing products at the eye level of kids.

Articles like the one on Thrillist perpetuate the myth casinos are somehow trying to hoodwink us. The truth is the casino industry is one of the most-regulated industries around.

Casinos and Las Vegas deserve better. Dig deeper, ask questions, don’t perpetuate myths. (No, oxygen isn’t being pumped into casinos.)

The Thrillist article is still worth a read. It’s true people bet more when using chips than cash, and the article also gets it right that “there’s no such thing as free booze.”

If you want to learn more about how casinos use light, sound, interior design and ergonomics to keep the money rolling in, read “Addiction by Design” by Natasha Dow Schull. We’d love to hear your take on all this.

It should be noted we’ve worked at, and for, casinos during our time in Las Vegas. We used to write the blog for Caesars Entertainment, and our current day gig is at Fremont Street Experience, which is financially supported by its member casinos. That said, we have a pretty good history of calling out casinos when they’re doing something we don’t like (which happens far too often, actually). As with anything you read on the Internet, question everything and decide for yourself who gets it right.

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