It seems unlikely that we'll see a day when comped cocktails at Vegas casinos are no longer a thing. But the booze doesn't flow as easily as it use to.
We are in an era where casinos are using technology to monitor your gambling and dictate when you are permitted a comped drink. Some folks have shared stories suggesting that it's not a big deal if you're serious about gambling.
We're also in an era where most comped cocktails are made with cheap, generic liquor rather than quality products you buy at the liquor store.
And to top it off, people are increasingly willing to pay obscene amounts for craft cocktails from bartenders who allegedly have an art degree of some kind. If people are willing to fork over more than a McDonald's employee earns in an hour for one single-shot mixed drink, why not bleed everyone and his sister when it comes to passing out drinks around the bar?
Perhaps the day will come when gamblers will pay the low, low price of $2 for a beer at the blackjack table. I'm not entirely convinced.
The following is an edited version of a comment I made on Facebook regarding the suggestion that free drinks may be drying up in Vegas casinos. (I have a bad habit of writing short novels when I contribute to a Facebook discussion. I need to stop doing that.)
I can't imagine all free drinks being cut off for all gamblers any time soon. The casinos will become more stingy down the road, but c'mon, that "Captain" they're serving to the $5 blackjack player downtown ain't costing the casino much money, especially since they're serving Admiral Nelson in place of the Captain.
If they ever get to the point where they stop serving free booze, the casinos might as well pull out the gambling and start offering more beer pong for the millenials. Plenty of people don't drink when they gamble, but the end of complimentary cocktails will essentially be telling gamblers in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and everywhere else not to bother bringing their gambling dollars to Nevada.
The end of free drinks will be the nail in the coffin people profess is coming. Paid parking isn't helping drive traffic, fake fees and taxes at bars on the strip aren't helping drive traffic and the erosion of modest, low-cost meals at casinos isn't helping drive traffic. For every person who wants to pay extra for everything on vacation, including $50 a plate for dinner, there are two other people who won't.
Can Vegas price out the low roller and survive? The strip properties seem determined to find out. (I keep trying to tell the folks at Tropicana that they need to counter this mentality, but they won't listen.)
And by low roller, I don't mean cheap people who won't spend a buck. I spend plenty in Sin City when I travel, but I'm not interested in paying $18 for a precious cocktail "crafted" by a millenial, or being gouged other ways just because I'm on vacation and I'm not supposed to care about money.
There's a reason why business is as good as I've seen it downtown during the past 20 years, and it ain't that awful Imagine Dragons skit high above the pedestrian mall that's putting asses in the video poker seats.