Per the latest data released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), casinos in the Silver State collectively won $11.9 billion from gamblers over the course of 2018.
Those staggering loss figures for players were obviously concentrated in Las Vegas, where 40 million visitors arrive each and every year to get their gamble on.
Of the nearly $12 billion wagered by players and won by the house, penny slots accounted for the bulk at $3.3 billion, followed by baccarat ($1.2 billion), blackjack ($1.1 billion), craps ($386.4 million), roulette ($384.1 million), and sports betting ($301 million).
Suffice to say, that old saying that claims “the house always wins” is largely accurate, at least on average and over the long run.
But what if I told you millions of people come to Las Vegas every year, never step foot inside a casino, and still find a way to lose significant sums?
Read the list below, which highlights six of the worst ways to drop dough when you’re visiting Las Vegas.
1 – Paying Hidden “Resort Fees” Tacked on to Your Room Rate
I devoted an entire blog to warn readers about the scourge of “resort fees”, so check that out to get the full scoop on this agonizing way to lose money in Las Vegas.
But for a quick refresher course, resort fees—also known as “amenity fees,” “destination fees,” or “drip pricing”—are charges attached to your room rate after booking and upon check-in. Oh, sure, the casinos will claim all of the resort fee information is presented to customers ahead of time, but that’s lawyer-speak referring to fine print buried in the terms and conditions of your favorite hotel booking site.
In reality, when you pull up a hotel aggregator like Vegas.com, Trivago, Priceline, or any of the others, you’ll see casino resort rooms listed at let’s say $39 per night. You go ahead and charge your debit or credit card to book the room, and sure enough, $39 per night is deducted from your account.
It’s only when you check in that the front desk agent runs your card for the security deposit PLUS an additional resort fee, one which often exceeds the posted room rate.
That’s right, a discount casino in Las Vegas like the Westgate might advertise rooms at $39 per night, but the resort fee of $39 (for each night) automatically doubles your expenses.
Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine is leading the charge to end the plague known as resort fees, and his federal lawsuit against globally leading hotel chain Marriott doesn’t pull any punches:
“This is a straight-forward price deception case. For at least the last decade, Marriott has used an unlawful trade practice called ‘drip pricing’ in advertising its hotel rooms whereby Marriott initially hides a portion of a hotel room’s daily rate from consumers.”
If you’re willing to stay at a hotel that doesn’t come with an attached casino, check out these reputable operators who don’t need to rip customers off to line their pockets:
Las Vegas Hotels That Don’t Charge Resort Fees
- Americas Best Value Inn
- Casino Royale Best Western Plus
- Desert Rose Resort
- Four Queens
- Lucky Club
- Marriott Las Vegas
- La Quinta Inn and Suites
- Residence Inn
- Red Roof Inn
- Royal Resort
- Travelodge Center Strip
- WorldMark Las Vegas Blvd
- WorldMark Tropicana
- Wyndham Desert Blue
- Wyndham Grand Desert
2 – Falling Prey to a Pickpocket Crew Working the Strip
Taking a completely different tack, have you ever felt like somebody was shadowing you as you walk up and down the Strip?
Well, if you’re running especially badly in the luck department, you might just have a pickpocket crew on your tail targeting your hard-earned dough:
In a profile titled “A Pickpocket’s Tale” that was published by The New Yorker in 2013. Legendary Las Vegas-based sleight-of-hand artist Apollo Robbins explained how thieves work in tandem to separate suckers from their wallets, jewelry, and other valuables:
“Street pickpockets generally work in teams, known as whiz mobs or wire mobs.
The ‘steer’ chooses the victim, who is referred to generically as the ‘mark,’ the ‘vic,’ or the ‘chump.’
The ‘stall,’ or ‘stick,’ maneuvers the mark into position and holds him there, distracting his attention, perhaps by stumbling in his path, asking him for directions, or spilling something on him.
The ‘shade’ blocks the mark’s view of what’s about to happen, either with his body or with an object such as a newspaper.
And the ‘tool’ (also known as the ‘wire,’ the ‘dip,’ or the ‘mechanic’) lifts his wallet and hands it off to the ‘duke man,’ who hustles away, leaving the rest of the mob clean.”
Just imagine the horrendous feeling you’d suffer after winning a sweet slot machine score, stuffing a handful of $100 bills into your wallet, and heading back to the room only to find that wallet is gone with the wind.
I really can’t picture a worse nightmare than that. And while I’ve never been pickpocketed myself – I carry my wallet in my front pants pocket as a precaution – I have plenty of pals who have fallen victim to this crime over the years.
3 – Letting Casinos Gouge You on Parking Fees
This is one of worst ways to lose money in Las Vegas simply because it’s so unnecessary.
When you stay at certain casinos on the Strip, you’ll be asked to pay something like $24 per day just to park your car in the onsite lot or garage. And no, I’m not talking about valet parking or any special services, those fees are charged to everyone who parks a half-mile from the lobby and lugs their own bags inside.
But when in doubt, don’t hesitate to park your vehicle at one of the casinos listed below free of charge.
Las Vegas Casino Resorts That Offer Free Parking
- Casino Royale
- Circus Circus
- Ellis Island
- Gold Coast
- Hard Rock
- M Resort
- Palace Station
- Planet Hollywood
- Sahara Las Vegas
- Silver Sevens
- South Point
- Treasure Island
- Venetian and Palazzo
4 – Getting Stuck With “Surge Pricing” on Snacks and Drinks at the In-House Gift Shop
Over the last few years, guests staying at MGM Resorts owned casinos like the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Aria, Excalibur, and Mirage have been stunned to find something completely new when it comes to Las Vegas scams—surge pricing.
You probably know about surge pricing from ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. The concept is based on charging variable fees for the same ride depending on how busy drivers happen to be at that particular time. Try to hire an Uber right after a big concert and surge pricing can easily turn a $20 drive into an $80 expense.
That doesn’t exactly seem fair to me, but I do understand how the laws of supply and demand might produce a product like surge pricing when cars and drivers are limited.
Now then, what the hell does surge pricing have to do with casinos in Las Vegas?
Well, if you hit the in-house gift shop at an MGM Resorts-owned casino during the slow early morning hours, you can grab a back of peanuts and a soda for $8 all in. Get there later in the afternoon when waves of new guests are checking in, however, and the exact same items might cost $14 combined.
Look for the absence of price tags in the gift shop or other retail outlets. When you don’t see a price tag, or the clerk can’t confirm the cost, you’ll know surge pricing is in effect.
5 – Trying to Score Illicit Substances and Getting Screwed by Hustlers
This one won’t apply to everybody, but they call it Sin City for a reason, right?
If you’re looking for a little something to get you up, or down, or however you’re feeling at the moment, the streets of Las Vegas have no shortage of dealers who can oblige. The only problem is, aside from the obvious legal ramifications anyway, street hustlers earned that nickname based on their propensity to hustle customers.
Many tourists have hit the Strip looking to make an illicit purchase, only to realize a little while later that the stuff isn’t what it looks like. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but losing money buying a bag of baby powder isn’t exactly a fun way to get the party started in Las Vegas.
6 – Literally Losing Money Like Dropping Chips, Forgetting Your Wallet at a Bar, Etc.
Last but not least, getting up to the room to count your winnings only to discover those winnings have disappeared is a truly stomach-churning experience.
You’ll panic at first, turning out every pocket twice to make sure you’re not losing your mind. Then, you’ll frantically call your friends to ask them if they’ve seen your wallet or chips up in their room.
Finally, you’ll call Lost and Found in a futile effort to recover property that has long since left the building.
To avoid this worst case scenario, try keeping your chips and wallet in a fanny pack pouch, backpack, or anywhere else on your person that can be safely secured.
You have enough to worry about trying to keep your bankroll intact gambling on casino games, so losing dough on any of the six Las Vegas money traps is a major headache.
From casinos trying to add to their winnings through hidden fees, thieves and hustlers prowling the streets, and plain old accidents, losing has almost become a way of life in this town. Hopefully, the guide above will leave you better prepared to protect your bottom line whenever you visit Las Vegas.