Complimentary drinks were a big deal when I turned 21 and started to visit casinos. These complimentary, but not really free, drinks made a night in the casino a little more fun. The drinks flowed freely without care by the cocktail waitresses and bartenders as long as it appeared that I was gambling. The bartenders at video poker bars were only supposed to supply complimentary drinks as long as there were max bet wagers being made. I was almost always gambling so it’s never been a worry.
Bartenders keeping an eye on players has been standard practice in casinos for years. However, tips often impaired their judgement (if you know what I’m saying). The drinks were rarely amazing, but they did the trick. Not only does this feel like a thing of the past, but those memories are starting to sound like a myth to people who visit Las Vegas and don’t leave the Vegas Strip. Ahhhh….the good ole days.
Last year Caesars Entertainment started testing a drink monitoring system at the Caesars Palace sports book bar. You receive a complimentary drink (bottom or middle shelf or domestic beer) when you enter $20 and play 6 hands of video poker at a maximum bet. That’s $7.50 of money played before receiving a complimentary drink. Drinks are then rewarded if the pace of play doesn’t slow down. Bartenders are alerted when you can receive another drink by a green light on the back of the video poker machine.
This drink monitoring was just a test by Caesars Entertainment until this week. The drink monitoring system is now at every Caesars Entertainment video poker bar in Las Vegas (you can read more at Vital Vegas). This will come as a surprise if you’re used to drinking as much as you want regardless of how much you’re gambling. Drink service on the casino floor remains the same for now.
Last year MGM Resorts installed a different type of drink monitoring system at the Lobby Bar at The Mirage. This system gives the player a drink ticket to the player instead of putting the burden on the bartender. The drink system is similar to Caesars Entertainment in that you’ll receive a drink after inserting $20. However, you don’t have to play 6 hands before the bartender serves you. Drink tickets will follow when you reach certain point thresholds (read about it at Travel Zork). MGM Resorts only has this at certain bars, but I believe they’ll roll it out across all properties sometime soon.
Lastly, with the renovation of the Chandelier Bar the Cosmopolitan now has a drink monitoring system at every bar. Their drink ticket system is similar to what MGM Resorts is using. Unlike MGM Resorts, it seems as if the bartenders can override the system if you’re drinking at a brisk pace. Unlike the other casinos, your complimentary drink can be a signature cocktail. That’s a $16 drink!
Let’s look on the bright side. Drink service on the casino floor remains the same as usual and the drink monitoring systems are only in the casinos listed above. It doesn’t appear as if the drink monitoring systems are ready to leave the Vegas Strip.
The drink monitoring systems shouldn’t be a burden for most people who only want 3-4 drinks per hour. However, if you want to booze hard at the casino bars, you might be better off buying your cocktails. The real downside to these drink ticketing systems is that they make you think about how you’re going to spend money. People typically don’t visit Las Vegas because they want to think.