Last Call For Free Alcohol, More Vegas Casinos Monitoring Drink Comps

Written By Jessica Welman on May 16, 2017
alcohol shot and cash

[toc]First they come for your parking, then they come for your alcohol. Several Las Vegas casinos recently launched technology to monitor machine play at casino bars. Only those gambling at a certain rate qualify for free drinks.

MGM and Caesars started pilot free drink program last fall

The change in the Las Vegas landscape is not exactly a surprise. Last fall, locals spotted automated systems on machines at both Caesars and MGM properties.

“The new technology has eliminated the guessing game for bartenders about how many drinks each guest is eligible to receive based on play,” MGM representatives told the Las Vegas Sun. “Further, it has made the number of comped drinks that players receive consistent for all slot players at these bars.”

The system features red and green lights to indicate whether or not players are gambling at a pace to merit drinks. Reports from the field indicate the comps are not stingy. The idea is to make sure customers who spend money gambling are adequately rewarded. Additionally, it means bartenders and servers do not have to spend so much time monitoring customers.

Blogger Anthony Curtis told the Sun the system also helps to cut down on theft:

“It’s an attempt to end a problem that’s been rampant for years. If you have a cash bar with unlooked or overseen comping privileges, a cash customer can buy a drink and bartender can comp them even if they’re not playing.” The bartender then pockets the cash the customer gave him for the drink.”

Other Nevada casinos following suit

Like the parking changes, other Nevada casinos waited to see if the system worked at the test sites. Now other properties are installing similar technology.

Ardent Progressive Systems and Games supplied the technology Caesars uses at its nine Nevada properties. Now the company’s client list also includes Venetian, Palazzo, Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, and the Westgate, with even more casinos to come.

The benchmark to earns drink is actually not that steep either. Players need to spend roughly $4 a minute on wagers in order to activate the green light. If you are playing 25 cent video poker on max bet, that amounts to not quite four hands a minute.

Change indicative of new Las Vegas mindset

Be it free parking, free drinks, or dirt-cheap buffets, the mindset of the original Las Vegas casinos was to offer a range of incentives to draw people into the properties.

Now, casinos are not as willing to take a loss on these player perks. In fact, dining and entertainment are increasingly important revenue streams for casino companies.

With that in mind, free drinks are taking on a different purpose.

“We are making a concerted effort to reward our larger-spending customers,” Rich Broome, executive vice president of communications at Caesars Entertainment, explained to the Washington Post. “This discourages people who are just looking for a free drink.”

MGM’s Alan Feldman agreed, saying a free drink is a reward, not an incentive.

Casinos are certainly still willing to reward their loyal customers, and generously to boot. Those looking to hit up the Strip on the cheap might want to be exploring new options though. If anything, might be smarter to stay home and play online to earn comps, rather than hedging your bets at the bar.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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