Lights signal bartenders for vouchers. Some are automatic.

What happens in Las Vegas, doesn’t necessarily stay in Las Vegas.  When the casino industry changes things, those changes usually migrate across the country in one form or another. Since corporations have taken over in Las Vegas in the 1980’s, the comp systems have been slowly eroding to something of a slow squeeze to visitors and their bankrolls.  Diminished payouts, table game rules changed to add to the house’s edge, parking and resort fees, and now, good-bye comped drinks.

Let’s reminisce, shall we.  Even as of the year 2000, after parking the car in a free garage (or valet for a couple of bucks), a gambler would checking in to the hotel expecting to pay the hotel fee he booked, or get a comped room, without any add-ons.  Then, walking into the casino floor to gamble, could either find low table limits at decent rules (no 6/5 BJ) or Video Poker with good paytables.  As he/she played, they were assured of one more amenity – free drinks.  And that’s where this post really begins.

“It’s yet another revenue-generating move, as more Las Vegas casinos embrace the idea of a comp drink monitoring system that decides if gamblers are wagering enough to warrant free alcohol.” (from CasinoOrg’s post by David Sheldon  More Las Vegas Casinos Now Monitoring Players Before Offering ‘Free’ Cocktails).

IS MONITORING PLAY FOR FREE DRINKS REALLY A BAD THING?

While all the other changes by corporate bean counters has me pulling out the little hair I have left, paying for drinks through play is not so bad in this blogger’s opinion.

KTNV in Las Vegas reported “It gets rid of the people that want to hang around and play a quarter and try to basically, I don’t want to use the word scam, but basically take advantage of the system,” said Albert Tabola with Arden Progressive Systems & Games.   Tabola says, if you’re a consistent player, this won’t affect you. You will still get your comped drinks. It simply affects the people who want something for nothing.”

Long Bar, at the D, downtown Las Vegas.

For those of us who study, practice and play video poker at video bars, getting a seat to play, relax and have an occasional free drink is not only part of the experience but expected.  But those of us who are avid VP players know the frustration of people who sit at the bar, getting free drinks, while playing $.25 every 5 minutes.

Many times, these VP bars will include progressive payouts, but there are no seats available because the “ploppies” and the “squatters” don’t move.

So, is IS MONITORING PLAY FOR FREE DRINKS REALLY A BAD THING?  I say a decisive “NO!”

HOW DO MONITORING DRINK SYSTEMS WORK?

It seems there are two systems growing in Nevada – coupon and lighting systems.

Drink coupon at the Cosmopolitan, Mid-strip, Las Vegas.

The coupon system is easy to understand, just not easy to predict.  When your play equals a certain amount, the machine coughs up a free drink coupon.  A normal amount of play should not affect your number of free drinks.  For example, at the Cosmopolitan in the Vegas Strip, some players have commented they end up with a surplus of coupons not used.  But the amount of play doesn’t seem to be standardized yet, with bugs in the software of certain machines.

Caesars Entertainment officially rolled out the comped drink monitoring system by the Arden Progressive Systems & Games mentioned above at all their casinos on the Las Vegas strip about a year ago. Here’s how it works: (see image above)

It’s a green light, red light alert system designed to tell the staff if you’re playing enough to qualify for comped drinks:

  • When you enter money into a bar top machine like video poker, Blackjack, or Keno, the machine turns on a blue light to show someone is playing.
  • As you play enough, your light will turn green, alerting the bartender you are ready for a drink.
  • If you fall behind and don’t gamble at a fast enough rate, your light will turn red.

Either system is a plus.  The casino saves money, less ploppies and squatters taking seats meant for players, and true players have more seats available without ten millennials huddled behind scamming the bartender into free drinks.

THE IMPACT ON NEW ENGLAND CASINOS

The Star Bar in Mohegan Sun.

Frankly it could be two years before we see this technology.  While CET (Caesars Entertainment, formally Harrah’s) does not have a property in New England, it’s influence could move east to Atlantic City – close enough to make a mark.  By 2020, Wynn Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield will be fully operational.  We already know that Mohegan Sun has eliminated discretionary comps, but hasn’t succumbed to other national influences in the industry affecting the player.  The following casinos still have free alcoholic drinks:

  • Mohegan Sun
  • Foxwoods
  • Massachusetts Casinos – the casino bill signed into law does allow casinos to offer free alcohol to gamblers from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Massachusetts casinos are trying to extend to 4 a.m.  It has recently passed, but is still being challenged.

    Few Video Poker Machines - Single Line all in Revolution Lounge - 8 of them.
    Plainridge Park Video Poker Machines in Revolution Lounge 

Patrons must pay for alcoholic drinks in all Maine & Rhode Island casinos.  Plainridge Park Casino, in Massachusetts, while it seemingly can offer free alcoholic drinks by law, doesn’t.  Alcoholic drinks must be paid for, even at the one small VP bar with 10 machines.

The real question is “who will be first to change to a drink monitoring system?”

NETG PREDICTION – MGM SPRINGFIELD WILL BE FIRST

I would imagine they will be first to have paid parking because parking has been diminished in the resort’s initial plans and downtown parking is not easy to come buy, with paid parking already established in the city. MGM Springfield will be the first to add this drink system.  Wynn will end up with paid parking, but will resist the drink monitoring systems.  Mohegan Sun & Foxwoods will resist both to be competitive.

CONCLUSION

Drink monitoring systems are a good change at VP bars are a good change.  But, decent paytables must be offered – no more diminishing the video poker odds by diminishing the VP pay tables.  May full pay VP is a thing of the past (although Mohegan Sun still offers 9/6 JOB), but offering 6/5 JOB is just offensive – especially if you are playing for your drinks by playing.

A SIDE NOTE

The newest rumor from Las Vegas is that comped drinks through a coupon system may be added to slot machines on the casino floor.  More on that as it continues.  Wow!

 

Tomorrow, we finally take a look at the Sugar Factory at Foxwoods. 

But, that’s all for now.

 

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