7 Nov

Gone are the Cheap Vegas Casinos of Yesteryear

Corporate greed puts end to freebies in Las Vegas casinos.

If you’re a part of the so-called Millennial generation, you probably have no idea how cheap Vegas casinos once were. For the rest of you who are old enough to remember the days before the recession of the early 1990s, you may remember a time when Las Vegas was a place of cheap thrills and memories you could only share with your closest friends.

While the motto remains—What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas—the budget-friendly nature of Sin City is long gone. There are no more cheap buffets. Free drinks are scarce, at best. Now, it’s a city in which everyone who visits must pay the price for Vegas extravagance; whether taking advantage of such extravagance or not.

The End of Freebies in Las Vegas Casinos

In the mid 1980s, any casino on the strip would be happy to deliver free, if not somewhat diluted, cocktails to every player on the casino floor. Slot machines, video poker machines, blackjack and roulette tables—if you were betting coins or chips, the beverages were free flowing.

Now, casinos have special high-tech equipment linked to the games. It shows them how much you’re wagering per play, per minute, per hour… If you’re not betting enough to support their profit margin, you’ll be getting a bill for that drink. And chances are, it will be no less than $10.

If you got hungry in those days, the buffet was usually the way to go. Maybe the food wasn’t the greatest—although some were amazing!—but that’s the beauty of buffets. There’s so much to choose from, everyone finds something enjoyable edible. And back then, the $0.99 breakfast, $4.99 lunch and (up to) $9.99 dinner buffets were available at every casino on the Boulevard.

If you want a bite to eat now, that’s about all $5 or $10 will get you—a bite. You’ll have to stick to cheap fast food restaurants outside the casinos to get a budget meal, and even those are marked up well above the cost you’d pay anywhere else.

Everyone Pays for Vegas Extravagance

If you’ve never paid a “resort fee”, you clearly haven’t stayed in a Vegas hotel in the last 15 years or so. Resort fees are how Vegas casinos make up for the high cost of building some of the most luxurious amenities in the world. The crazy part is, you’ll pay for it whether you use it or not.

Imagine you order a cheeseburger at the local burger joint. They ask if you want a drink and fries with that. You say no—just the burger please. They then proceed to charge you for drink and fries anyway. That’s kind of how Vegas works now. You may have no intention of using the fitness center, pool, or in-room WiFi, or making local calls—you know, the same things that are provided free of charge at every other hotel in the world—but you’ll pay the ‘resort fee‘ for it anyway in Vegas.

Casino managers say it’s only fair—that charging $25-$40 per day for such things helps them cover the cost of building and maintaining these features. Okay, I could understand that. But it doesn’t explain why you’ll pay $600+ for a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka you could get anywhere else for $40. It doesn’t explain $12+ bottles of beer, $20+ daiquiris, and a $300+ pitcher of John Daly.

What’s the benefit of these 25x or more mark-ups? Were those nightly resort fees not enough to make up for the cost of Las Vegas extravagance? Sadly, it’s nothing more than corporate greed. Guaranteed profits from gambling are no longer enough to satiate their fiscal hunger.

The cheap Vegas casinos of yesteryear are now a soon-to-be-forgotten legend—a myth we’ll pass on to future generations who will surely doubt the very existence of age-old freebies in Las Vegas casinos.

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