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99 Cent Shrimp Cocktails and Free Parking in Las Vegas

October, 2018

Ahh, Yes the Good Olí Days

Astrid Ambroziak

In the olden days, Las Vegas was famous as a place you went to gamble. I remember staying at the Caesars Palace in the 90s and getting a reward card while playing blackjack. Often because of my either loosing or winning, my room or a show or a meal would had been comped. It felt good to get something for free. And if the losses at the black jack table were huge, those 99-cent shrimp cocktails or $1.99 steak and eggs breakfasts all over Las Vegas lessened the pain of my empty wallet. And no matter what, one thing was always free in Las Vegas and that is parking. 


In the summer of 2016, it all changed. The bargain buffet breakfasts or lunches on the strip have been history for a long time. Now, the payouts on blackjacks have changed from 3:2 to 6:5, giving the house even better edge, so I don’t gamble anymore and therefore, I don’t know if anything gets comped. Las Vegas is no longer a gambling capital of the world, but it is an entertainment mecca. 


You can see some of the most famous artists preform here. J.Lo is one of the first faces you see towering over the strip. Chefs like Jose Andres, Thomas Keller, the late Joël and others stars of the culinary world, have their restaurants there. People go to Vegas not to play blackjack as much, but to be entertained. Everything is different about the Vegas of today, especially parking. 


In March 2016 SP Plus Corporation announced an alliance with MGM Resorts International to manage parking facilities operation at MGM’s Las Vegas resorts. To this day SP Plus operates approximately 40,000 parking spaces located in 11 resort properties such as MGM Grand Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, Delano, Excalibur and ARIA Resort and Casino. In addition to serving resort guests, the MGM Resorts International’s parking spaces accommodate spectators at the 20,000 seat T-Mobile Arena. 


After MGM, other casino properties followed suit and begun charging for parking. Caesars Entertainment, the Cosmopolitan and Wynn Las Vegas amongst them. Wynn began charging for self-parking and valet parking in August 2017. Not even a year later, on July 1, 2018, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore reversed the decision to charge for parking. Hotel guests get free parking once again covered by the $39 resort fee. Non-hotel guests get free parking after they spend $50 at the resorts, be it at gaming, restaurants, bars or shows. 


Maurice Wooden, President of Wynn Las Vegas said in the statement; “We have come to believe that charging additional parking fees is counter to the personalized service we provide.’’ And the folks who live in Las Vegas and visitors both rejoiced. After all, it is hard to get used to paying for something that has been always free. 


 


Everything is different about the Vegas of today, especially parking.


According to David G. Schwartz, historian, Director of the Center for Gaming Research and instructor at UNLV, in his July 23, 2018 Forbes article titled “Wynn’s Reversal on Paid Parking A Sign of Las Vegas Future,” “visitation to Las Vegas as a whole fell 1.6 percent, and total room occupancy slipped as well. While many operators have reported increases in total income, it certainly seems that paid parking is not inspiring more people to visit Las Vegas.”


Schwartz further says: “Wynn’s reversal is the first sign that paid parking is not going away, but that it might be modified. Both Wynn and Encore are among the most expensive properties on the Strip, and if validating parking has a positive impact on visitation and spending, their competitors would strongly consider following suit. Allowing validation might make less money directly from parking, but if waiving a $12 parking fee is the tipping point that brings a customer in to spend $100 or more on a meal or, perish the thought, gamble, it’s hard to see how casinos would be missing out by doing so.”


Will other casinos follow suit and bring back free or validated parking? This past July, I spoke to Bruce Barclay, Vice President of Parking Operations at MGM Resorts International. Bruce knows parking – he has been in parking industry for over 25 years. He is humble, confident, funny, smart and curious. When he came aboard to run MGM Resorts parking, he said they knew hotels yet didn’t know anything about parking. 


And he is a parking guy to the bone, albeit he started his career in retail at Toys “R” Us. He knows parking. And Bruce makes parking at MGM properties effortless. Skidata equipment is easy to use for any customer. Customer service comes first. The LPR system makes getting in and getting out of garages hassle free. They even have mobile cashiers available on every floor of the garage in case if you don’t have a credit card. 


A command center for parking is on 24/7. If you have a challenge with your parking ticket and are paying at the kiosk, there is someone there to always assist you. Be it in person or the other end of the phone. The first hour of self-parking is free. Over 1 to 2 hours costs $9. Over 2 to 4 hours is $12. Over 4 hours to 24 hours equals a day parking and is $15. Valet prices are more expensive with 0 to 2 hours costing $16 and whole day parking $24. 


However, paying parking at MGM Resorts can be avoided. If you become a member of MLife Rewards, with various levels of this reward program, you can get either complimentary self-parking or even complimentary valet parking. So perhaps the days of those 99-cent shrimp cocktails or free stuff aren’t quite over in Las Vegas. You simply have to know what to do and how to get it. 


Maybe it is all about adjusting our attitudes? Or seeing things from a different perspective? And nothing in life is ever free, especially parking. After all, when I drive to San Diego from Los Angeles and stay at the Hotel Del Coronado, I am comfortable with paying for parking and paying a lot. At the Del a day of self-parking costs $30. Or another option is not to drive to Vegas but fly and take Uber or Lyft. However, if I do drive and park and have to pay for parking that I am so used to getting for free in Las Vegas, something else has to give. My attitude, my perception or my choices. Thus, instead of having a drink from a hotel mini bar or ordering room service, I just have to bring my own beer and snacks curtesy of Trader Joes. Here comes my very own 99-cent shrimp cocktail! 


Astrid Ambroziak is editor of Parknews.biz, and occasional book reviewer for Parking Today. She can be reached at astrid@parkingtoday.com



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