Visiting Las Vegas in Your Retirement

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 visiting Sin City now is the price tag of that desert adventure.

Let’s Set The Criteria

This article might not be for you if you have “mucho dinero” in your discretionary bankroll before or after retirement. I understand everyone has a “thing” to lower the cost of a visit, but no matter what your retirement budget is, there is always a way to visit Las Vegas. It just takes more due diligence.

The fact remains that money talks in Las Vegas. You get what you pay for, and these days, casinos cutting corners in Las Vegas diminishes your vacation experience exponentially. The cost of visiting Las Vegas has skyrocketed past many travelers’ financial means, including the “freebies” that made Las Vegas famous over the past 50 years.

Everything tends to cost more in time. The market may ebb and flow, but the water continues to rise. But, what I’m examining here is rising costs plus other trends. Here’s the math:

(General Inflation + Rising Costs + Additional Fees) – Standard Vegas Expectations (SVE) = Decline in Experience, Enjoyment, and Overall Quality of Visit (OQV)

Vegas, Baby, Vegas

There was once a time 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 famous “low-roller” experiences, such as discount books, 2/1 dining, and gambling promos like the famous $25 promotional chips for $10.

Is This Really What It Costs Today?

The Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip

After carefully researching many 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 determine an average stay to be five days.

Size of GroupCost / DayTotal Cost for 5-Night Stay
solo traveler$218.00$1075.00
couple$318.00$1930.00
family of 4$725.00$3620.00
  • Las Vegas hotels range from $44 to $189 per night (low to mid-range), with an average of $89 per night. This may or may not include Resort Fees between $25 – $40 added each night.
  • Average worldwide flight costs to McCarran International Airport (LAS), now the Harry Reid International Airport, are between $672 and $1,050 per person for economy flights and $2,109 to $3,295 for first class.
  • 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

Guest Benefits Decrease, Guest Costs Rise

After the pandemic closed many across the country, gamblers are flocking back to their casinos in record numbers. Las Vegas hotel occupancy, room rates, and gaming revenues are rising to unbelievable, and so are the prices. All seems closer to normal. But looks are deceiving. Check out these trends:

  • Food Prices in Vegas: Around $30-600 per day 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.
  • Gambling squeeze
    • Stadium gambling earns little to no points in rewards clubs.
    • High table limits continue whether tables are full or empty.
    • A third zero in roulette
    • Low-house edge games taken away from the casino floor
    • Poker rooms closed
    • Rewards Programs are constantly changing, usually not benefitting the members.

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 be annual or not at all. So, here’s my plan for all retirees on a low-roller budget.

1. Go Where Your Bankroll Is Appreciated

The Strip May Not Be For You!

If you prefer the Strip, chances are you know which hotel/casinos are high-end, mid and 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. And 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 player you are. MGM Rewards has been revamped and include many positives and negatives, but for the low-roller who looks to get credit for property buying to increase tier credits, that time has passed. And Eldorado seems to cut as many corners as possible, including paying for those VIP lounges.

You May Have To Compromise to Be Treated Well

If you REALLY have to stay on the Strip, the best bang for the low-roller buck is Treasure Island. Did I say compromise? At TI, the rooms aren’t as good, there are too many kids 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 closing to the Strip. With ride-sharing available these days, getting to the Strip has become easy 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, and 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.

The Palms

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.
  • 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 first opening in 1952. it also has its monorail station.
Visiting Las Vegas in Retirement
Westgate

3. Downtown

There are hidden gems and new jewels around Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. Sure it’s a world away from the Strip, but these properties will show you the appreciation you deserve.

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.

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, the Plaza it ready to assume a leading role. For a low to mid-rollers 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.
Visiting Las Vegas in Retirement
Downtown Grand

Casino Marketing Must Re-Assess Its Approach

The retiree with less discretionary money needs to compromise. But, casino marketing should give back to loyal patrons. Once this rush of gamblers calms down, and we have already seen fewer Americans traveling, casino marketing must return to some older standards:

  • improved hospitality,
  • employing laid-off staff,
  • making the guest feel appreciated, and
  • reviving the expectation of winning or at least longer play.

Years ago, casino owners knew that the key to keeping people coming back was personalized service. Today, it’s about algorithms, points, status levels, and kiosks, trending away from that personal touch that still pays dividends in attracting low and mid-rollers.

Summary

Don’t Give Your Bussiness to Greedy Casinos. You can tell who’s bean-counters are penny-pinching just by looking at the gaming floor. 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.

Casinos Must Look To The Past To Survive.
Triple Zero Wheel in Roulette
  • Enough with the triple zero roulette.
  • 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)
  • Terrible Video Poker paytables
  • 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 just have to look. Many casinos in Las Vegas want your business – you just have to look through the neon and animated displays.

Binbin