Ralph A. Schwartz, P.C.

Are free casino drinks on the way out?

If you live in Nevada, particularly in Las Vegas, you know that one of the most under-reported stories is the number of times a drunk driver causes a car crash or hits a pedestrian. One can only speculate as to how many of those drunk drivers got that way drinking free booze at one of the many casinos. That source of alcohol, however, may be drying up.

MGM Resorts International (MGM Grand and the Mirage) and Caesars Entertainment (Caesar’s Palace and eight other casinos) both started experimenting with limited drink policies in 2016. The policies have nothing to do with public safety, however, just the cost of doing business.

No more free-running alcohol

Tourists and would-be gamblers have flocked to Las Vegas for decades, not only for the 24/7 gambling, but also for the free drinks that accompany it. All you needed to do was sit down in front of a slot machine or video poker machine, put in a coin, and like magic, a waiter appeared bearing free drinks whether or not the machine was likewise so generous with its money. This process continued hour after hour no matter how much you lost, won or even played.

All that has now changed. You now must “qualify” for free drinks. How? At the Caesars Entertainment properties, the “comp validation system” installed on every video poker machine keeps track of how much money you put into the machine. When you hit the prescribed monetary threshold, a little green light on the machine alerts the bartender. Only then does the waiter magically appear with another free drink. At the MGM Resorts International properties, the machines are even smarter. Instead of merely lighting up when you hit the threshold, they print out an immediately redeemable free drink voucher.

While neither company has released the results of its new limited drinks policies, MGM Resorts has hinted that they may expand it to additional properties in the future. Nor is there any data on whether drunk driver traffic and pedestrian accidents have decreased since the policies went into effect. It is a reasonable assumption, however, that less alcohol equates to fewer drunk drivers which, in turn, equates to fewer car crashes.

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