Mirage Las Vegas Tests Comped Drink Voucher System and Everything is Ruined

Seriously, Mirage, are you trying to make this blog’s head explode?

We recently sidled up to the Mirage’s Lobby Bar (yes, we’ve been known to sidle) and slipped $20 into a video poker machine. A very friendly bartender immediately took our order and comped our Captain and diet. (Yes, Captain Morgan from a bottle, not a gun. Long story.)

Mirage Lobby Bar

It’s actually called Lobby Bar. Because naming things is hard.

Here’s where things went exponentially south.

See, the Mirage is testing a new system for monitoring and dispensing comped drinks. Free drinks, of course, are one of the most hallowed of all Las Vegas casino traditions, despite recent trends where casinos swap out liquor brands without informing customers, but that’s a rant for a different time.

As with most casino bars, you’re comped your first drink at Mirage’s Lobby Bar, as long as you put at least $20 in the machine. After that, however, you have to earn your drinks, and the decision as to whether you’ve played enough to earn a comp is no longer in the hands of your bartender.

That’s right, your video poker machine decides when you deserve another drink. Not a person. Mirage now employs cocktail-deciding robots from Hell.

How often you earn a comp depends upon several factors. The denomination you’re playing is a key factor. We played quarters, but a higher denomination game spits out drink vouchers more frequently, allegedly.

Mirage Vegas comp drink voucher

“We gave our lives for this abomination?” ~Trees

Also, your length of play is part of the comped drink calculation. Take any kind of break while you’re playing (to Tweet or converse with a friend) and your comp is delayed further.

Brace yourself.

After our first free drink, we played more than an hour (one hour and five minutes, to be exact, with a couple of five minute breaks in play) before we got a voucher for another comped drink. In other words, an eternity in drinking years.

Yes, this happened in Las Vegas. The one in America.

It’s worth noting your drink voucher is valid for 24 hours from the time it’s issued. Big, meet whoop.

Not surprisingly, this new system is universally loathed, not just by customers, but also by bartenders.

Imagine being a Vegas bartender faced with customers who are gambling (holding up their end of the player-casino bargain), and you can’t serve a drink because a machine hasn’t deemed your customer worthy of one. Let the disgruntlement begin, assuming that’s an actual word.

Now, granted, most casinos have standing policies about how much you need to play to get comped drinks.

Bartenders know how much you’re playing, and they have some discretion as to when your next comped drink is allowed. Not at the Lobby Bar at Mirage. And it’s just a matter of time before this virus infects other casino bars, mark our words.

The drink voucher system at Mirage, if allowed to expand to other Mirage casino bars, or other resorts in the MGM Resorts family, is the beginning of the end of comped cocktails in Las Vegas as we know them.

Now, the good news! The video poker machines at the Mirage Lobby Bar are flipping loose. While waiting the hour for our second cocktail, we nailed two four-of-a-kinds and won more than $200. Suck it, The Man.

Video poker four aces

Mojo is the best revenge.

This comped drink voucher system has flown under the radar in Las Vegas, and we can only hope it goes the way of other short-lived, ill-considered penny-pinching strategies.

As with any misguided Las Vegas experiments, the best way to make sure it dies is to vote with your dollars. Ask your bartender if they’re on the voucher system, and if so, take your business somewhere else. You deserve better for your gambling spend.

Update (1/25/16): If you loathe the voucher system at Mirage, your brain’s going to explode when you see the Red Light, Green Light comp drink system at Caesars Palace.

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  • Another advantage to the bartender having discretion is that they can plonk a fresh drink in front of you just as you are about to cash-out forcing (forcing!) you to continue playing whilst finishing that drink (repeat as necessary until wallet empty).

    • Interesting! This voucher system works the same way. You keep playing a little longer to see if you’ll earn another comp.

  • beerdiva

    Oh no, please don’t let this spread downtown

    • Over our dead body. Which we’re pretty sure downtown has a couple of, btw. “)

  • Wally Marshall

    MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have become what i call “Clip Joints”, meaning that they will charge as much as they possibly can get away with and comp as little as they possibly can all the while making sure that their slot machines have the highest hold the state will allow. I do not solicit any of MGM’s or Caesars properties as i am not a sucker willing to be ripped off by uber high prices and uber high methods to increase their hold on the casino floor and lack of desire to comp anyone without any pain.

    • I don’t fault them for trying to find ways to cut costs. It just seems lately they’re cutting into the things people have come to expect from casinos. It’s part of the draw, and hate seeing those changes happen.

  • Gaz

    They keep looking for reasons to make us just stay home and save the airfare by playing at local/regional casinos.

    • I think Vegas needs to keep a close eye on how such decisions impact the big picture, you’re right.

  • strum67

    I thought the original idea was the casinos give you free drinks so you gamble more. Now they want you to gamble more to get free drinks? Seems counter-productive to their ultimate goal. Plus it’s cheaper for me to just buy my own drinks rather than feed $20’s into (usually!) tight bar-top VP machines.

    • Exactly! Lately, I’ve been buying my drinks, anyway, as casinos are less likely to swap liquor brands if you’re paying for the drink. And, yes, that was part of the original theory. Why that’s no longer in favor, no idea.

    • Tony Crawford

      At the Aria casino, the bar tenders can only give out drinks every half hour. The bar tender told to me play faster because of the cameras. Walked away from the VP Sports bar. Never to return.

  • Marc Erdheim

    just a heads up about that lobby bar , they dont comp drinks there for vp becuase of the nite club , it used to be jet , now one oak , so i guess this is there way of trying it out to see if they can comp drinks and also do v/p as everyone would try for free drinks while waiting to get into the club so they just didnt comp at that bar.

    im sure most people didnt have a clue

    • Interesting! Didn’t realize it was related to the nightclub. Thanks.

      • Marc Erdheim

        YUP I WAS DINIED COMPS , THEY SAID THEY DONT BECUASE OF THE CLUB. AND THAT BAR WAS PACKED WITH CLUB PEOPLE WAITING TO GET IN AND HOOKERS.

        SO MAYBE THATS WHY THEY CHOOSE THAT BAR TO TEST IT OUT.

  • wanker751

    Just a head up…. while that game is “loose” because you hit 2 Quads… The 8/5/4 Double Bonus pay table is one of the worst games you will find, returning 94% or so. The highest paying version of this site is over 100% found downtown at 10/7/5. So not only are they screwing you on the drinks but screwing you in terms of ER.

    Most strip bartops suck, but just FYI

    • Didn’t realize that, thank you! Trying to learn more about pay tables, but I hate math.

      • wanker751

        Me too… lucky for me people smarter than me did it for me! I just put that into a program I have, and few minutes later…dam, done.

        Best bartop resource I have found is on VMB under the Casino gaming section. A great poster there put info on the better paying tables at certain casinos.

  • NavarroMartin

    Vegas once again proves how much it hates its customers. That’s fine though. As Vegas becomes less fun and less of a value, I’ve explored new vacation destinations. Thanks Vegas for giving me more and more reasons to vacation elsewhere!

    • I fear that’s the impression it will leave. They’re not thinking about the bigger picture, why people visit Vegas, or what expectations are.

  • We need more guns.

    No problem. I’ll just stop in a cvs buy me 2 tall boys and take a seat at the bar.

    • Let us know how that works. Security could use the exercise! “)

      • We need more guns.

        I’ve done it in the past, and nobody said a word to me. If I must Ill get a glass.

        • Lee Crain

          Haha I would never let you sit at my bar with two tall boys I’d kick you right out or be happy to dump them for you.. I tend bar on the strip and this method will keep cheap ass quarter players away.

          • Yeah, agree. A bartender that let someone do that would be reprimanded for sure.

      • Tony Crawford
  • boulder steve

    This is going hurt the bartenders tips. I always tip good up on the first drink showing the bartender i not some cheapskate. This usually insures good service and comped drinks as long as I am playing..no matter how slow or how much.I dont play on the strip anymore. With this system not much incentive to tip. FYI..Stations casinos have a similar system..while not printing out vouchers there is a computer behind the bar which tracks your play and when you order a drink the bartender checks the computer and it tells if your eligible for a free drink. If not the bartender informs the customer he cannot comp and they will have to pay for. I have never seen anybody agree to pay..they get up and walk away pissed off.

    • Yeah, it was very awkward for the bartenders. They sort of just have to stand there looking at empty glasses. You’re right, they all monitor play, but there’s something especially painful about a machine turning you down when you’d like a drink. “)

  • NHBill603

    Yikes!

  • Jonesy55

    Not liking the ramifications of this. I hope enough people (both staff and players) make enough noise to put the brakes on the trickle down effect.
    Not cool at all. Especially at my favorite resort.

    • I’m sure they’ll get an earful from the bartenders. The level of play is likely to decline, too, which will ultimately influence the decision most.

  • Marvin Miller

    This system needs to die a quick death, or gamblers need to vote with their feet.

    • Feet and wallets. But certain people are into feet, I understand.

  • AccessVegas

    The house seems to be forgetting that drunk people will foolishly gamble away more of their money. There is a reason why casinos have always gotten patrons drunk (and why some men like to try to get their dates drunk). Not that we’re condoning either, but you get the point.

    • Right. Always figured that was one of the reasons liquor was so free-flowing. It’s penny wise, pound foolish, or whatever that saying is.

  • FYMYAWF

    Did you guys have your MLife card loaded into the machine? I wonder if that would make any difference.

    I’m not a huge VP player (I suck at poker) but I’m with strum67, if they’re going to get tighter with the drinks at the VP machines isn’t that the casinos shooting themselves in the foot? What’s the incentive to keep feeding the machines?

    I’ve spent more than my share (ahem) of time at casino bars and I don’t remember ever seeing anyone take advantage of the comped drink system, this seems to be a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Maybe MGM’s trying it out at the Mirage since they’re selling the place anyway and don’t mind pissing people off.

    • Yep, card was in. The bartender said it didn’t matter, but who knows? One incentive to keep playing is that you might get a drink!

  • Jokersmile

    Mirage seems to be a target since reported it was being sold…would like to know if more details are available regarding the rumors.

  • DuLac55

    At least they comp the first drink immediately. Toss in a $20, get your drink, play a few rounds of VP and then bolt! No way in hell I am waiting an hour for another drink.

  • Justin Woolard

    Wife and I were there on Friday 8/28, sitting at the sports bar. I put in $20, ordered a beer and hit 4 aces in about 15 minutes. Even then, the bartender said that they couldn’t comp my drink because we didn’t have a players card. I’m a member of mLife but didn’t have the card on me. They had to have a rep come out and verify my details and print me a new card before they would comp me. Crazy system.

    • Had not heard of not comping drinks because of a lack of a players card. Interesting.

  • Grow some hair on your balls

    This is just silly. More people will just buy alcohol at one of the million CVS on the strip now. Whats next – they are going to start charging to park now. Gaming is down but I think this will make things worst. I dont know how this will turn out but I usually tip the amount of the drink anyways. This might have more of an effect on the servers/bartenders, they wont make the money like they were accustom to.

    • Scott Maryland

      Charging to park on the strip is probably coming once the new arena opens behind NYNY. Full hotels and a sold out event at the arena will give pause to the free parking thinking that is currently the status quo on the strip.The charge to park will most likely happen only on event days but don’t think that the discussion on free vs paid parking hasn’t been happening. Think how much drool has been dropped from bean counter’s mouths as they look at all of the cars parked for free in the parking structures behind every strip hotel.

      • Grow some hair on your balls

        I heard about rumor of the new arena and the parking cost with it. Its going to be interesting on how things will work out. It wouldnt surprise me though if they add another dollar on the Resort Fee and say its for parking.

  • Jimmy Doors

    Maybe you $20 players are right. Just stay home and use your $20 to buy an 18 pack and a microwave burrito.

  • franko

    bean counters are determined to kill the golden goose. absolutely insane, I feel for the bartenders. They’re the ones dealing with the pissed off customers, the ones receiving less tips. I don’t play on the strip, but if this heads DT, then see you later, been nice knowing you. It isn’t the loss of the “free” drink as much as it’s the greed behind the plan. Would love to hear updates on this.

  • wsteinhauer

    Bartenders were tough at TI, but waitresses at floor machines didn’t care if you were playing or not.

    • That’s interesting. They probably have pretty strict marching orders.