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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  • FYMYAWF

    Yeah, I don’t have a problem with this.

    I don’t play much VP anyway and have no problems actually paying (shock!) for a drink in a bar. I can see the plus for bartenders, too, as you point out. No more judgement calls for them, they just have to point to the LED’s and say “no play, no drinkies”. My sense of justice loves to curb the freeloaders trying to get drunk playing 25 cents a hand VP.

    All comps will probably eventually come down to computer algorithms in the near future, at least for the average player.

  • Scott Johnson

    The more I think of this, the more sense it makes.

    I wonder if the next step will be ordering drinks from the machines. I’ve seen this at Harrah’s So Cal and New Orleans. Being unfamiliar with the system the first time I used it, It was a bit of shock to find out my Bloody Mary cost $8, but it was full size, about 3 times bigger than a comped drink.

    Waiting for a comped drink at the slots usually costs me about $20 anyway.

    • Sam The Spam

      The next step will be booze-guns that water or underpour your drink based on your play.

  • Bouldersteve

    Even though I always play max bet at a good pace so I would still qualify for the comp I don’t like the policy.But really the poor VP payables is the reason I don’t play at those casinos. In the long run that’s going to cost you a lot more than the price of a drink. If bars had some full pay machines I would gladly pay for my own drinks. it will be interesting to see if people will now pay for the drink when informed they cannot be comped or just walk away..got a feeling most will walk.

    • Brewfangrb

      I think you’re not looking at this from the proper perspective. A “good customer” is one that plays a lot–not necessarily requiring losing, but at least, higher levels of play.

      Thus, this theoretical “good customer” is going be playing max bet at a decent pace and is going to earn their drinks.

      I think the issue is that there are 2 groups this system is designed to control:

      1) People are actually trying to “game” the system (i.e. but the money in and slow-play and say “Hey, I’m playing, gimme a drink!”)
      2) People that think they’re amazing customers, but really aren’t because sure, they play, but they play at low denominations and don’t play max bet. From their perspective, they play A LOT (and that’s totally fair–for them, it probably IS a lot). But it’s not enough for what the casino wants to support the comps.

      Again, for the truly “good customers”, I can’t see how this turns them off. If they want more than what they’ve earned, it’s in the interest of the casino that they walk.

      Word of mouth IS powerful, but it’s not that powerful. Some guy complaining “I didn’t get enough free booze!” isn’t going to go far with the masses.

      Fewer and fewer people are gambling in Vegas anyway. The people that are left are either the small-town dopes who fall into group (1) above (“My first time in Vegas, I heard you can drink all you want for free if you sit at a machine!”), grinders in group (2), or the true regulars who DO gamble because they like it and easily hit the benchmarks for comped drinks.

      What’s interesting here is it’s not clear if the system “paces” your drinking. Like, once you’ve had a drink, does the light go off and you have to play a good bit again to get another? The post doesn’t seem to indicate that–that they system is based on pace and coin-in of play. So as long as you keep playing at the required level, you could (it seems) pound back the drinks all day. (And why would they care, really, since, the shots are shorter now, and unless you’re specific, you’re getting VERY rail booze)?

  • Bill B

    This is simply another example of casinos now being operated by the bean counting brigade.
    The single advantage is, there won’t be any unpleasantness with the bartender, as any decision will be taken form him/her, so making the decision impersonal.

  • Bouldersteve

    I see the day when there will be no greenl light/red light.There will be no comped drinks period. That’s the way it is at the Indian casinos and there doing good business.

  • briandtw

    This was a very fair and nuanced look at what is understandably a somewhat sensitive topic with some people. I played last weekend at a couple of Caesars properties’ VP bars and had no idea the system had been implemented which tells me it’s probably going to be a relatively seamless transition for anyone except those who try to game the system or who think the casinos owe them something for nothing.

  • Funkhouser

    I have no problem with this as long as CET higher tier players are treated the same. I don’t like these programs where the information on how the comp value is calculated is not disclosed. I just stayed at CET this past weekend and found no issues at center bar. I played at my usual pace and the light stayed green and the bartenders comp’d my drinks freely. I saw one or two free loaders get shooed away once they figured out no free drink for low play. I just wish the casinos did not do this in an sneaky way like they are trying to pull something on us. I will be mighty PO’d if they take this to increasing play for busy weekends or peak demand to reduce comp outlay. Similar to what happens with blocked out room on peak demand or demand pricing in restaurants.

  • Mandi Webster-Martin

    Disclaimer: I hardly ever play video poker at the bar and haven’t been to Vegas since they implemented this new system. Having said that, I understand the motivation behind the red light/green light system, but I’d rather have the drink vouchers that I’ve heard about. I don’t mind playing enough to “earn” a free drink, but I’d rather not feel pressured to continue that pace of play just to keep the light green long enough for a bartender to notice. If I take a break for a moment to have a conversation, I worry that my play “clock” will be reset and I’ll have to gamble twice as much to make the light turn green again. Plus, what if I’m not ready for another drink? (Unlikely, but it happens.) I’d rather hang on to that voucher and redeem it when I see fit.

    • briandtw

      I think your opinion is fair and understandable but my suspicion is that this system is probably more liberal than you might think. For example I took a couple longer breaks of five minutes or so to watch football highlights Saturday while I was playing and never had an issue getting another drink when I wanted one even during my “hiatus”. Though like I said below I didn’t know the system was in place. I imagine the casinos probably don’t like the voucher system specifically because you can redeem them later while not playing. As a player I don’t have a problem with that and I could make an argument for the fairness (if I dump off $500 at VP in a couple of hours, a couple of extra drink tickets for use later shouldn’t be the end of the world), but it’s probably a system more rife for abuse than this one.

    • wanker751

      Well with the drink vouchers the clock resets and it will take longer for the voucher to spit out.

      But I do like that you can hang on to them, but they are only good for 2 hrs.

  • red318is

    I would like to know what the minimal hand rate it takes to keep the green light on. If it is not based on a hand rate, I wonder if there are ways to game the system by dealing and then waiting to draw or hitting hold buttons just to reset the clock.

    I believe even with the terrible pay tables CET has at their bars it is still worthwhile to play as opposed to buying drinks. Sure, you can get free drinks and much better pay tables downtown and off strip, and if you are a local drinking Captain and DIet, that is what you should do, but there are bars such as Tag Bar at the Linq that offer drinks you can’t find anywhere else and there maybe additional entertainment and convenience value to playing at that location.

    CET has 30-6-5 bonus poker which has a payback of 96.18% assuming you can play perfect strategy. So for every $1.25 hand you play, You are expecting to lose about 4.8 cents. If you play at a rate of 500 hands per hour, your expected loss would be $24. If you drink 3 drinks per hour, you are doing ok even at that rate. This is not factoring in other comps that you will receive for that play. I would guess that a rate of 200-300 hands per hour would be sufficient to keep the light on, which would make the expected loss about $10-$15 per hour. In reality, the majority of the time you are going to lose much more than the expected loss, but it is entertainment.

    • Ryan King

      Well said.

  • sundial

    I don’t object to this change in principle, but I wish the rules were a little different. I wish the comps were simply based on money wagered.

    I usually play full coin and would qualify for comps. But my wife, sitting next to me, usually plays for 3 coins, and under this system, would never qualify for comps. Why are my 4-5 hands at $1.25 qualifying, but her 100 hands at 0.75 not qualifying?

    The tech to track money wagered is trivial… we are locals and often play at the local casinos and/or video poker pubs. They always know how much total money you’ve wagered in a sitting. In fact if you squint a little, you can sometimes read the screen intended for the bartender, which displays first name / cash in amount / total amount wagered for each machine in the place.

  • REGION-RAT

    The nice thing is you may not have such a crowded bar with people trying to get a cheap drink. I play max credit at the bar to drink and yes, the pay normally sux but Im there for entertainment. If I expect to make money in a casino I would try to own one.

  • wanker751

    Wonder how free works with the blue light system, if you put in $20 in free play does the blue light go on?

    I plan on using more of my FP at bartops.

    • Bouldersteve

      Good question. Don’t know if the system is set up for free play. The way things are going you might not a get a comped drink on free play.

  • WIBREWCREW7

    I have a few friends who bar tend in Vegas using these light systems and they do still have the power to override anything they want to. The amount of money it takes to continue to get a comp drink is low. I think its a good idea, I don’t understand why people think they should be able to spend .80 cents and drink all day for free. I’m not saying you should have to spend $20 every 5 minutes, but expecting free drinks for not playing isn’t even reasonable.

    • Lajeff69

      Well said. Not to mention. These folks that play ¢25 a hand expecting free drinks are hogging up the machines from folks like me who are dedicated video poker players. Sometimes it’s a bitch to get a seat at the bar because of this.

  • Yensid76

    So, are all MGM properties using a drink monitoring system now as well or are only a few still in testing? How about Gold Coast Casino or Casinos on Freemont Street? Are those still like the good ol’ days in terms of getting comp drinks at the bar top VP?

    • Bouldersteve

      All MGM properties are using the system Its still the bartenders discretion at the Gold Coast and downtown. My advice is to put in $20 and tip good on that first drink and you will have no problem on getting more regardless of how fast you play as long as you have credits on the machine.

  • Sam The Spam

    I want to know if they tested this on monkeys. Push buttons, illuminate light, get reward.

  • I wonder if the casinos would mind if I brought in my own drinks?
    I rarely play on a bar top yet “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.” and since I like to play nickle VP I suppose it would take a while for me to get a green light.

  • Gary French

    It should be noted that the bar top machines pay lines at all Caesars properties were reduced 15 months ago and thus pay less than the floor machines.

  • rogerrramjet

    Just another reason I quit going to casinos anymore. They have become cheapskates. Their CEO’s pull in millions. They pay entertainers (and sometimes I use the term loosely) ridiculously high rates and then take it out on the middle class that has kept Las Vegas afloat for half a century.
    10 bucks a day to park? Screw ’em.
    Play 30 bucks to get a couple of free drinks that are now cheapassed booze that is NOT brand name.

    The cheapness of Casino’s is beyond belief. They rake in billions then dump evenmore fees for spending your money there. Never seen anything like it.
    Just plain cheapskates.

    A one week boycott of Vegas would change the BS fast. BUT no one ever does those things anymore.Anyway best to just play the floor slots.

  • William Wingo

    The bar Video Pokers that I’ve seen in Las Vegas–mostly at Orleans and Gold Coast–pay less than the the floor, so I don’t play them anyway. Can’t tell you much about Caesars or MGM properties because I haven’t been in any of them for a while.

    They can all go ahead and charge for drinks and parkng because I won’t be back anytime soon.

    In Laughlin, one or two places still have not-too-terrible pay schedules at the bars, and no meters yet AFAIK.

  • David McClintock

    What is the definition of insanity again?

    This was no doubt proposed by the CFO under pressure from the CEO.

    In other words: A bean counter with no concept of customer service figuring out ways to squeeze a rock.

    This will backfire. Your a cheapskate and making your customers feel like numbers while your competition does not. This will result in short term gains at the expense of long term customer base loss (your competition have waitresses offering free drinks who do a good job keeping an eye on obvious occasional moochers).

    It’s just like when a restaurant switches from a good chef with quality ingredients to a low paid chef using cheap ingredients. Short term profit reports spike. Long term profits plummet with your reputation. Customers feel cheated and don’t come back.

    This is yet another example of Casinos sacrificing long term profits/customers/reputations for short term gains.

    Unbelievable. They got themselves into this situation and are now doing the same thing to get out of it.

    I will not gamble at any casino that does this. I will simply leave and go to another.

  • Mark

    Do the bar staff reset the green light after the drink is provided- does the system take acount of the cost of the drink?