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Are comped drinks still a money-maker for the casinos?

Last edit: dzodda on Friday, 4th November 2011 6:04 pm
Last response by erzeszut 11th November 11:42am

Have to give some love to the "Boozin'" Board...

Do casinos still consider comping drinks at the tables to make money??

Reason I ask: I observed at most casinos that drink service was extremely slow last weekend. Virtually all places including Aria, PHo, Monte, Excal, Golden Nugget, even the smaller Bill's and O'Sheas.

Some of my gambling buds grumbled that this is probably another cost-cutting measure (hello Resort Fee), but I disagree. Conventional wisdom is, of course: the more you drink, the more you play, and hence the more you lose. Plus, you could still make special requests (Bombay, Patron) and they would usually bring it.

So what gives? Anyone else notice that the drink ladies numbered fewer? Was it just a busy Halloween weekend? I did notice however, that the initial tip (red or green chip, depending on place) still helps to keep my drink full, cold, and top-shelf.

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 JakeZ responded on Friday, 4th November 2011

Halloween was a hugely busy weekend for us (and I say us because I live out here). Every casino that I know of has complimentary drink service at tables and slots. Depending on where, you may have slow or regular or faster service. Tips also alter the pace of service. Bigger=better, smaller=poorer.

Free booze means more drunk people, which in turn means more mindless gambling by said drunk people. It's definitely a money maker.

 bigdaddyj responded on Friday, 4th November 2011

We were just out in mid-October (at Mandalay Bay) and while I got excellent drink service (all the single-malt Scotch I cared to drink) in the high-limit room (obviously), my wife said that drink service was pretty bad out on the main floor, to the point that whenever she wanted a drink she wound up coming in & sitting next to me, getting a drink, and then heading back out onto the main casino floor...

 fatbastard replied on Wednesday, 9th November 2011

Nonexistent drink service for regular gamblers at Mandalay Bay is one of a handful of reasons we will not step into our formerly favorite place in the universe. Their loss. We booked suites, ate expensive meals, paid to enter & drink/eat at the nudie pool, gambled a couple hundred at a time here & there.

No more.

 vespajet responded on Sunday, 6th November 2011

I've noticed that in the last few years, drink service at most casinos has seemed to be slower. Many properties have either laid off cocktail waitresses or cut their schedules. As a result, you have cocktail waitresses that have larger areas of a casino to cover than in the past. In turn, it will take longer to get drinks at times. I know at times at Binion's, I've seen 2 cocktail waitresses for the entire casino.

My luck always seems to be that when I don't need or want a drink, the cocktail waitresses seem to be by every 10 minutes or so. More often than not, when I need a drink, I cannot find a cocktail waitress to save my life. I know there's been a few times in which I've seen a pit boss or floor supervisor (and even dealers) having to flag one down because there's a table full of players requesting drinks.

In some respects, perhaps the slower service is intentional, as players will go to a bar and order a drink if it's taking longer to get drink service at your table or machine. That potentially increases revenue for the casino, as that's an extra couple of bucks for them multipled by dozens upon dozens of customers a day. If you cut down the number of "free" drinks served and get more folks paying for drinks on top of what they're losing at the tables or machines, it makes sense to make increase revenues by reducing the level of drink service. It's not good for the player, especially if you want to enjoy some drinks while playing.

 dzodda replied on Sunday, 6th November 2011

So then this would indicate that comping drinks no longer makes money for the casinos, right?

I worry that it won't be long before they start limiting, issuing tickets, or even charging for drinks. Still hopeful though... When the drink ladies do come around, they're pretty quick to return, and still bring drinks for spectators even if they're not sitting down.

 vespajet replied on Sunday, 6th November 2011

Just like with the resort fees at many properties, they're just finding additional streams of revenue by tweaking the existing system. Let's say that free drink costs a casino 75 cents to make. With slower drink service at times due to cutbacks in cocktail servers, some patrons get impatient and opt to buy the same drink at a bar, where they get charged $4. That's an extra $3.25 in revenue for them. Let's say that you have three bars in your casino and the slower drink service results in an average of an additional 50 drinks a day being sold at each bar instead of being comped. 150 drinks times $3.25 equals $487.50 which over a year comes out to $177,937.50 in additional beverage revenue. My example is a simplified example, but when you consider that casinos derive so much of their income from non-gaming revenues, they look at ways to increase the revenue. If they can cutback on the number of free drinks they serve by getting more customers to pay for drinks (due to the spotty drink service) yet maintain the gaming revenues, that's extra income. Think about higher end properties that have drinks that go for $10-15 a pop and even a beer will run you $7+ if you can cut down on those comps and sell more drinks instead, that's more revenue that can mean the difference between a profitably quarter and a losing one.

 twofours responded on Sunday, 6th November 2011

"My luck always seems to be that when I don't need or want a drink, the cocktail waitresses seem to be by every 10 minutes or so. More often than not, when I need a drink, I cannot find a cocktail waitress to save my life."

How true!Sometimes it feels like you are in "The Truman Show".

This week I was in the south strip properties Tropicana,Excalibur,Luxor and Madalay Bay.Mandalay Bay had the best service at the slots.

 jinx73 responded on Sunday, 6th November 2011

There have been cuts on the floor for servers, but even with that, I think your mileage with cocktail service can still vary. There are a lot of factors, what time of day you play, where you play, what you do if you aren't getting service, what you are tipping, etc.

I tend to try and return to the same spots that previously have had good service, certain bars, certain sections of casino floor etc. I tend to avoid playing on the floor or table from 5-11pm, typically the floor is busiest then and it's easier to just grab one from a bar, or pour one and carry from the room after I get ready for the evening and if I'm playing at that time, I'll play vp at a bar, where service is pretty regular.

Certain properties are better then others for certain call liquors, but that's nothing new. My guess is you hit a busy weekend with patrons that were ready to drink and they aren't going to over staff for those types of weekends, as it affects the servers as well.

 ndfanwabashman responded on Sunday, 6th November 2011

Drink service is definitely slower than it used to be. The reason that has helped the casinos the way I play is because I tend to play for the free drinks. If I order a drink I will continue to play at least until the drink comes. If I'm losing money I will continue to lose until that drink shows up. If I were losing and they no longer comp'd drinks I would just bolt as I do local casinos here in Indiana.

Also, they seem more hesitant to bring drinks once I get drunk. I feel like 10 years ago they would feed me until I made bad decisions. These days it feels as if I start to slur my words and the waitress is in the back asking the manager if they should watch me closer. Maybe it's a liability issue, either way, casinos are definitely making more money off me with slower drink service.

 BlastPascal responded on Tuesday, 8th November 2011

Comped drinks are spiraling down the drain in the sportsbooks. Someone educate me as I only started my Vegas experience in 2006, but I think in the halcyon days of yore (pre-housing market implosion) sportsbooks were treated like the floor in that all drinks were comped. And then the policy evolved (or devolved) into one where a minimum bet had to be placed in order to get a free drink ticket. And now that policy is being phased out at so many places (like M and Mandalay Bay). Heck, the cocktail servers don't even sashay into the sportsbook at M anymore, and that includes taking orders for full-priced drinks (I guess it should be noted that Cantor Gaming leases the sportsbook space from M).

It seems, and I know I'm not being profound because this has been tossed around often, that casinos are more responsive to the shareholders or their private capital benefactors, and are looking at that perfect combo of cutting costs (or increasing revenue) without tweaking customers. I don't think the elimination of comped drinks in sportsbooks is going to affect any patronage. People, like me, will just huff, then shrug and saunter over the bar to pay 4.50 for a Perrier. Vegas is still the greatest destination. As for the floor service, maybe the food and drink management gurus are wagering that slower service will not affect traffic. And they may continue to squeeze this service until there's some visible backlash.

 BigHoss responded on Thursday, 10th November 2011

I stayed at Encore in the summer of 2010 and was highly irked at the glacial, surly cocktail service. The summer before, it was great at Wynn and I kind of expected the same.

I am happy to report, however, that it seems to have improved mightily since my last visit. I popped by Encore for a quick visit on the post-VIMFP Monday afternoon with Dave702. I barely pulled out my wallet before a waitress appeared to take my order. She brought it back quick and returned with another as I was finishing the first.

Maybe it was just that the Schwartz was with me. But I don't think so. Plus she was really pleasant, too.

 erzeszut responded on Friday, 11th November 2011

But what's interesting is that in some other markets (Tunica, Sedona, etc.) I know CET is experimenting with an "order it yourself" electronic system on slots. So whenever you want a drink, you punch in your order on a touchscreen on the machine itself.

Now, you're still at the mercy of a waitress bringing it to you; but in theory, less waitresses can still be more efficient, since they're cutting out half of their responsibilities (the "take the order" portion.)

Of course, because the casinos are already tracking you via your players card, they know how much $$$ you've put in the machine, and what kind of machine you're sitting at. Obviously, a player at a $5 machine is going to get quicker service than one at a nickel machine.

But the fact that CET is experimenting with this system in non-Vegas markets gives me hope that the free cocktail isn't going anywhere.