Understanding Complimentary Drinks In Casinos

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Casino comps are more difficult to come by every day. There was a time where casinos would hand out complimentary meals, rooms, and drinks just to keep guests gambling. Forget meals and rooms. It’s a challenge to even find a good complimentary drink.

Casino operators in Las Vegas today are mostly corporations looking to maximize profit everywhere they can. Casinos don’t dish out the freebies like they used to. The casino customer has changed a lot over the years and so have the companies.

About 30-40 percent of casino revenue comes from gaming. That’s a huge decrease from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ’80s. Casinos have changed policies to match changing preferences in order to maximize profit. Here are a few things to be aware of next time drinkers visit Las Vegas.

Short Pouring Drinks

Depending on where you gamble in a casino, there might be a different policy for complimentary drinks. Waitresses still fly around the casino floor offering table game and slot machine players complimentary drinks. Of course, depending on the casino the drink might taste a little different.

In 2016, MGM Resorts started to serve cocktails with only 1.25 ounces of spirits instead of the typical 1.5 ounces. This might not sound like much but that’s similar to paying 6:5 for blackjack instead of 3:2. It’s annoying and it’s a challenge to get a great drink.

The small difference might not be noticeable by every guest but most people should be able to taste and feel the difference. The short pours aren’t only for mixed drinks. All drinks, even a delicious Macallan scotch are measured a little smaller. Less booze = less buzz. Not cool.

MGM Resorts says that they aren’t the only casino operator to short pour drinks in Las Vegas. The quality of your mixed drink may depend on where you’re gambling.

Recommendation: Casinos can’t short pour the amount of alcohol in beer and wine. Consider these drinks in order to maximize your buzz.

Limiting Complimentary Drinks at Bars

While complimentary drinks still flow on the main casino floor, they’re limited at video poker bars. Most casinos on the Vegas Strip have installed drink monitoring systems at their video poker bars. These systems help casino operators limit the number of “free” drinks for guests.

The drink monitoring systems track how much the player is gambling. When a guest places $20 in a machine, they’ll receive one complimentary drink. If the pace and amount wagered (usually $1 minimum per hand) per hand meet qualifications, the bartender is alerted that they can offer complimentary drinks or the machine gives the player a ticket to redeem for a complimentary drink.

The systems are obnoxious but they shouldn’t hamper video poker players that play at a steady pace and max bet ($1.25 per hand) each hand. Some guests that are chatting with friends while playing video poker might have a problem keeping up with the pace needed.

The systems have a downside but they do weed out some video poker players that only play for a unit and expect the same complimentary drinks as a max bet player. This should keep seats empty for paying customers.

Some bars that don’t have the system have instituted a time limit to the number of drinks served. Last year I was served one glass of scotch every 15 minutes – and not a second sooner. (More on this shortly.)

Getting The Most From Drinks At A Video Poker Bar

Limiting drinks to video poker and slot machine players at casino bars sound much worse than it is in reality. Drink monitoring players is not a great policy for casino guests. However, drink monitoring systems are more of an inconvenience than something that will limit how much players drink.

Video poker players who are also drinkers now have to think about the best way to spend their money. Does it make sense to put $20 in a video poker machine with bad paytables just to have one complimentary drink? Maybe, the vision of a $1,000 royal flush is alluring.

I tend to drink beer when gambling nowadays to get the most out of each experience. When given the option of where to play, I usually opt for a luxury property like the Cosmopolitan. Each drink ticket can be used for a cocktail with a $15 retail value. This keeps most booze options open.

Since the Cosmopolitan doesn’t short pour so it’s possible to even taste the booze in a mixed drink. Gasp! Most middle-shelf scotch and vodka are available as complimentary drinks for a ticket. I’ve enjoyed a delicious Old Fashioned with Woodford Reserve as well as a fair pour of the bourbon on the rocks.

While Treasure Island limits drinkers to four drinks an hour, they offer Macallan 12 as a complimentary drink at the video poker bar. This is one of the best comps available for scotch drinkers on the Vegas Strip. Macallan isn’t available to table game players, so this is an especially nice treat.

The luxury properties tend to offer stronger complimentary mixed drinks than the lower end casinos on the Vegas Strip. Wynn only offers comp drinks at the tables. You might get the best “free” vodka/soda at their tables but that’s only at the tables. Video poker players will have to pay for their drinks.

Explore Comp Drinks At Your Favorite Casinos

This information is all subject to change. Casino operators may change the complimentary spirits available to gamblers throughout the casino. While the recommendations above have worked for me recently, they may be out of date by the time you visit the casino. Just ask the bartender or cocktail waitress for their complimentary spirits and go from there.

My exploration of different boozes are available started by trying to avoid Absolut vodka. This continued as I was looking to drink Macallan instead of other scotches. Exploring booze can maximize your complimentary drink experience in the casinos.