Caesars Palace Plays Red Light, Green Light for Comped Drinks at Sports Book Bar

On the heels of Mirage rolling out a voucher system to regulate how comped drinks are earned by video poker players, Caesars Palace has implemented a new system of its own.

It’s a little like Red Light, Green Light, but it’s no game, and it could signal another unfortunate penny-pinching trend by Las Vegas casinos.

The Red Light, Green Light comp drink system is currently at one bar, the Race and Sports Book Bar at Caesars Palace.

Caesars Palace sports book bar

The Race and Sports Book Bar at Caesars made its debut in Sep. 2014 at a cost of $1.6 million.

The casino has installed three small lights on the back of each video poker machine at the bar.

One light is green, another is red, and a third is blue.

Most customers would probably never even notice the lights, but they’re used by bartenders to determine if players are worthy of comped cocktails while sitting at the bar.

Caesars Palace sports bar comps

Yes, there’s a blue light, but “Red Light, Green Light, Blue Light” sounds stupid. Just play along.

Here’s how it works.

First, the blue light turns on of the customer at the car has inserted $20 into the machine. It serves as a baseline to differentiate between customers drinking and enjoying sports on the nearby screens and those playing video poker.

Typically, a bartender can comp a first drink if a player puts money into a machine, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with the Red Light, Green Light system.

Only after a player has qualified with their play do they get the green light for a comped cocktail.

Caesars comped drink system

Skynet has deemed you worthy of a comped drink.

Red light, no comped drink for you.

There’s no publicly available formula for how much play is required to get a comped drink under this new system. One player we spoke said he had $40 in the machine and hadn’t yet been approved by the machine for a comped drink.

There are likely a number of variables, as is the case with the Mirage voucher system.

You certainly need to be playing “max coin,” and duration of play is likely to figure into the formula created by bean counters to ensure you’re not getting something for nothing.

As with the Mirage voucher system, its bartenders who are between a rock and a WTF place with customers accustomed to getting comped drinks more frequently and without having to get the approval of a robotic overlord.

Caesars comped drinks

Casino bartenders have typically decided the frequency of comped drinks for players, but no more, and they’re super stoked about it.

When you ask bartenders at these bars what they think of the new systems, they are diplomatic, but it’s obvious such practices are hurting not only their tips but the image of the companies implementing them.

These automated systems for approving comped cocktails are the latest among a series of moves by Las Vegas casinos to evaluate every aspect of their business to find ways of cutting costs and create new sources of revenue from perks long given to guests for “free.”

Of course, nothing’s ever really been “free,” but casinos have a long tradition of using things like comped drinks and free parking as loss-leaders, then making their money back in the casino. Those days are at an end, for better or worse.

Caesars sports book comps

Red Light, Green Light is often abbreviated RLGL, and is called “Grandmother’s Footsteps” in the U.K. Which isn’t creepy at all.

We’ve railed endlessly about the casino practice of casinos swapping name brand liquors for generic ones on comped drinks, and ranted frequently about CNF charges at Vegas restaurants, and while the “RLGL” system isn’t as insidious, it certainly doesn’t enhance the guest experience.

On the bright side, it’s just the one bar. Two, if you include Mirage’s lobby bar. All right, three, since it’s rumored Bond bar at Cosmopolitan is using a ticket system, too. Sensing a pattern here?

Let us know what you think about this new practice, and don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts with the casinos directly.

Ultimately, we get to vote with our business, and only a hit to the bottom line can stem the tide of a Vegas where robots decide how blitzed we get to be when we play.

 

Update (9/25/16): In a somewhat shocking development, the “Red Light, Green Light” comp drink monitoring system has been rolled out to every Caesars Entertainment casino in Las Vegas. The comp light system can be found at every sports book and casino bar in nine Caesars Entertainment resorts. Read more.

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  • Bill B

    The last thing any player needs, is to wonder/worry whether they are playing enough to get a drink or not. Bad idea.

    • Dustin Page

      here is a thought, dont gamble or drink at the casinos. I am sure that money could be better spent on your children’s education…….or your retirement.. gambling is a stupid form of throwing your money away. this gorgeous city was NOT built on winners!

      • ageekymom

        Dustin, you seem to have made it your business to worry about what total strangers are doing with their own money. I’m guessing that you are not having any luck dissuading them from spending their money on this form of entertainment. See, that’s how I look at gambling – just another form of entertainment, not a way to pay my bills. I could go to a rock concert and spend the same amount that I would spend at a casino.
        You need to lighten up.

    • That’s always the case, but bartenders are usually the ones doing the monitoring. Vouchers and lights just create the sense people are just walking ATMs, rather than individuals, valued by the casino.

  • Paul

    another way to rip us off…

    • Dustin Page

      you are already ripping yourself off by gambling in the first place. i take that back, you are ripping off your children, if you have any, by gambling. that money could go to their education or vacation….gambling is a pure waste of money! this city was not built on winners!

    • It’s sort of a monitoring system. If we play, they pour. Slowly, and less often, but not sure it’s a rip-off as long as one knows it’s in place.

  • Rooster

    This just totally buzzkills some of the fun of VP.

    • Yeah, there are lots of other options, so I’d probably just find a bar without this system.

  • Won’t be visiting ANY of these bars!

    • Agree on this one, but how does one keep track of all the variations and rules, especially as more come online. Or maybe they won’t. But probably they will. Sigh.

    • Ryan

      Actually, this really makes me want to visit this bar….so I can order a drink, and, before the bartender can return with it, leave without paying. It would make me feel a little better to see them waste a drink at least…lol

  • briandtw

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with this IF (and I’ll grant this is a big if since it sounds like Mirage and maybe now Caesars don’t see it this way) the process for comping drinks is pretty liberal (like a drink for every $20 or $30 or so played through the machine). I don’t think you have a god-given right to sit at a VP bar and expect to receive free drinks if you’re not running any money through the machines. Those machines should be reserved for people actually playing (or at least paying for drinks), which I think players and casino owners can agree on.

    This system actually seems potentially helpful to bartenders who don’t have to try and determine who is actually playing and who is not (locals bars like PTs do essentially the same thing if you’re using your players card. I don’t see how this is exceptionally different.)

    • Wes Pratt

      There is absolutely no way CZR would be implementing this if the end result was “pretty liberal”. I also don’t see how something that is going to have a direct impact on tips could be potentially helpful to the bartenders.

      • Dustin Page

        1. here is a thought, dont gamble or drink at the casinos. I am sure that money could be better spent on your children’s education…….or your retirement.. gambling is a stupid form of throwing your money away. this gorgeous city was NOT built on winners! and 2. the bartenders would not have a job at all if they did not implement some for of comp control. its either make more money on drinks, or loose some employees to make up the difference.

      • They don’t seem to like it at all, although they probably like being able to blame The Man when they can’t comp. In the past, it was all on them.

    • I think it’s cool if you’re playing max coin, without breaks. From what I hear, you can get three drinks per hour.

  • Meanwhile, Downtown casinos are looking at underutilized spaces to enhance the guest experience. No wonder why gaming Downtown continues to rise.

    • That seems to be the case. Downtown benefits when people are seeking out value, but downtown is driven by the overall popularity of Vegas, and the penny-pinching on The Strip (or downtown) could have a cumulative negative effect. Thanks for the comment and enjoy your podcast. For anyone wanting to check it out, here’s a link: http://vegasfanboy.com

      • Funkhouser_1

        Isn’t this really the shape of things to come. Casino operators need investor debt purchase dollars to expand offerings for capital re-investment. The stock holders are unforgiving of non growth quarters, so the operators shift focus to F&B revenue which is less volatile than gaming and offers a more consistent margin. The consumer also sees the nickle and dimming of their pocket book from imaginary fees. So consumers gamble less due to budget constraints, while the operators tell us people are gambling less, and perpetuate the circle by lowering comps to gamblers and raising prices to offset revenue growth gaps.

        • True. MGM will be able to tout increased revenues with their paid parking plan, and investors will applaud, raising the stock- with complete disregard to long term effects of visitor-ship numbers and spending.

      • Thanks for sharing!

  • Darin

    I’ll never step foot in Caesars ever again. Resort fees are one thing, but this is unacceptable, and the Bartenders don’t care for it. I am sure tips will be way down. Hopefully this doesn’t catch on, or my Vegas days will be numbered.

    • I think that’s a growing sentiment, and I’m not sure the casinos understand the cumulative effect of the individual policies.

  • Bouldersteve

    After Caesars bankruptcy this and other cost cutting measures are inevitable. I do not play VP on the strip anyway because the paytables suck. I understand the red and green light but what does the blue light mean?

    • Yeah, it’s a tricky one, because the connection between drinking more and playing more is tougher to measure, and that doesn’t even start to take into account the overall experience and how it can lead to repeat business and loyalty.

      • Bouldersteve

        Got a question for you Scott. Can the player see the lights from sitting at bar. Seeing the lights would be helpful to the player to know when he or she is entitled to a comped drink.Also is there a sign explaining the policy or is that the bartenders job.Station Casinos has a similar system but its on the cash register.

  • Funkhouser_1

    While I am opposed on principal to removing the long standing booze comps, I can understand the desire to eliminate freeloaders IF the gamblers get better access to bar seating and better service. Not to mention if CET treats their higher tier players differently. Translation if I have a diamond card, I expect you to refill my drink when I ask on the casino floor.

    • It’s true, and bartenders have always been the gatekeepers. Can’t say I like the automated version.

  • Todd Sterling

    Las Vegas casinos just continue to come up with ways to keep me gambling in Columbus, Ohio. If I’m paying for drinks then I might as well stay in Ohio and drink/gamble. I’m already paying $400 for an airline ticket, not to mention the resort fee of $28 per day and now the possibility of very few comped drinks. Now granted I will miss the excitement of Vegas but that $500+ will go a long way gambling in a casino in Ohio. Either that or I will never play video poker or slots. I don’t drink a lot but when I’m playing video poker at a bar I want FREE drinks. Crack down on the freeloaders not me. I love sitting at the bar losing $60 for 3 free beers (LOL!!!)

    • Dustin Page

      here is a thought, dont gamble or drink at the casinos. I am sure that money could be better spent on your children’s education…….or your retirement.. gambling is a stupid form of throwing your money away. this gorgeous city was NOT built on winners!

      • Todd Sterling

        Hey Dustin you do with your money what you want and I will spend mine as I see fit. But hey thanks for the concern on my family but we do quite well. thanks! Just because you lose every time you gamble doesn’t hold true for everyone. My losses at minimal.

  • vegastearoom

    Just like those caged chickens pecking at corn on the keys of little pianos, playing the tune of casino profit. Do you get a hand job at the machine after $10,000?

    • A casino initiative we’d be proud to support!

  • Paul

    hey Dustin….why don’t you mind your own business, what i do with my money is up to me, i pay my taxes, and all my bills are paid, you sound like a lib.my KID, is 44,and doing well.

  • IndyJeffrey

    This idea doesn’t bother me, if executed well.
    Let’s do the math here…
    A drink costs how much when we buy it retail? $3? $5? $10?
    VP returns 95%, give or take.
    If I put $20 through the machine, the casino expects to have $1
    If I put $100 through the machine, the casino expects to have $5
    If I put $200 through the machine, the casino expects to have $10, etc., etc., etc.

    Given they have to pay the bartenders, and all other costs, I don’t find it unreasonable to give me the green light every $150-200 coin-in.
    A serious player can do that in 15 minutes. A more frugal player can make $200 last a few hours.

    Again, if implemented to give a serious player the green light every 15 min or so, I say ‘so what’ — if not, then this sucks.

    No?

    • Whoa whoa whoa. Let’s not bring math and logic into this, please!

      • Las Vegas: The opposite of math and logic.™

  • Bouldersteve

    To show the difference of comps between downtown and the strip a couple of weeks ago i placed a sports bet at the Fremont. There you get one drink comp coupon for every $20 bet. Next day I went to the Bellagio to meet a friend and placed a $100 bet at the sportsbook and asked for 1 drink coupon. Was told I needed to bet $125 to get a free drink.

    • Great illustration. I wouldn’t have guessed the difference would be that big.

  • Strkr

    If I am “earning” drinks in this manner then I certainly would not feel any sort of need to ever tip again.

    • This is one of the biggest problems–the bartenders will take the brunt of the displeasure. It’s not their fault, but they’ll be the easiest target.

  • Edward Padilla

    The biggest concern about Vegas has been how the “Indian” Casinos are taking away business – Well, with all these new costs (Parking, drinks, food), I cannot imagine how they would see a problem with increased foot traffic – (Sarcasm)
    I don’t drink alcohol at casinos, but a free Sprite every so often was like the perk….the fact that that Sprite cost me $100 never seemed to be a factor –

    • If I told you how much my free drinks have cost at certain times, your head would explode. “)

  • BSexhausted

    Personally, I think in theory it is a good thing and could work. As a Strip bartender for over 20 years and now working in the labor movement overseeing these types of issues, my real concern is how it will ultimately affect the bartenders discipline-wise?
    I worked many a bar with the usual grifters and freeloaders who preyed on the system to fill their bellies with free or close to free booze!
    The industry as a whole has changed dramatically and the past application that playing at the bar obligated the establishment to buy your beverage is changing. These hotels no longer utilize gaming as their main source of revenue and to the contrary, each department is now suppose to earn their keep. That means that all these new attractions are a far cry from the days of buffets and gaming tables.
    As for the staff, especially the bartenders who will be in the crosshairs of the public’s displeasure…well, they will be sacrificed accordingly!
    Trust me, Sh!t rolls down hill and every complaint will be layed at the foot of the bartender who more times than not won’t have the skillset to weave and bob his way out of their displeasure.
    The hotels will need to create new policies, retrain their staff and deal with the fallout and public image hits.
    The Vegas I grew up with is gone and I am sure yours is also!

    • Thanks for your thoughts. Completely agree bartenders are being put in a very difficult position as they’re on the front lines.

  • AccessVegas

    It was Benny Binion who first started comping gamblers drinks. He was no fool. People who are drinking lose more money. Not just because of impaired judgement, but when you are getting something for free, you psychologically have the desire to want to give something back in return.

    I’m also hearing from a rash of visitors who are saying “If I have to pay for everything and get crappy odds, I might as well gamble near my house”.

    If Mr. Ralenkotter and Mr. Murren and Mr. Hertz feel that all the gamblers can be replaced with high-spending, non-gambling conventioneers and sports fans, more power to them. I feel that view is over-optimistic.

    No wonder some of the downtown operators are so bullish. If they are the only area offering free-flowing drinks and good odds, the gambling crowds are going to flock their way.

    As for me? I’ll continue to be at my local Station Casino where I can tell the bartender that I’m putting $40 in the quarter VP machine, and ask for (and get) a Wild Turkey right from the bottle and a Heineken. Which they keep coming with as long as I keep playing.

    $10 will soon buy you parking at MGM. It will buy you a dinner buffet at many of the Station/Fiesta Casinos.

    People with last names like Fertitta and Stevens and Boyd have to be giddy at the thought of all of this. MGM and Caesars are literally going to be shoveling customers their way. Remember… all of those Californian’s (half of our visitor base) have cars. No skin of their back to stay at The D or Palace or Orleans.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts on all this. This whole realm will be interesting to watch, but Strip casinos have for years been waiting for an opportunity to discontinue comped drinks for players.

  • Nancy Bongiovani

    One of the biggest problems I have witnessed is the fact that drinks are constantly comped to people who complain the loudest on the casino floor which creates a two fold situation. First, the server or bartender gets written up, and second, it teaches the customer to just lie and complain and they will get whatever they want. This happened and the guest was comped $100.00. The next day they lied and complained about not only the service but all the drunk people and the supervisor apologized and comped them again. The same people came back a third day and ran into the same superior who finally caught on to them.So my point is lets take care of the people who truly deserve a comped drink and stop giving a free drink to anyone who complains that is not sitting down consistently playing. I am sure the casino will save money. Trust your staff to make informed decisions regarding who is playing and should get free beverages.

  • swampguy

    just the thought of this aggrevates me, even though my play SHOULD entitle me to comped drinks since I play at least 10 hours a day at max play. Really don’t wanna move downtown, but if they keep doing this kinda stuff, I will—–I dont mind and actually encourage a system to get rid of the riff-raff and non-players, but dont mess with the long playing, max players. As I said in my “removed” posting, a max play light is much better with the first drink coming after you played $20 in plays thru the machine. I could live with that. Anything more stringent and I’m saying bye-bye to Caesars, who I’ve been with for 40 years!!!!

    • Not aware of any post being removed (since I’m the only one that can remove them), and appreciate your comment.

      • swampguy

        My bad, Scott–My removed comment was posted on trip advisor and removed because of a word that rhymes with hisses….(me off). Guess they didn’t like that. Love this site and your involvement in the site—It’s GREAT !!!!! I’ll avoid any, even mild, cuss words in the future!!!

        • swampguy

          To further elaborate, the reason my family and I play at a VP bar is the great service. IMHO, I’m paying for the drinks and good service with the lesser pay tables at the bar, then at the machines on the casino floor. We have no problem sacrificing 5 coins on a flush or full house for quality service. That amount of less coins “pays” for my drink (in my mind). But, “why fly to vegas” is creeping into my mind, when i can get cheaper food, same or better odds, pay-for drinks 15 miles from home???? Since I play at least 10-12 hours a day, it don’t leave much time for entertainment, which a lot of people come for…not me. Seems like this year’s trips will be safe from RLGL so I ain’t gonna worry about it for now. But everyone please keep voicing your displeasure! If anyone at Caesars can actually read, maybe they will get the message

  • Western Hotel Casino

    I found out last night that if you stop play for a few moments the light reverts to red…totally ridiculous

    • Yeah, lots of funky rules, and they’re not public. Luckily, these haven’t spread too much, although things aren’t looking too good for Cosmo’s casino bars.

  • Marc Minkin

    Just charge all players a dollar per drink that will keep it simple for everyone and cheap enough for the players yet The Casino will take in some Revenue.