When you picture the folks who enjoy casino gambling more than most, the word “thrifty” definitely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In the popular consciousness, gamblers are mostly known for taking risks with their money, living a lavish lifestyle, and tossing a steady stream of tips to the staff along the way.
That approach might work for big shot pro poker players and wealthy “whales,” but the average casino enthusiast is always looking for ways to save a buck.
If saving money while you visit the casino is a priority, put the seven tips listed below to use on your next gambling adventure.
1 – Skip the Valet or Paid Parking and Use Free Lots Instead
Even before you step foot inside, the casinos already have their hand in your pocket thanks to valet and parking lot fees.
I know pulling up directly to the front door and using the valet service is convenient, especially on a scorching hot summer day in Sin City. However, I can’t abide paying those highway robbery rates simply to show up at a place I’m already paying for a room. Dropping $25 a day just isn’t worth what you’re getting for the price, especially with so many free options around.
The list below highlights major casinos in Las Vegas where free self-parking lots and garages can be found:
- Arizona Charlies
- Boulder Station
- Casino Royale
- Circus Circus
- Downtown Grand
- El Cortez
- Ellis Island
- Fiesta Henderson
- Fiesta Rancho
- Four Queens
- Gold Coast
- Golden Gate
- Green Valley Ranch
- M Resort
- MGM Grand
- Mohegan Sun at Virgin Hotels
- New York-New York
- Palace Station
- Park MGM
- Planet Hollywood
- Red Rock
- Sam’s Town
- Santa Fe
- Silver Sevens
- South Point
- Sunset Station
- Texas Station
- The Cromwell
- The D
- The LINQ
- Treasure Island
With such an abundance of free parking spaces to choose from, ditching the valet essentially starts you off with a free “greenie”—or a $25 denomination chip—to play with.
And hey, even if you wind up losing that dough on the tables, at least you got your exercise in for the day walking in from the free lot.
2 – Pack a Bag With Cigarettes, Red Bulls, and Other Essentials
Purses and handbags work here for the ladies, while guys typically opt for a backpack, but the premise remains the same regardless—pack items you know you’ll need while gambling.
I liken this cost-cutting approach to the age-old tradition shared by sports fans everywhere. Knowing stuff like Cracker Jacks, peanuts, and bottles of soda will cost an arm and a leg inside the stadium, savvy patrons simply bring their own on the cheap. A little pre-packing can easily save a family of four $100 when they attend a game in person.
Well, that holds true at the casino too. Rather than go through the cocktail server for your mid-session Red Bull fix, tipping them a couple bucks each time, I just buy them in bulk at Costco and stash a few in my backpack. With a thermos and some ice along for the ride, I can enjoy a cold refreshment practically for free.
If you happen to be a smoker, you know that casinos love to gouge customers who forget to bring a pack or two. Spending something like $15 on some smokes is ridiculous, but the casino gift shops know smokers will pay up to satisfy a nicotine craving. Do yourself a favor and drop a pack into your bag to avoid getting ripped off.
I know plenty of gamblers who also bring goodies like protein bars, fruit, bagels, sandwiches, and more for an inexpensive snack. Again, food court prices in the casino are always a bit inflated, so keeping your body fueled without breaking the bank is an easy way to save.
Phone chargers, chewing gum, bottled water—basically anything you would buy in a gift shop should make your gambling bag list.
3 – Withdraw Enough Cash Beforehand and NEVER Use the Casino’s ATM
The first place I go when I’m in the mood to play isn’t the casino—it’s the bank.
There, I can withdraw my bankroll for the day without paying any of those exorbitant ATM fees. Casino ATMs charge some of the highest fees around, as their operators know gamblers down on their luck tend to be in a hurry to reload.
On the other hand, if you hit the bank beforehand, you don’t have to worry about paying extra just to access your money.
4 – Click the “Cash Out” Button on Machines Even When It’s Just a Little Spare Change
This is one of my casino industry pet peeves, because these massive corporations already win enough without players doing the house a favor.
Let’s say you start out with a $100 and a dream on the penny slots. You win a little here, lose a little more there, then go on a big enough downswing to diminish your starting stake almost entirely.
After placing one last full bet of $1.25, the reels fail to cooperate and you’re left with a stinking $0.75 in credits. That’s not enough to pay for another spin though, so you stand up in frustration and head off for the nearest sports bar to drown your sorrows.
Just like that, the casino has earned $0.75 that it has no right to collect. You didn’t place a bet, you didn’t lose, but somehow, the casino managed to win anyway.
Back in the day, players could click the “CASH OUT” button and watch three quarters tumble into their bucket. But thanks to the advent of credit vouchers issued on paper slips, a slot or video poker player must make a trip to a cashier machine to exchange it for hard currency.
Leaving behind a few cents here and there might not seem like a big deal, but consider this— Nevada’s casinos collected $35 million last year from unclaimed vouchers. That’s an astounding sum, so do your part by cashing out every penny when you play the machines.
5 – Take Full Advantage of Your Players Club Points to Earn Comps and Free-Play
By now, even most casual gamblers know all about players club promotions, so I’ll keep this one short and sweet.
You owe it to yourself to join the players club at any casino you visit, even if it’s just a one-off trip. First of all, you’ll usually get a free-play on the machines just for signing up, one which very well could produce an instant profit.
Additionally, just having a club card in your pocket provides discounts at Starbucks, the gift shop, and the food court.
A player who knows how to exploit players club promotions and earn these casino comps, can cut thousands of dollars off their supplementary costs over the course of a year.
6 – Grab a Copy of the American Casino Guide and Clip the Coupons
If you’ve never heard about the American Casino Guide, then keep reading and let me show you what you are missing.
For the Cliffs Notes version, the Guide has been published since 1992 by casino industry expert Steve Bourie. The book’s big draw for frugal gamblers is the wide array of coupons accepted by participating casinos and Las Vegas attractions.
I’m talking about everything from match play funds on the tables, “Get Out of Bust Free” cards in blackjack, two-for-one deals on buffet plates, and buy-one-get-one coupons at the food court.
According to Bourie, readers can score $1,000 in savings for the low price of only $9.95 by utilizing his package of nearly 200 coupons.
7 – Play Online to Find Games Where You Don’t Have to Tip
Last but not least, the world of online gambling has become increasingly interconnected with land-based casinos over the last decade.
In Nevada, you can play poker and place sports bets over the internet through fully legal, regulated, and reputable platforms.
I’m all for tipping casino employees, don’t get me wrong there, but taking your action online removes that requirement from the equation.
Start Saving Now!
In a setting where losing money is a distinct possibility—a statistical likelihood in fact—saving money should always be a priority. Remember, the house is out to beat you, so why not explore as many ways to claw back a few bucks as you can?
Personally, I say let the high-rollers splash their money around with reckless abandon, and I’ll happily stick to the money saving habits listed here. It might feel like small potatoes at the time, but trust me, your year-end records will show that those savings add up significantly over time.