Is Las Vegas Still a Destination For the Low-Roller?
The only constant in Las Vegas is “change.” I’ve learned not to get too attached to my favorite this and that in Sin City because, in time, it will be changed or revised (usually for the worse) or cease to exist. Indeed, the time has come to reconsider Visiting Las Vegas in Your Retirement. Unfortunately, the most sinful part of that desert adventure now is the price tag.
The gambling experience that many of us have enjoyed in past decades has declined beyond expectations. Two factors are to blame:
- Gamblers, tourists, etc., get less “bang for the buck” and less desirable gambling.
- Gamblers are expected to pay much more concerning entertainment, hotels and amenities, food, fees upon fees, and especially the gambling price.
Las Vegas must be approached with a different tact and awareness for the retired recreational gambler.
Got Discretionary Dough?
First, this article might not be for you if you have “mucho dinero” in your discretionary bankroll during retirement. So, spare me the “just have to know how” comments.
Second, it takes much more due diligence for those who have enjoyed visiting Las Vegas but are now looking at a fixed budget with lower discretionary funds. Like our summer clothing in our golden years, those pensions don’t cover as much as they used to.
Third, these days it takes more money to get the experience you’re familiar with in any casino let alone Las Vegas. Casinos were cutting corners and raising prices in Las Vegas decades before the pandemic. But with the expansion of casino gambling across the country, usual amenities, and bargains are harder to find.
Proving a Point
Parking And Shrimp Cocktail? Oh, The Humanity!
Remember these shocking headlines? “Paid parking Begins at some of Caesar’s properties (2016).” “Stations Casinos Add “Resort Fee” to hotel expense (2004); “(Caesar’s & MGM added Resort Fees in 2009-10)
And then, the worst happened. I remember it well.
In 2008, the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino raised the price of its famous Shrimp Cocktail!
Let’s take a look.
The Golden Gate introduced its famous shrimp cocktail for 50 cents in 1959. In 1991, the price went up to 99 cents and was increased several more times before the deal was discontinued in 2017. But it’s back on the menu, as you can see, for $9.99 – a whopping 500% increase. In 2008, $1 had the equivalent purchasing power to about $1.41 today, an increase of $0.41 over 15 years and a cumulative price increase of 41.26%. – not the 500% seen above.
How About the 5-Day Vacation Cost?
Once in my small circle of friends and family, I was considered Mr. Vegas. We all used to joke about my fictitious travel agency, “Binbin Tours,” since I often led a small group of newbies to the Mecca of Gambling every year. These trips were “low-roller” experiences, using discount books, 2/1 dining, and gambling promos such as the famous $25 promotional chips for $10.
But that was then, and this is now. After carefully researching travel sites and blogs, I determined an average cost for many essentials when visiting Las Vegas, such as transportation, hotel, and food – not including gambling or shows. Let’s suggest an average stay to be five days-four nights.
|Size of Group||Cost / Day||Total Cost for 4-Night Stay|
|family of 4||$725.00||$2900|
- Las Vegas hotels range from $44 to $189 per night (low to mid-range), averaging $89 per night. This may or may not include Resort Fees between $25 – $40 added each night.
- Average worldwide flight costs to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) range from $672 and $1,050 per person for economy flights and $2,109 to $3,295 for first class. (Prices may vary due to airline, date, and day of the week. Special sales were not considered)
- Transportation costs
- An average ride-share (Uber, etc..) can range from $10 (local Strip) to $40 (South Strip through Downtown – one way. Airport to Strip transportation is usually around $15 or more.
- Car rental – Economy car – $250 to $400
What To Know Before You Go?
Remember that pandemic when casinos closed across the country? When gambling halls began to reopen, gamblers flocked back in record numbers. In Las Vegas, hotel room rates and gaming revenues climbed to unbelievable heights, skyrocketing past many travelers’ financial means. Many of us waited for the gaming minimums to return to pre-pandemic rates. Guess what? We are still waiting.
When so many gamblers rushed back to the Vegas Strip after the casinos reopened, drooling at the chance to gamble again, capitalism appeared on the side of the casinos, especially industry giants like MGM, Caesars, and Stations, who didn’t need to lower limits. If you build it, close it, and reopen it again, THEY WILL COME! No need to go back to the old offerings for their clientele.
When it comes to gambling and your pre-pandemic bankroll, there are some serious changes to consider due to the reopening of the Vegas Casinos:
- The odds have increased. 6:5 instead of 3:2) has spread throughout the valley
- Triple-zero roulette ( not just double zero) has become increasingly common on casino floors, increasing the house edge to a whopping 7.69%
- According to the Nevada Gaming Control, slots have also increased house edge. So, they may seem “tighter” than you remember.
- Stadium gambling and the few full-pay video poker games earn little to no points in rewards clubs.
- High table limits continue whether tables are full or empty.
- Poker rooms have closed.
- Rewards Programs are constantly changing, usually not benefitting the members.
Additional Concerns from Vegas Then and Now
Additional concerns from a great website Vegas Then and Now, include:
- Food Prices in Vegas: Around $30-600 daily, based on your tastes. $30 is the bare-bones minimum if you’re only eating fast food. $600 is if you’re planning to go five-star most of the time. For mid-range travelers, $150 per person per day is fair.
- Drink costs are rising, and Free drinks for gamblers are being squeezed out.
- Fees, fees, and more – Higher Resort Fees, COVID cleaning fees, and fees for children are now part of staying in Las Vegas.
- Parking Fees at Hotels and even malls (for example, Miracle Mile attached to Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, recently added parking fees)
- New Fees added at bars and restaurants along the Las Vegas Strip are called a “concession fee,” “venue fee,” and “CNF,” which can amount to as much as 5% of the total bill on top of the regular taxes and gratuity. For what? Nothing! – just additional profit for the owners.
- Less hotel staff but higher room prices. Las Vegas properties are yet to return to the entire staff.
Retirement Means Re-evaluating Your Las Vegas Visit
Vegas has diversified and continues cultivating other areas for revenue, all at the visitor’s expense. Unfortunately, these trends will continue to decrease the value of a Vegas Vacation because most visitors to Las Vegas don’t know any better. But those of us who have frequented Sin City for 30 years or more are well aware of the decrease in value that Las Vegas offers.
My recent visit made me realize that my approach to Las Vegas vacations must change, and the number of visits needs to decrease as well – maybe annual or less.. So, here’s my plan for you “retirees” on a low-roller budget.
Lower available Bankroll? Reinvent Yourself
There are many casinos in the Las Vegas area that you have not visited often. Your gambling reputation may not be established at these casinos. At these properties, your rewards play may get a “redo.”
You may find somewhere new that appreciates your smaller investment. The plus is that they will look at you as a new player. Any serious play will catch there attention.
1. Go Where Your Bankroll Is Appreciated
The Strip May Not Be For You!
If you prefer the Strip, you probably know which hotels/casinos are high-end, mid-, or low-end properties. But even the low-end properties are not all alike. With any large company, such as MGM or Caesars/Eldorado, you are one of the thousands of members vying for attention. Caesars still gives out comped rooms quickly, but not like they used to. MGM wants big play for comps, something that can dry up quickly in your rewards with this industry giant if you don’t play your previously expected time and coin-in.
Both have high expectations, whatever level of player you are. MGM Rewards has been revamped and includes many positives and negatives, but that time has passed for the low-roller who looks to get credit for property buying to increase tier credits. And Eldorado (who bought Caesars) seems to cut as many corners as possible, including having players pay for those VIP lounges.
You May Have To Compromise to Be Treated Well
If you have to stay on the Strip, Treasure Island is the best bang for the low-roller buck. Did I say compromise? At TI, the rooms aren’t as good, too many kids are running around, and your dining is limited to the fun but lower-quality restaurants. If you HAVE to stay on the Strip, it’s a good location on the north Strip near Fashion Show Mall, the Venitian, Wynn/Core, and Genting’s New Resorts World. However, in the next few years, guests at TI will have to put up with the demolition of the Mirage and the construction of the new Hard Rock next door.
2. Try Off-Strip Casino/Hotels Close to the Strip
Some Off-Strip Hotel/Casinos have the amenities you’re used to on the Strip. With ride-sharing available, getting to the Strip has become easier and cheaper than renting a car or hailing a taxi. The two newest additions to this list are both tribal casinos. The Palms is now owned, renovated, and run by the San Manuel tribe of California. The wholly renovated Virgin Hotel has its casino managed by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut. Both are excellent properties to become your new Las Vegas home.
Related Post – Mohegan Sun Rises in Vegas
These off-strip properties treat you like royalty for less. Other properties, independent of the giant companies, include:
- Gold Cost – older, established, known to be a low-roller haven across from the Palms.
- The Palms – Now owned and completely renovated by the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority
- Westgate – once the concert home Elvis, this has its Monorail station to take you to the South Strip.
- Sahara Las Vegas – wholly rebuilt, has undergone many changes since its opening in 1952. it also has a monorail station.
There are hidden gems and new jewels around Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. It’s a world away from the Strip, but these properties will show you their appreciation.
It starts with Derek Stevens, who has single-handedly revitalized Fremont. All three properties – Golden Gate, The D, and Circa – offer great deals for any size bankroll. Cheaper room rates at Golden Gate and The D, with the amazing Circa next door is a great combination.
Also recommended are:
- Main Street Station – not connected to Stations Resorts (now called Red Rock), it is owned by Boyd Gaming.
- The Plaza – with more renovations, additions, and suites, it is ready to assume a leading role. For a low to mid-roller bankroll, this is a great alternative.
- Downtown Grand – Yes, it’s a block from Fremont, but the old “Lady Luck” hotel/casino was renovated and is a spanking new resort. A level above many downtown hotels/casinos.
Summary – Don’t Give Your Bussiness to Greedy Casinos.
Remember, you want to save discretionary money, not throw it away
By looking at the gaming floor, you can tell who’s bean-counters are penny-pinching. If you find any of these items below, find another casino that doesn’t want to relieve you of your bankroll quickly. These examples are in casinos that wish to take advantage of the new gambler and the low-roller because your bankroll will not last long.
- 6/5 Blackjack instead of 3/2. FYI, surveillance staff has admitted to not watching for counting cards since the house edge on 6/5 makes it a waste of time)
- Enough with the triple zero roulette.
- Terrible Video Poker paytables
- Limited or no free drinks at bartop machines.
- Limited Rewards Club earnings on popular machine slots, full pay VP (if you can find it), and low table ratings on games with lower house edge (ex, Pai Gow poker)
- Ridiculous Side wagers
- A Rewards Club that offers little rewards and needs lots of coin-in to get what’s available.
This is an excellent time to break loyalty, save your bankroll’s quick death, and find someone who will appreciate your patronage. You have to look. Many casinos in Las Vegas want your business – you have to look through the neon and animated displays.