Three Surprising Things That Will Change the Way You Las Vegas Forever

There are lots of changes happening in Las Vegas, some of which will change your experience
in a big way.

Here, we’ll take a look at three changes that could fundamentally alter how you park, drink
and eat in Las Vegas.

1. Paid Parking at Las Vegas Casinos

Free parking has long been a perk of playing at Las Vegas casinos, but no more. Starting
June 6, 2016, the practice of giving guests free parking will change for good.

Las Vegas paid parking

There’s always something new happening in Las Vegas, and up to this point, we’ve said that as a good thing.

MGM Resorts is doing at its Las Vegas destinations what all Las Vegas hotel-casinos have
wanted to do for ages. From here on out, you’ll pay for the privilege of visiting their
resorts. Surprise!

Here’s how parking fees break out.

Short-Term Visitors
If you’re visiting an MGM Resorts hotel for a short period of time, have no fear. Your first hour in self-parking is free.

We should probably list off the hotels in the MGM Resorts family: Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur, Bellagio, Aria, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Delano, Mirage and New York-New York. We tend to blog while drunk, so that may not be a complete list. You always have Google.

Moving on.

Parking Las Vegas

Parking fees, in part, will go toward enhancements like lights that let guests know if spaces are available (green light) or not (red). It’s an imperfect science.

Registered Hotel Guests
If you’re a registered hotel guest, your parking fee gives you in-and-out privileges across all MGM Resorts in Las Vegas. Your parking fee can be “conveniently charged to your room bill,” a phrase which has given us fits of giggles ever since we first read it.

Loyalty Club Members
Certain members of the company’s player loyalty club program, M Life Rewards, will get parking gratis. Self-parking is free for Pearl, Gold, Platinum and Noir tier members. Valet is free for Gold, Platinum and Noir members. Players club members can just scan their player’s club card to get in and out, you don’t need a ticket.

Paid parking Las Vegas

Sin City’s newest “one-armed bandits.”

Nevada Residents
Locals gets a sweet deal, at least until the end of 2016. Nevada residents can self-park up to 24 hours free until Dec. 29, 2016.

So, then, how much does parking cost at MGM Resorts hotels? We’ll different prices apply to different hotels, actually. Here’s a look.

Fees for Parking at Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur

  • Self-Parking
    0-60 minutes, free
    1-4 hours, $5
    4-24 hours, $8
  • Valet
    0-4 hours, $8
    4-24, $13

Fees for Parking at New York-New York, Bellagio, Aria, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Delano, Mirage

  • Self-Parking
    0-60 free
    1-4 hours, $7
    4-24, $10
  • Valet
    0-4, $13
    4-24, $18

The fee for a lost ticket is $30, which could actually end up being a bargain depending upon how long you park.

You can get all this information on the official MGM Resorts parking information page, too.

Paid parking Las Vegas

MGM Resorts partnered with SP+ to manage the 40,000 parking spaces at its 12 Las Vegas resorts. “SP” stands for “Sucker Punch,” and that’s the story we’re sticking to.

Other Las Vegas casinos are taking a wait-and-see approach to paid parking, but we have
little doubt that by 2017 everyone else on The Strip will be onboard and paid parking will
be universal. We recently predicted paid parking will be rolled out at Caesars
Entertainment resorts (pretty much the other half of resorts on the Las Vegas Strip) by Jan. 1, 2017.

Remember, change is the only constant in Las Vegas, for better or worse. And speaking of
worse, that leads us to the drinking part.

2. Skinny Pours at Resort Bars

Not to pick on MGM Resorts, but at the moment they’re the company most focused on cost-
cutting measures, and this one’s a doozy.

It hasn’t been reported in any news outlet we’re aware of, but MGM Resorts has quietly
begun shrinking the pour in its cocktails.

Specifically, the amount of liquor in a “standard pour” (a shot) in mixed drinks at MGM Resorts casinos has always been 1.5 ounces. Now, a top-down mandate requires pours be 1.25 ounces, or 17% less.


Also of interest, and perhaps not so surprising, is the fact comped drinks have less liquor than cocktails you pay for. Comped mixed drink shots are one ounce, while paid-for drinks get the 1.25-ounce pour.


Some people say “more is less.” Some people are idiots.

While that doesn’t sound like a lot, when multiplied out by the thousands of drinks served
at casinos across Las Vegas, it adds up to a substantial amount of liquor and, by
extension, cost savings.

This change has gone virtually unnoticed, a fact partially explained by the fact the
company did extensive blind taste testing to see if diminishing the pour quantity would be
noticed by customers. It was decided most people couldn’t tell the difference, so the new
guideline was rolled out across all MGM Resorts casinos in the city.


Expect to see lots of “pour systems,” used to control liquor costs, rolling out in Vegas casinos. Word has it MGM Resorts is testing bartender-free cocktail dispensers in Mississippi to avoid union troubles.

MGM Resorts isn’t the only company tightening its grip in the hooch, of course.

We’ve long chronicled the ways casinos are monitoring gambling in relation to free drinks, including the use of slot machine vouchers and other buzz-killing systems, as well as the insidious practice of substituting liquor brands for comped drinks.

Feel like you’re not getting that same buzz when you’re in Vegas? There’s a very good
reason. Paying for parking is certainly a pain, but cutting back on our inebriation level
gets us downright cranky.

Update (6/7/16): A rep from MGM Resorts sent a response to our story about the smaller pour size, stating:

“We did analysis last year across our resorts and across Las Vegas. We found that bars and restaurants at MGM resorts were not dispensing liquor in mixed drinks at uniform levels. We also did search across Las Vegas and found the standard liquor pour is 1.25 ounces at most Las Vegas resorts. As a result, we took steps in 2015 to standardize the beverage process to assure each customer receives an accurate and consistent measure of liquor in each mixed drink.”

MGM Resorts

You say “inaccurate and misleading” like it’s a bad thing!

“Our view is that universal spirits and pour size among our properties has improved the guest experience by offering a consistent product. Bartenders prepare drinks more efficiently and consistently by maximizing the use of free pour jiggers and bar guns. By also aligning these procedures we also make training and transfers between resorts efficient and more available for employees seeking to advance their careers.”

No, really.

MGM Resorts statement

Just bask in it for a minute.

MGM Resorts added: “We expected no negative comments from our customers and have received none.”

Here’s what we learned: 1) MGM Resorts actually made its pours smaller in 2015, not recently. 2) Less liquor in drinks improves the guest experience. 3) The decision to make pours smaller was made, in part, to help bartenders advance their careers. 4) “Universal Spirits” would make a great band name.

Thanks to Gina Lazara and Channel 13 here in Las Vegas for covering this story. (Note: This blog isn’t the one that first reported MGM Resorts would begin charging for parking.)

3. Surge Pricing at Restaurants

Here’s a relatively new practice that’s equally ingenious and frustrating.

In more and more cases, Las Vegas restaurants post menus online that don’t include prices. It’s not a huge deal until you understand the reason.

The newest tactic used by restaurants, especially those at large resorts on the Las Vegas
Strip, is to change their prices depending upon demand. Surge pricing, as it’s commonly
called in the ridesharing world. Surprise!

That’s right. A given restaurant on a Tuesday might charge $14.50 for chicken parm. That
exact same dish, during a busier period, such as on a Saturday, could be priced at $17.50.

Chicken Parmesan

Is nothing sacred?

Because of the transient nature of a tourist-based clientele, restaurants are relying on
the fact guests will only visit once during any given stay and not notice the inflated pricing. Some Las Vegas bars have used surge pricing for cocktails for some time, and now food is subject to the same WTF.

There are teams of analysts behind the scenes calculating how to adjust pricing to make
the most of fluctuations in demand, and juggling cost and pricing to extract the most profit
possible given a host of variables.

You might say that in some cases, the bean-counters are literally counting beans, then
deciding how much to charge for them given increases and decreases in demand. It’s good
business, but doesn’t give us a good feeling.

Las Vegas couple dining

It’s easy to be carefree when you’re a model.

So, knowing such changes are going on, it means we need to stay even more vigilant as
guests of Las Vegas casinos and restaurants. And parking garages.

The more we know about how things work, the better prepared we’ll be to protect our
bankrolls and patronize the establishments we feel are giving us a fair shake.

We’d love to hear your reaction to these new trends, as well as any tips and tricks for
getting the biggest bang for your bucks in Las Vegas!

59 thoughts on “Three Surprising Things That Will Change the Way You Las Vegas Forever

  1. Bouldersteve

    The 1 hr free is a takes a half hour to walk from the parking lot to the casino. Round trip there goes your hour.

    1. Bouldersteve

      The Strip is fun to sight see but the value is off strip. The Orleans and downtown is where I hang now. Boulder Hwy is also a good place although the area is a little rough

  2. Paulo

    Free Park at Strip casinos was the main reason I always rented a car when in Vegas.
    Sorry Alamo, Enterprise, Budget, Avis… it will be Uber from now on…

  3. narsfweasels

    Jeez laweez… and frankly, the Resort Fee is a rip anyway. I hope that the money they save goes towards improving service – particularly at the Luxor. Which was awful for service on my last visit.

  4. Eric Gregory

    We have been going to Vegas for about 15 years. We have always considered going somewhere else for our yearly vacation but always end up back in the city we love to visit. With all the changes to comped drinks and food pricing it may actually be time to move away from the city completely. Time to give the islands or a cruise another look after this years trip.

  5. nicnotnicky

    Does anyone know how this will work with car rental? I’m picking up a car at Excalibur, and leaving town the next day. Will I need to move it from the car rental spaces to the car park overnight and pay for that? At the end of my trip I’m dropping off at NYNY, but presumably then I’ll drive straight to the car rental spaces as I don’t need to keep the car any longer after I arrive back at the hotel.

    1. Bouldersteve

      I don’t think will have to move it. If you leave and come back and stay you will probably have to pay.

    2. Alex

      I think Bouldersteve is right. You’ll probably get a one-time use ticket to get out of the parking for free. Once that is used, you’ll be forced to pay. That’s how it works at hotel-based rental car locations in Orlando.

  6. William Wingo

    We haven’t stayed on the strip in many years. The prices, the traffic, and the hassle of driving what seems like miles into and out of the parking decks, plus walking what seems like miles from the car to the casino, was just too much–even without resort fees and parking fees. And notice I didn’t even mention 6-5 Blackjack or the timeshare hawkers.

    But it only works as long as we let it. Six-to-five Blackjack exists because people are willing to play it. Resort fees and parking fees exist because people are willing to pay them. Shows with performers lip-synching to their own recorded songs can charge high prices–“plus tax and fee”–because the customers keep coming.

    And customers always have other alternatives. In a few days we’re coming up for WSOP but staying off-strip, at the Orleans/Gold Coast. Yes, they have resort fees, but it’s a better deal than anything on the strip. Usually we just go to Laughlin, which is generally better than the strip. And if Laughlin starts charging extra for everything, here in the Phoenix area we have four or five casinos within forty miles of the house. As Las Vegas becomes less and less attractive, more customers will select other options; and the bean counters will scratch their heads and wonder what went wrong.

  7. Wally Marshall

    MGM and Caesars Ent properties have become total rip off joints. One day people will get tired for overpaying for everything, everything. Maybe they like overpaying. I don’t appreciate being ripped off and don’t solicit any of their properties, ever.

    1. Alex

      Sadly, I doubt that day will ever happen. In 2015, visitor volume in Las Vegas hit 42 million people. That’s the highest number ever. Clearly, all the extra fees aren’t keeping people away.

      Interestingly, Clark County gaming revenue was $9.6 billion in 2015. That was significantly lower than the record high of $10.8 billion back in 2007. That fact is probably one of the main reasons why these fees are in place. Casinos simply aren’t as profitable as they once were.

      Note: Figures came from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority website.

  8. Paulo

    Nice rental rates and free parking were the main reason I always rented a car when in Vegas.

    Sorry Alamo, Enterprise, Dollar, Budget, Avis… it will be Uber from now on…

    1. motoman2WH3

      Hadn’t even considered that angle: what impact this will have on the car rental business. Especially the smaller companies.

      Uber, Lyft indeed.

  9. Troy Swezey

    All of this nickle and diming along with other things, not mentioned here such as the “We have an awesome location so we are going to tax the guest for that” fee that places like Diablo’s charges but does not mention except in the very fine menu print, make me want to become one of those locals that never goes to the Strip. Which is sad because I moved to Las Vegas a year ago to go to the Strip, which is normally quite often.
    VITAL VEGAS- is this surge pricing for food noted on menu or do they just spring it on you when they bring the bill?

    I suspect none of this is going to go away. People will just ‘get used to it’ and Las Vegas will become another NYC with stories of how expensive stuff is. Locals like me who did go to the Strip will spend more time at places on Boulder Highway as one reader suggested, or GVR or Silverton. I will eat at Capos more, I will go to more shows at Vampd instead of Hard Rock or House of Blues.
    And MGM will not give a dang.

    1. JK Grence

      I believe they have different stacks of menus. It’s sort of like having different menus for lunch and dinner; lunch prices are often a dollar or two lower for the same dish, but you wouldn’t know unless you saw both menus.

      1. tsh85

        It’s called a CNF fee “Concession & Franchise Fee” and the only restaurants that I know of that have them are: Diablo’s (MC), Double Barrel (Monte Carlo), Cabo Wabo Cantina (Planet Hollywood), Sugar Factory (MGM), Hexx (Paris), Numb Bar (Mirage), and Señor Frog’s (Treasure Island). It is basically a hidden resort fee added onto the bill at the end of the meal. They claim it is for the pleasure of dining so close to the strip (prime location). It roughly averages out to an extra 5% added after taxes. I think resort fees suck for hotels, but to now add a resort fee to a restaurant bill is absolutely absurd!

        1. Steven Brown

          Casa Fuente at the Forum Shops and Rhumbar at the Mirage charge this fee and I’m guessing that the new Montecristo lounge at Caesars (run by the same folks as Casa Fuente and Rhumbar) also charges this fee.

  10. I was thinking

    MGM properties are my home base. I dont have to pay for parking because of my Mlife status but these policies still bother me and I normally drink beer. (I know they cant skimp on the alcohol) Its the principle of it all. It is just another hassle. It is also a slap in the face to gamblers.

    If a once a year visitor comes to Vegas and drops hundreds or thousands gambling, its a slap in the face. Mlife rolls back your tier level each year. So low to mid gamblers are not respected at all and will continue to pay for parking. Vegas used to be all about the gamblers. Vegas had a culture of not worrying because they want you to gamble. That is why Vegas was different from so many cities because they DIDNT charge for parking. The last major city to do so. It gave the gamblers a sense of appreciation. They rather take a chance at the table with that 10 dollars then for some stupid parking privilege. I think this will slow down traffic at the parking structure as well. Ill see how it is when I visit in July.

    The resort fee is just stupid as well. Just add it to the rate already. Stop pretending you are paying for some privilege. I have never utilized anything that the resort fee offers.

    Ceasars should have an ad campaign in which they state that they wont charge for parking because they love all players. MGM Inc is struggling for profits, gee I wonder why. Starting respecting the low to mid level players more, and cut some prices and you will gain profit.

      1. I was thinking

        Yep, they sure did. Lets see what they do with parking. I think they will start charging by the end of the year. I dont think Wynn will this year.

        1. William Wingo

          May 2019 Update:
          A prophetic statement. Caesars and then Wynn did indeed introduce parking fees about a year later. Don’t remember the exact dates and don’t have time to research it.
          But apparently it did have a chilling effect. A few days ago (April 2019) another blog reported that Wynn is returning to free parking for the general public. Valet parking charges remain, unless you spend $50 and get a validation.

  11. Brandon Baker

    Is there any evidence or examples that surge based pricing is being used in restaurants? I haven’t seen anything like this in effect, nor have I heard rumors that it may be instituted.

      1. CanGirl

        They did it at the piano bar at Bally’s/Paris over New Year’s. Pissed me off because they were too stupid to change their price list so when the bill came and it was more than it should be they just said holiday pricing was in effect. Had the one drink and left.

        1. Davehat

          That is a Nevada and Federal CRIME known as “bait and switch”. For example if the menu said a steak is $30, and nobody told you (upfront) that the actual cost was $40, then they committed both a Nevada State crime and United States crime.

          They baited you with lower prices, and then Switched them to higher prices after you ate the food.

          They could be arrested and jailed. (OR at the very least: The entire restaurant fined for falsification of pricing.)

  12. Wolfdog

    So I guess the “get ’em drunk and they will gamble and lose more money” is so last century now. Means more gambling downtown and off-Strip for me. Better yet, one less trip to Vegas; one more to Reno.

    1. NavarroMartin

      I’m with ya! My last two trips were to Reno rather than Vegas and I enjoy Reno much more than Vegas now. Vegas is pretty much in my rearview window. I should change my icon.

  13. Bouldersteve

    Circus Circus which is also a MGM property will continue to offer free parking. I guess they realized not many people would pay to park at that place.

  14. JSTAT

    Let’s not forget that MGM Resorts changed blackjack payouts from 3:2 to 6:5 last year at most of its blackjack tables on the Las Vegas Strip last year.

  15. JK Grence

    Damn it, MGM. I’m reminded of a line in the old Sylvester Stallone comedy Oscar.

    “I’m used to dealing with mobsters, bootleggers, and gunsels, but you bankers… are scary.”

  16. Dr Dee

    Wow next thing you know they will charge more for the same room on the weekend then they do during the week! No pictures of the menus with the different prices???

    1. tsh85

      Next they will be charging to rent towels at the pool, and you will have to swipe your credit card to enter the bathroom. I’m sure they will also charge a “sitting fee” to rent a chair at a slot machine or card table. Hotel rooms are already triple the price on the weekends.

      1. motoman2WH3

        Yeah, this is one thing about those iPad menus: they can adjust pricing at will, with no accidental reveals of the “wrong” menu….

  17. tsh85

    Brilliant…they’re taking an already unpopular charge and complicating it with different plans on when you pay & when you don’t. Once things get confusing like this, it’s a fail.

    The beauty of free parking on The Strip was that one could move from one casino to the next in one’s car, rather than walking in 115 Degree weather, or rather than walking in wind or rain. That was the flow of visiting The Strip. No hassles, no irritation.

    The problem with MGM’s parking policy is that you need to have a remarkable memory to retain all of its rules in your brain. Frankly that’s more than most locals or repeat visitors care to bother with.

    I truly believe that one of the unstated goals of the $10 daily parking fee (which will only increase over the years) is to make casino customers captives at one casino, taking their cars away from them and keeping their dollars at the casino where their car is parked. Why does MGM see that happening?

    Instead of just jumping in your car and leaving, now there will be a line of people who must prove their entitlement to free parking or pay the fee. When the customer leaves one casino and drives to the next, there will be lines of people showing their M Cards, swiping their drivers licenses, paying the fee, mucking around. It won’t matter whether people “checking in” to a garage are sitting in the driver’s seat or standing in a line. It will be a pain in the ash.

    Think about how difficult and irritating it is to get out of the parking garage at the Mandalay Bay when there is a concert or a fight. Even if the delay in leaving the garage is only 1/4 of that, why would you bother just to eat in a restaurant at an MGM casino or to spend a few hours in an MGM casino.

    My time is valuable to me. I am an impatient person. I don’t wait in lines EVER. If MGM thinks they can make me wait, and sit or stand in a line to pay or show an ID or MLife card, they are wrong.

    Comparing themselves to parking rates in other cities is ridiculous. Guess what: customers at those other places (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix, etc..) aren’t dropping large sums of money at gaming tables or slot machines.

    And I like their statement about parking being a ‘loss leader’ they don’t like giving customers. Guess what…it’s called a loss leader because it draws customers to your properties, where they spend more money on gambling, food, entertainment, etc. Ask the nearest grocery store or department store why they have loss leaders.

    If MGM needs the money so bad for their “dilapidated” parking garages, maybe they shouldn’t have given Jim Murren a 7.9 million dollar bonus last year…in addition to his 2 million dollar salary!

  18. Helen Williams Bovay

    My MGM mixed drinks have been weak to nonexistent for the last 6 months. A few weeks ago, at my local Gold Strike, Tunica, MS I sent my rum and coke back 3 times. (I was nice to the CW as it wasn’t her fault she was using a bartender) and the 4th time she brought it out he sent a separate ‘shot’ for me to pour….I tasted it and it was mostly water. I thanked her and didn’t ask for another. I must remember to drink beer, wine or cheap champagne. 🙁

  19. Todd Sterling

    Hell Scott, you could start a blog just on ways the casino is ripping people off. It’s a shame. Unfortunately they will continue until people like me no longer come to Vegas. If they want to turn Vegas into a bunch of Boutique hotels and expensive ass restaurants then they can have the joint. I’m there to gamble, drink and have a good time, once that stops happening I will stop going. When I first started coming out to Vegas it was easy to get comped buffets, free play etc….. now it is pretty much like pulling teeth. Don’t even get me started on that stupid resort fee, they can take that resort fee and shove it. I can’t even get a comped room out of MGM anymore, apparently they don’t like my money. Funny thing is I don’t think I have ever paid for a room at Caesars, other than the stupid resort fee. Love your blog!

    1. I was thinking

      Everything is alot tighter now at MGM. I was gambling there before Mlife started. Those were the best times. Comps galore for gamblers. The funny thing is, I spent more money before Mlife started then now. It is just the culture now in Vegas, its all about entertainment and the party scenes. Low to mid range gamblers are nobodies now. But Vegas is always changing and might draw in more gamblers later somehow. Many of the off strip casinos are doing well and catering to gamblers. Good payback with rewards as long as you gamble.

  20. VegasVets

    So they admit to under pouring and have been doing so since last year.

    If a drink recipe calls for 1.5oz of spirit you need to pour 1.5oz not the 1.25o they admit to pouring.

    yet they are charging the same amount for the drink; this means they
    are not only lying to the customer but they are stealing from them too!

    1. Scott Roeben

      That seems to sum it up. Why are they so fearful of just saying they cut back to save money. Own it, and folks will move on. Do it sneaky, people tend to remember.

  21. Ann Mac

    I feel especially sorry for the cocktail waitresses, valet parking people, people who hand pay out large winnings on slots, etc. I can’t imagine tipping $5 to the valet parking person after paying $13 – $18, or the waitress forced to bring different liquor or even consider giving a portion of the winnings to folks that count out money. Guess I am getting too old. I have had a yearly trip to Las Vegas for the last 30 years and the ambiance has definitely changed. I noticed right away about the liquor since I drink Crown on the rocks. It is almost impossible to get it anymore – from the bottle. Whatever rotgut is coming out of those guns is not palatable on the rocks. Does anyone know if it is really any better in Reno?

    1. Davehat

      Valet people tell me their tips are almost zero, since casinos started charging for parking. People didn’t mind giving a tip when valet was free, but now people figure “Well I already paid” and leave no tip

  22. William Wingo

    Here’s something that occurred to me in a flash of inspiration:

    Instead of renaming the Monte Carlo the “Park MGM,” they should call it the “Pay-to-Park MGM.”

    Truth in advertising and catchy, too.

  23. steve

    Haven’t been to Vegas in years. Last time there the over charging began at the car rental where the Dollar rental agent kept putting extras on the rental, like road side assist, etc, and inferred that it was required (including the insurance or I would have to pay for the cars full price if a scratch is on it). We finally walked out and grabbed a cab. Service at the hotel was terrible, as with many of the restaurants, and way over priced for what you got. The slots, I realize they aren’t for getting that home in Malibu, but no give and take. It kind of reminds me of Disney world, over priced for average food and rooms, and entrainment, and I have heard it for both places, ” I now its expensive, but its ( insert Disney, Vegas etc.)

  24. Judie

    This is the beginning of the end. They are going to make the experience less attractive. I can go to my local casinos and not pay for parking and get drinks, I have to pay for them, but you have to pay for them in Las Vegas as well. Why would I want to go to a dying industry. It’s way far away and you still will lose your money, most of the time, so the rewards are not worth the hassle. I will be going there soon, only because I’ve never been there, but it’s with a very sad impression. I remember going there was exciting, even if you did loose money. But getting comps was always a nice thought. Now, heck, I can go to my local Indian casino and, not travel as far, and feel like I’m in Vegas. There doesn’t seem to be the same magic that used to be. They are committing business suicide and don’t realize or care. Long live Las Vegas. Gambling paradise lost.


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