Are the drinks really free in Las Vegas casinos?
At the time of this writing, yes, they are.
You get free booze (if you want it) when you gamble in a casino. It doesn’t even matter what stakes you’re gambling for, either. You can enjoy top-shelf liquor playing penny slots or hanging out at the $ blackjack tables.
You should always tip your cocktail server, though – a dollar is customary, but if you want the drinks to keep coming quickly, tip a little extra on the first drink. If you drink like I used to, tipping $5 or $10 for the first drink averages out nicely after you’ve had a few more.
In the rest of this post, I’ll look at why the drinks are free in Las Vegas casinos. I also have some ideas about other free things you can get from Las Vegas casinos.
Why Do Las Vegas Casinos Offer Free Drinks to Gamblers?
Not long ago, I helped my daughter study for the written portion of her drivers license test. One of the questions involved what alcohol affected the most when it comes to your driving. I don’t remember all the choices on the multiple choice test, but I do remember that one of the answers was “judgment.” Another was “reflexes.”
The correct answer, of course, was judgment.
Do you have trouble seeing why a casino might be interested in convincing you to take a drug that impairs your judgment?
Am I being too subtle?
Okay, let me explain:
Casinos are in the business of getting you to make bad decisions with your money. If your judgment is impaired, you’ll gamble longer than you would have and lose more money to the casino.
This is one of the ways casinos make money off of gamblers.
And those profits are more than enough to cover the cost of those “free” drinks.
What Other Kinds of Free Stuff Can You Get From a Casino?
The more you gamble, the bigger the freebies get. Someone who gambles a lot of money is called a high roller or a “whale.”
What do whales get that other gamblers don’t get?
The free stuff is known as casino comps. The most common comps include beverages, food, and lodging. Anyone can get a free drink by just sitting in front of a slot machine and getting the attention of a waitress.
If you want more than that, you’ll need to demonstrate to the casino how much you’re gambling. For almost everyone, this means joining the slots club and playing with the slots club card inserted into the slot machine. It also means presenting your players club card at the table when you’re playing a table game.
You could also consider taking out a big marker, even if you don’t plan to gamble that much. The casino will assume you’re a high roller right away, and they might give you a free meal or something immediately.
You’re not limited to just those perks, either. Entertainment tickets are also common, and if you really are a high roller, you can also get travel benefits to and from the casino.
Will Drinks Always Be Free in Las Vegas Casinos?
I’ve seen rumors that the Strip casinos are planning to gradually phase out the free drinks. That doesn’t make sense to me, but their accountants probably know what’s up better than I do.
It makes sense, though – other amenities that used to be free in Las Vegas casinos now cost money. Parking used to be free everywhere, but parking rates are going up all the time.
If you think about the cost involved in building the next bigger and more luxurious resort, that makes a certain amount of sense.
Some casinos have instituted new strategies for deciding who to give free drinks to. They have drink monitoring software that looks at how much someone is gambling when they’re at a slot machine, and they activate a light to notify the bartender that the person at that machine deserves a free drink.
How to Get Your Share of Cheap and/or Free Drinks
Even if the casinos do stop offering free drinks to the slots players, drinks will probably still be comped if you’re playing table games. They don’t want to do anything to slow down the action at a table game, and figuring out what a customer owes for drinks doesn’t make the action faster.
If you’re playing slots or video poker, just ask a cocktail server or the bartender if the drinks are free. They’ll let you know.
The most important thing, as I’ve already pointed out, is to tip well in Vegas.
Even casinos that do charge for drinks, and there are some in the country, if not Vegas, don’t charge as much as you’d pay in a bar or club. Look for happy hour specials if you want cheap drinks in Las Vegas, and don’t settle for expensive drinks just because a place is posh or trendy.
The Best Ways to Save Money in Las Vegas
I think the best way to save money in Las Vegas is to gamble less. Drinking is antithetical to that tactic. If you drink, you will gamble more. That’s just how your brain works. Accept it.
But if you’re going to drink and gamble in defiance of my advice, do this:
Stick with the games which have the lowest house edge.
This means avoiding the slot machines altogether. Those games have the worst odds you’ll find. You’ll lose more money at a slot machine in an hour than you ever thought possible.
If you play blackjack, master basic strategy so that you don’t mess up and give back a couple of percentage points to the casino. The house edge on blackjack is between 0.5% and 1%, and there’s no point to make it 1.5% or 2% instead.
If you play craps, stick with the pass, don’t pass, come, and don’t come bets. Take or lay odds when you can. The house edge on all those bets is 1.41% or lower.
If you know which pay tables to play on, you can get the house edge at video poker to well beneath 1%, too.
But you must know how to play with the appropriate strategy, too.
Where Can You Get Cheap Booze in Vegas if You’re Not Gambling?
One of the amazing things about Vegas is the availability of hard liquor at drug stores and grocery stores. I’m from Texas, and around here, if you want to buy booze, you mostly need to buy it at the liquor store.
So, since you can buy whatever you want almost anywhere you want, one of the easiest ways to get cheap drinks is to just buy a can of beer or one of those fancy premixed drinks that have become so popular. You can walk out of the drugstore and drink it while you walk around the Strip or Downtown.
The Flamingo Hotel and Casino is also a great place for cheap drinks – especially the beers during happy hour. You can also get some cocktails for much less than the other strip casinos.
Stage Door Casino is also a great choice for someone on a budget, because not only can you get a beer for $2, you can get a hot dog to go with it for just another buck. That’s a meal, baby.
The Pros and Cons of the Slots Club Membership
Back to the freebie hunting in Vegas. You only get the freebies if you join the casino’s loyalty program. There are good arguments for and against joining.
The free stuff is probably the best argument for joining.
But the best argument against joining is that you’ll get advertising for the casino. Eventually, this will lead you to spend more money.
If that weren’t the case, the casino wouldn’t have a players club.
They’re in business to make money.
Are the drinks free in Las Vegas?
The answer, for now, is yes – IF you’re gambling.
You can get all kinds of other freebies and lots of cheap stuff in Vegas if you know where to look.