Access Vegas Insider Vibe – May 23, 2001

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THIS ISSUE: The Truth About Slot Cards, Casino Freebies are not Usually Free

LAS VEGAS NEWS – of interest to tourists:

WORLD SERIES OF POKER – Carlos Mortensen knows when to hold ’em. The 29-year-old who moved to the United States from Spain a few years ago to play poker professionally won the World Series of Poker tournament Friday night at Binion’s Horseshoe — and a $1.5 million jackpot. Full story at and

WORLD SWIMSUIT – Model Search Finals will have over 60 women compete in what they bill as the “Ultimate Swimsuit Competition.” US and Canadian Finals are Friday, June 1 at 6:00 PM and the World Model Search Finals are Saturday, June 2 at 8: 00 PM. Tickets at (702) 731-7865. Discount Caesars rooms at (Caesars link).

SET TO RETIRE IN VEGAS – Nevada might have to wait a few years before it lives up to its growing reputation as a retirement mecca. Fewer than 10 percent of the state’s booming population are 65 or older, according to 2000 census figures released Friday. However, those aged 45 to 59 nearly doubled their ranks. “The pre-retirees are people moving here for their last job,” said Jeff Hardcastle, state demographer. Full story at

FRENCH FRY FUEL – Biodiesel fuel made from recycled cooking oils at casino hotels and restaurants went on sale in Nevada Tuesday, the first public access fueling station in the nation to offer the biodegradable fuel that reduces emissions. Full story at

AFTERNOON TEA – The Four Seasons (located at the south end of Mandalay Bay — same building) offers English style afternoon tea from 2 – 5 PM daily. At the Verandah, patrons choose from 11 teas that come with a three-tiered serving tray filled with scones, finger sandwiches and pastries. Full story at

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EFX – I took quite a bit of heat for my unkind review of EFX starring Rick Springfield, but word is that his run will end when his one-year contract is up. Story at and you can read the archived review at

SHOW REVIEWS – Recent reviews appearing in the media:

* Fab Four (Las Vegas Hilton) –
* Paul Anka –
* Splash (Riviera) –


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RESTAURANT REVIEWS – Recent reviews appearing in the media:

* Olio (MGM) –

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LAS VEGAS WEATHER – This 5 day forecast is courtesy of Weather.Com:

Thursday – 103 ░F / 80 ░F Partly Cloudy
Friday – 100 ░F / 75 ░F Partly Cloudy
Saturday – 99 ░F / 74 ░F Partly Cloudy
Sunday – 96 ░F / 69 ░F Partly Cloudy
Monday – 90 ░F / 69 ░F Partly Cloudy

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FEATURE STORIES: The Truth About Slot Cards, Casino Freebies are not Usually Free

The Truth About Slot Cards
by Ted Newkirk

Every few weeks, someone writes and asks why I never talk about comps (casino complimentary, i.e., free stuff you get for playing). The answer? For most players, it is simply not worth it. Except for the free drinks when you gamble or asking the pit boss for dinner is you’ve had a long run at the table (I mean 2 hours of heavy play or 4 hours of normal play), the average gambler bringing a few hundred bucks to town is not only going to get next to nothing, but they will be baited to play and lose far more than the comps are worth.

Most casinos track your play with a slot club card. You give them more vital info than you probably feel comfortable parting with, you use the card every time in every machine you play so they can track your every move, and you earn points good for food, gift shop items, and (if you play heavily) rooms.

If you are an average player, you may rack up enough points during your stay for half a buffet or a T-shirt. When you get home, they might send you a couple of buffet coupons or a discount room offer to get you back in on your next visit. (These “special rates” are often on par with the everyday discounts we offer on the very same rooms — our room supplier buys rooms from the hotel in bulk at deep discounts we pass on to you.)

So what’s the problem, you ask?!? The casinos don’t have slot clubs because they are nice people. Casino comps are but a small percentage of the money you are expected to lose “earning” those slot points. We all like to think that we beat the house and got something for free, so these cards actually encourage you to play more than you were planning to. After you’ve started to accumulate points, you end up putting another $20 or $100 in the machine to rack up those few more points needed for a free meal, totally forgetting the fact that the $20 will outright BUY the meal!

Don’t take my word for this or say “Well, that is other people but I manage my money flawlessly.” I recently had a drink with professional gambler Rob Singer, author of The Undeniable Truth About Video Poker. The book as well as his site are very fresh looks at many of the myths surrounding “beating the house,” especially related to video poker play.

Rob plays with a set financial strategy, and his #1 and only goal is to lock up a certain win on each of his monthly visits. And even HE told me that he’s stopped using slot club cards because of the temptation to deviate from his financial strategy and play just a little more to gain a benefit. If a pro can be tempted, are you going to tell me you can’t?

Don’t get me wrong: If your gambling budget in well into the thousands for each trip, get all the comps you can. In fact, skip the slot club card and ask to speak to a casino host about your gambling budget and what they might do for you.

But for the rest of us, be careful. You are coming here to have fun, and hitting the ATM for the third time in a day subconsciously savoring the free buffet the points are going to “earn” you isn’t fun. And trust me, that buffet comp or T-shirt doesn’t make you look like a high roller in their eyes. You are just another player who got a little extra play out of. Multiply that extra, unplanned play by all the slot club players, and they can well afford to give away a couple bucks worth of food.

Still don’t believe me? Or Rob Singer? Here is an interesting and informative article that came across the gaming wire a couple weeks ago:

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Casino Freebies are not Usually Free
By Jeffrey Compton

How many times have you heard that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”? So many times that the cliche has lost its meaning. But if you patronize casinos, and receive mail filled with tempting “free offers,” and then act on that mail, i.e., stay in a free room, see a free show or have a free lunch, you will soon find out what free really means.

Here is an example from one of my readers: Dear Jeffrey: Ballys/Paris send us a letter offering three free nights and one for $69. After we arrived and played for several hours, we asked for a meal comp, and were told that there were no comp dollars available in our account until our play covered the cost of the rooms. I thought these rooms were free? WH, Springfield, Il

Before I go any further, let me assure one and all that this situation is not unique to Ballys/Paris, nor their owner Park Place Entertainment, nor happens only to travelers from Springfield. I get at least two “how come free isn’t free” letters a week, as do my fellow gaming writers Bob Dancer, Jean Scott and Anthony Curtis.

Here is how it works: As a player plays (assuming he is using his players club card), he earns both “published” and “discretionary” benefits. At most casinos in America, the published benefits are usually cash rebates (although many local Las Vegas and Midwest Riverboat casinos may also publish free food and room guidelines). Player comps, especially on the Las Vegas Strip, come from the discretionary account administered by the hosts.

Although policies vary (to the point where no two casinos have the same exact policy), many hotels do deduct from the player’s discretionary account any redeemed direct mail room/meal offers, and thus the player’s comp account could be considerably less than zero when they arrive. Some hotels (and hosts) handle this better than others, and find a more diplomatic way to explain it–¡ or tell the customer so little about discretionary comping that the player doesn’t realize what or how his account is charged.

Some casinos do not debit redeemed offers that were sent to fill up rooms during a traditionally slow seasons (early December), and there are still many older casinos that do not track redeemed direct mail offers back to the player account due to either corporate policy or an outdated computer system.

I will anticipate the next questions: “Casinos have been giving out comps both on the casino floor and through direct mail for years. Have they always tracked every freebie back to the customer?”

The answer is no, Bugsy and the boys did not spend two seconds thinking about player comps after they gave them out. Most decisions were done based on their best recollection of the player’s action (i.e. seat of the pants decision) and their daily mood. In the last few years, however, several developments have led casinos to keep track of the giveaways.

Casinos hold back a lot less money than they once did. Due to increased competition as well as increased player knowledge, player holds have dropped dramatically over the last twenty years. It was easy to be Santa Claus when you had a new sack of money coming in every day, but todayÆs casinos really have to work to make a buck.

Casinos are no longer one-man (or one-gang) operations. You can count the number of privately owned Nevada casinos on two hands, and even they have to report to their lenders. The rest have stockholders and investment bankers who are not thrilled about runaway “player reinvestment” expenses.

Players are more comp aggressive. My grandfather’s generation was brought up to never ask for a free meal, but most of us players have gotten over that stigma. Several recent books, most notably the Frugal Gambler by Jean Scott and Comp City by Max Rubin, have done an excellent job in converting once docile gamblers into aggressive comp consumers.

Computerization is everywhere. Whatever the reasons casinos had for making the comp process more accountable, it could not be done without computers, which get better and cheaper every year. It is my guess that within the next few years, they will know exactly how many free drinks I consume per hour of play ¡ and that is no joke.

So what should players do when they get a “free” offer in the mail? If they like to play at the casino, then by all means enjoy it, but realize that the offer was sent for a reason (hint: they want you to play the games) and if they do not get that result, you will not be getting any more freebies.

“Casino Freebies are not Usually Free Copyright” copyright May 11, 2001 Gaming Wire Used with permission

EDITOR’S NOTE: People had a lot to say about the “Kids in Vegas” letters printed a few weeks ago. While I can’t print every letter I receive, I always print a representative sample of all opinions expressed. Letters that contain good writing style (paragraphs, punctuation, no ALL CAPS, etc.) have a better chance of getting published. I’ll have comments and answers at the end. Don’t forget to vote in this week’s poll “Should people bring kids to Las Vegas?” at


John Krogh wrote:

> I found it amusing the two responses you published were both
> advocating keeping “kids” out of Las Vegas. Especially in light of
> the fact that Las Vegas has spent millions to promote itself as a
> “family vacation site.” Granted, I think that was a mistake, and I
> think Las Vegas has finally realized it was a mistake also. But
> nonetheless, with a family image being promoted by the city, how on
> earth could anyone be upset when families show up?
> Second, this is a city that is supported, in fact is built on tourism.
> When the strip fills up with people, why is anyone surprised at jay
> walking or people trying to beat the light? It comes with the
> territory. I don’t know how things are in Nevada, but in California
> and other states, a pedestrian caught in a crosswalk who’s light as
> changed against him/her, ALWAYS has the right of way.
> Finally, in a more serious vein, the intolerance expressed by both
> parties is disturbing. The Taxi cab driver who thinks a red/green
> light is the only rule, and the parent, who by pushing an infant is
> immune to the color of the light. The purpose of the “lights,” the
> crosswalk, the “rules” is to try and keep one another from being hurt,
> not to encourage it.

Glenn Burton wrote:

> All this noise directed against parents who take children to Las Vegas
> seems overblown to me. Don’t the casinos spend billions constructing
> attractions aimed at families with children? I doubt if die-hard
> gamblers go to Las Vegas for the Circus or the roller coasters.
> Isn’t Las Vegas being billed in the media as a “new” family
> destination? We’ve all read that there are many activities in Las
> Vegas suitable for children and that the prices are subsidized by
> gamblers … so why be surprised when people respond to the hype and
> come? Many of these parents who bring children to Las Vegas are
> probably on their first trip to Las Vegas and have no idea what the
> city is like. Some may not plan on gambling at all.
> I suggest that if you want to be angry at someone about bringing
> children to Las Vegas, direct your anger to the casino owners who are
> marketing their product to families and not against the families who
> respond.

Jack Hart (who originally wrote the letter about his experience with his young son in Las Vegas) wrote:

> Your readers comments to my letter, (subject — taxi drivers), printed
> in Access Vegas News attacked me for being in Las Vegas with my
> children. I would appreciate a rebuttal to comments made by R. Hirst
> and Mr. and Mrs. Cook of Calgary. First of all the issue had to do with
> vehicular intimidation by taxi drivers. Hirst called me a dimwit and
> an irresponsible parent. The Cook’s said they were “tired of being
> run over by strollers.” Their verbal attack and attitude displayed
> was ridiculous to say the least. These people are old people that
> should be the ones to stay away from Las Vegas. Keeping my children
> away with baby sitters is there answer to being run over by taxi
> drivers? What’s wrong with these people? I hope there are a better
> caliber of visitors to Las Vegas than these people.
> Please let R. Hirst know that he/she is not alone in his/her remarks
> about kids in Las Vegas (or any other gambling Mecca)!

J. Clayton wrote:

> We were in both Las Vegas and Laughlin some weeks ago. While in
> Laughlin, we stopped in at Burger King’s restaurant (in a corner of
> the Flamingo Hilton casino floor) at about 11:30PM to grab a Coke and
> some fries. As one would surmise, the place was the usual late night
> air full of smoke. … and even though I no longer smoke, I really
> don’t particularly care. However, a young couple with a literally
> ‘brand new’ baby (my ‘Better-Half’ guessed the age at less than a
> month) was sitting in the restaurant. Shortly after we arrived, they
> finished their meal and wandered (child in mother’s arms… carrier
> on father’s arm) off onto the casino floor to the slots.
> Question: What in the (expletive deleted!) are parents doing with a
> baby of that age up at that hour in a casino designed for adults?!
> You are absolutely right, R. Hirst, that people are trying to bend
> the adult playground of the World into a Disneyland for families! (As
> a matter of fact, I don’t even think kids can really get all of the
> fun out of the REAL Disneyland like adults can! …smiles!).

Kimberly Byers wrote:

> I have kids ranging in ages from 10 yrs to 19 yrs. We have been going to
> Las Vegas once a year for the past 5 years. Before you start slamming
> all parents and banning families maybe you should consider this. I have
> always taught my kids to respect the adult environment. They move
> quickly through casinos and only to go to the room or to eat. I realize
> this is not true with all kids but in this case it is. No one ever
> argues over who has to “watch” the kids. It is my pleasure. I never
> pretend its a family vacation. I make it one. Who are you to decide for
> me. I am glad to have these times with them and not leaving them at
> home. I’m glad your kids are grown and now you can enjoy yourselves. I
> am enjoying myself now. I dread the day when mine are gone! I’m not
> trying to be a goody goody. I drink a bit, I love to gamble and I also
> love being a mom. Too bad other people haven’t learned to incorporate
> families and kids into the real world. Don’t feel sorry for me. If it
> were up to me I would ban smokers and opinionated S.O.B. but then I
> would feel sorry for you.

Dean Di Mascio of Philadelphia, PA wrote”

> Dear Ted…. I very much enjoy reading your newsletter, a job well done!
> However, I’m becoming upset with the suggestion(s) by the many
> writers who say “if you have kids stay away from Las Vegas.” My wife,
> daughter (16) and I are big fans of Disney world, vacations and travel
> in general. We will be visiting Las Vegas in August and are looking
> forward to it. moreover, with all of the themed venues, attractions
> and natural settings and restaurants why should we not think of Las
> Vegas as a “family” detestation? I have an itinerary for our visit and
> it does not even include gaming. Although (smile) I’m sure my wife and
> I will lose some money in the casinos! But to those who wish to cling
> to the “old Las Vegas,” give it up I say. Like it or not Las Vegas
> has changed. Opened up to embrace families as well as
> “couples.”

Raymond Buchmueller wrote:

> Last year we took along our 6 and 8 year old to Vegas. We all had a
> great time. Just ask them where they want to go next holidays!
> Vegas. We just found that most Hotels buffet, the kids paid the same
> price was very unfair. How can a 45lb. kid pay the same price like a
> 250lb adult. Hats off to Luxor, and also Mirage. Maybe someone can
> let me know if other hotel have discount for kid on there buffet.

Rob McLeod of Calgary, Alberta wrote.

> We took our three boys (8, 10 and 12) to Vegas in May 1999 for 4
> nights. Contrary to most letters I have seen we had a good time with
> the kids. We stayed at Mandalay Bay and enjoyed the pool, lazy river,
> etc. We saw the Caesar’s Magical Empire which we all really enjoyed,
> spent a day at Circus Circus Adventuredome and a half day at
> Excalibur. On top of that we saw the volcano, pirate ship, the Coke
> museum, the Dive restaurant, the Luxor motion simulator ride, New York
> amusement area, etc., etc. The wife and I saw “Mystere” — we left the
> kids with the Aunt. I still got in 24 hours of gaming, we won’t talk
> about the net result.
> In my opinion, taking kids under 6 would pose problems. They need to
> be able to listen (“stay out of the casinos” and “don’t take the
> hooker magazines from the street vendors”) and be able to walk lots.
> But we had fun and would do it again.
> Great newsletter — keep it up! We will be there again, this time at
> the Luxor, no kids this time.

Las Vegas has not marketed itself as a family destination for years. This is a common misconception kept alive by bad comics and media reporters who have not done much homework. Only Circus Circus still “caters” to families to some extent although the company’s to most recent properties (Mandalay Bay and Luxor) are mostly adult-oriented.

In the early 90’s, casinos thought it would be a great idea to build theme parks and try to turn the town’s image from “sin city” to “family friendly.” Then they realized that they GOOFED because families take advantage of gaming-subsidized lower prices while children cut into the parent’s gambling time. Not cutting kids a break on buffets is just one subtle way many casinos are retracting the welcome mat from children.

Bellagio won’t allow children under 18 to enter the property unless they are guests. Hotels like the Riviera and Tropicana have used advertising slogans like “Where Adults Play” and “Rollers, Not Strollers” in the past couple of years. The MGM has taken out their theme park to build more convention space, suites and a Marriott hotel. If this seems extreme, note that children are not even allowed to enter casinos in Atlantic City.

I don’t have a particular agenda here. I sell rooms, not blackjack. If anything, a family makes me more commission, because they need two rooms or pay the extra that most hotels charge for more than two to a room. However, I’ve seen far too many little kids being pushed around late at night or in the hot sun, and these parents don’t look like they are having much fun. If you have young kids, you might consider leaving them with Grandma and spend a wonderful, relaxing, romantic time with your wife here in Las Vegas.

At the very least, consider not bring children until they are old enough to enjoy the experience and you are prepared to forgo the party / romance atmosphere that Las Vegas is now selling unless the children are in their teens and old enough to strike out on their own much of the time.

Don’t forget to vote in this week’s poll “Should people bring kids to Las Vegas?” at

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Your input is welcome. Write us a “letter to the editor” at (click) While space doesn’t permit publishing every letter, we do certainly read them all and they help shape our content. Please include your name if you wish to have it published (stating your city is optional). Also, guest article submissions are welcome with full credit to you, your website, etc., if accepted.

ONLINE POLL – “Should people bring their kids to Las Vegas?” Let’s hear your opinion at — results will be published in two weeks!

Results from last poll: “What is your favorite view of Las Vegas?”

Stratosphere Tower 47%
Rio Voodoo Cafe / Lounge 24%
Paris Eiffel Tower 15%
Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse 7%
Polo Towers Lounge 5%


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All contents copyright 2001 Ted Newkirk. All Rights Reserved.
May 23, 2001 ISSN: 1529-2770