Say the first two words in the title of this post fast. As if they were in fact just one word.
You know…as in “moron parking.”
Now that the official policy regarding parking at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas has been released, I’m going to talk about it one more time. This is, after all, “Rob’s Vegas & Poker Blog” and this is a big deal in Vegas. I was going to talk about it some more anyway since on my most recent trip to Vegas my travels were somewhat affected by the new policy even though it still hasn’t started yet—well, it sort of hasn’t started yet.
I discussed the decision by MGM Resorts to start charging for parking at all their Vegas resorts here and here. But that was largely based on hearsay, rumor and innuendo. Now I have some actual facts.
Those posts were written after my March trip but before The T-Mobile arena had opened. When I returned in April, the arena was open, as was “The Park,” a little outdoor, park-like area between New York New York and Monte Carlo. It is accessible from the Strip. I guess it’s sort of like the Linq promenade, but smaller and maybe a bit more pastoral. It’s nice enough, but it is clearly not aimed at someone like me. Aside from some grass and some trees, it is made up mostly of (presumably) overpriced places to eat and drink.
The arena, from the outside, resembles a place where you’d see a basketball or hockey game. And in fact, it is big enough to host an NHL team, and they are trying like crazy to actually land an NHL club. It sounds like it is likely to happen. Because, if being in the middle of the desert doesn’t make you think of ice hockey, what does?
By the way, they have already picked out a name for the NHL team, assuming they get one. It’ll be The Las Vegas Black Knights. Seriously? That strikes me as a bad name. I had already thought of the perfect name for a Las Vegas hockey team. They should call it the Las Vegas Aces. Imagine their games with the L.A. Kings—Aces vs. Kings. The Aces will always be 80-20 favorites.
The arena will also host concerts, fights, exhibition basketball games, and who knows what else. Right now, the Lakers (and the aforementioned Kings) play an exhibition game or two every year at MGM in the Grand Garden, I imagine the T-Mobile arena will now host those.
On nights when they have a big event there, it will bring a lot of traffic to the corner of Tropicana and the Strip. There’s already a lot of traffic there now. Should be fun.
So they built this arena, and, originally, they didn’t build any additional parking structures for it. They said that the garages in the casinos nearby (all MGM properties) would provide ample parking for the new venue. (I’ve since learned they are working on another garage behind Excalibur to provide more parking).
Now at any other place in the country—or the world, I guess—you would expect to pay for parking at big sports/concert venue like this. I have no idea what it costs to park at Dodger Stadium or Staples Center, but I bet it’s more than a buck or two.
And thus, the justification to start charging for parking was born. They couldn’t very well let you park in a nearby casino parking garage to see the Las Vegas Black Knights for free, could they? Of course not. And since there is no dedicated structure for the arena, the obvious thing to do is charge for parking at all neighboring casino garages.
To be sure, there were other reasons for them to start charging for parking. The main one being, they could.
Originally they were going to start charging for parking at all their casinos in April, just as the arena was ready to open. But I guess it took them longer than expected to get all the garages ready to operate as paid facilities. So when the arena opened, just a few weeks before I got there last month, they decided to only charge for parking at some of their casinos and only when there was an event at the arena.
The report I heard was that, on event nights, it was $20 to park in the NYNY or Monte Carlo garages. And also that some of the Aria parking was also $20. Note: If you knew to “reserve” a parking spot, you could get the space for only $10 by paying in advance.
My understanding (which may be wrong, I admit) was that if you wanted to go to any of those places on a night when they had an event, even if it was just to gamble or eat in the casino, you’d be charged twenty bucks to exit!
As I’ve mentioned, frequently when I got to MGM, I find it more convenient to park at NYNY. Also, when I go to Aria, I find it easier to park at Monte Carlo. Why? Well, you can’t get to the Aria self-parking without driving on the Vegas Strip. I hate driving on the Vegas Strip. I take great pains to avoid it. Usually, I’m pretty successful. I think I know all the back roads and back routes to get to the places and the structures I need without driving on the Strip. And guess what? I can get to the Monte Carlo parking structure without driving on the Strip.
So, it was incumbent on me to check the T-Mobile schedule first before deciding to try to park at either NYNY or MC. Actually, it turned out I was there such a brief time they didn’t have events while I was there. But I still was affected by the new parking rules.
I encountered this before in March, but the NYNY parking structure was still in the process of being converted to “enhanced parking.” Yes, that’s what they’re calling it, as a way of charging you for it. I suspect they will eventually be featuring “enhanced toilet paper” in the restrooms that they can charge you for. There were enough floors being worked on (repaved, re-stripped, adding those generally worthless lights telling you whether or not a space is open) that I just ended up parking on the roof both times I parked there. I imagine when there’s a big event, event, those spaces I saw on the roof might all be filled.
Parking at MGM itself the one time I did was more frustrating. Hadn’t been in the lot since early January. Well, I entered from where I usually do. And I tried my little “shortcut” to get to the back of the garage so I can easily reach the upper levels without encountering any traffic. Well, there was no sign warning me but my access to the upper ramps was completely closed off. I had no choice but to exit the garage right back onto the street and double back. I was not happy.
While doing that, I noticed a huge lineup of cars trying to exit the structure. This was like at level 4 or 5 so that was a lot of cars backed up a long way. And this was before anyone had to pay to exit (or put a paid ticked in a machine). It was likely due to there being so many exits closed that they were forced to use only one. In case you’ve never seen it, the MGM garage is a huge muther-effing garage. I was almost stuck in the traffic of the exiters even though I was entering. Fortunately, when I exited myself, there was just a minimal back up.
Now I attribute this to the work they are doing on the garages. In other words, it is just temporary. Hopefully, all the floors and all the exits will be operational next time I’m there.
But it did give me a sneak peak at what will likely happen on a busy night. With every car having to stop, and either pay, put a ticket in a machine, or swipe a card to get the gate open, traffic leaving any MGM venue is going to back up. That should be a lot of fun. It is one of the penalties everyone will pay for this new parking policy, even if you don’t have to pay for parking.
Anyway, that was my experience in April. I already mentioned that in March I saw the kiosks installed in some of the lots (most notably NYNY and MC) that would be used to collect the money.
But the complete details of how the fees would work weren’t revealed until the end of last week. It started with an email sent to all MLife cardholders who live in Vegas (or maybe all of Nevada?). I didn’t get one but a copy was forwarded to me. It mostly covered the topic of fees for locals. And it explained that Nevada residents would be entitled to free parking through the end of the year, even as they were going to start charging everyone else starting in early June. Starting next year, Nevada residents will be on their own, presumably, just like the rest of us. Oh, but there will be no free parking, even no, for locals on “Event Nights” at the nearest casino garages to the arenas.
Amusing note (to me anyway): The person who signed the email has the title of “Chief Experience Officer.” That is certainly a title I’d never heard of before. Does this mean there are a bunch of not as powerful “Experience Officers” reporting to this person? And how much experience is required to be a Chief Experience Officer?
Anyway, of more importance to non-locals, such as myself, was the link they provided which finally revealed all the details of the new parking rules. The link is here and I suggest you click on it and explore around before reading much further in this post. And be sure to check out the four riveting videos on that page that help explain it all. But don’t stop there. Be sure to click on the link on that page that takes you to the Frequently Asked Questions (which is here). There you will see no less than 67 FAQ’s that explain it all.
If you check out both web pages, you will see one obvious problem with the new program. It is extremely complicated. Just as a general rule, anything that complicated, that complex….anything that needs 67 FAQ’s answered is, by definition, bad.
One thing to notice is that, for self-parking, there are three tiers. The first 60-minutes will actually be free. The trouble with that is…what can you do in a casino for less than an hour? Have you ever been inside the casinos and the parking garages at Bellagio or MGM Grand? They are huge. I believe that, unless you qualify for the US Olympic team as a sprinter, you probably can’t get from the garage to the center of either casino and back to your car in an hour. OK, that is a slight exaggeration. But I’m really not sure how much time you’d have once you actually got into the casino to do anything.
Then there is a rate for under four hours, and a rate for over four hours. The most self-parking will cost at any resort will be $10—per entry/exit (or per day, whichever is more). Now, if you are staying at one of the MGM resorts, they will graciously charge you only $10 per day, and you can park at any and every MGM property as many times as you like for that one low price. If you are a registered guest, they will conveniently bill you the $10 per day to your room, just like the resort fee.
It’s pretty much the same for valet parking, though that is of course more expensive. And there is no one hour free with the valet parking. As soon as you hand your car to the valet, you’re on the clock.
I immediately thought of one problem when I saw the program that I hadn’t thought of originally. What if someone would like to use both the valet and self-parking at various times? As I’ve mentioned, I never stay on the Strip any more, I stay off strip at a place designed for longer visits and that has a kitchen. But in the past, I’ve stayed at regular hotels, both on and off the Strip. In recent years, due mostly to my chronic back discomfort, I would use the valet when I checked in to a hotel, so I could have a bellman deal with my luggage. And also use the valet when checking out. It saved my back. But the rest of the time, I would always self-park, which I prefer whenever possible. Would I still be able to do this under the new system?
The answer is no. Assuming I was paying for parking, I would have to decide if I wanted to valet the entire time or self-park the entire time. There’s no going back and forth (I actually just found this in the FAQ’s). Apparently, even if I was ok with paying for Valet the whole time while using the self-park most of the time, they wouldn’t allow it. Man, not only would that add considerably to the cost of the stay—paying at the valet rate the whole time, when I only wanted it twice during my stay—but I’d be spending a lot of money in tips for the valets. Yeesh.
But digging into those FAQ’s I learned that at least those who are paying for parking by virtue of having a room at an MGM property won’t be charged extra during event periods. That is different from what I was told during April before the entire policy kicked in. So, if you’re staying at NYNY and come back to your hotel during the middle of a hockey game or a Billy Joel concert, you won’t have to pay an extra twenty bucks. But you might not be able to find a parking space there! So you might have to park at Excalibur or Luxor or MGM and walk back to your hotel. That should prove to be popular!
Of course, there are ways to get around the parking fees. Park at a non-MGM resort! Or…well, as noted at the time, if you get your MLife upgraded, you can qualify for free parking for life—or until those tier credits expire. If you increase one level from the entry level, which is “Pearl” you get free self-parking. Another level above that, “Gold” and you get free valet parking.
As mentioned in my prior posts about this, until now you could never increase your level through just playing poker. Poker just didn’t count. But MGM knew they had to do something for the locals who keep their rooms busy and the games going. Even the biggest tourist rooms in town on the strip all depend on the local grinders to support their poker rooms. Forcing the locals into other rooms by charging them to park would kill even the biggest, busiest poker rooms in town.
I mentioned how complicated the rules for parking are and how you can find everything you need to know about them at that link above. Well not quite. Because the rules for qualifying for higher tier levels for poker players are not written down anywhere—at least anywhere that the average person can find them. It’s a secret. I’m not kidding. You will not see any MGM employee write down the rules for this. It’s almost like you have to know the secret handshake to get the details. You need to go to a high ranking poker room employee in one of their rooms, and whisper to them, “I’m Nunzio’s wife.” (there’s no prize, but please let me know if you understand that reference).
I can only guess at the reasons they are keeping these rules on the QT. And in this post, I won’t guess. But the rules are out there, spread by word-of-mouth. And I therefore hope it’s ok for me to reveal them without risk of repercussions. I wouldn’t want to wake up with a lion’s head n my bed. Essentially, you have to play 75 hours of live poker in an MGM property to get to Pearl for free self-parking (I assume in a year, but honestly, not sure). And double that—150 hours—and you get to Gold, for free valet parking. If you do all of that in a single MGM resorts room, it’s automatic. But if you need to combine hours in more than one room to make the threshold, I assume you have to go into one of those poker rooms, ask to speak to the boss, and, again, tell them you’re Nunzio’s wife, and they will set you up. Fortunately, in 2016, it wouldn’t be so weird for a guy to actually be Nunzio’s wife. You won’t have to put on a dress to do this.
I also heard that tournament players can qualify if they play X number of tournaments in an MGM property in the period. I think it was 15 (maybe 18, so don’t quote me). I guess double that for Gold. No idea if there’s a way to combine tournament and cash play to make it. You might have to tell them you’re Nunzio himself to get that accomplished.
Well, yours truly has indeed qualified. Not just for Pearl, but for Gold. I’m gold, Jerry, I’m gold! (well, I am supposed to look like Costanza). And since I got that just from playing at MGM (Grand), I didn’t need to speak to anyone. One day I looked at my MLife benefits online and there I was…GOLD. Hooray for me. I can park anywhere I damn like at any MGM property and just laugh at all you schlubs who actually have to pay.
And of course the local grinders who play a fair amount in the MGM rooms will make it easily. For them, it’s about an hour and a half of play in an MGM room per week. Eeazy Peazy for even the mildest of Vegas poker degenerates. But what if you prefer to play at CET rooms, or Venetian, or Wynn, and only very occasionally play at MGM rooms? Like when a buddy in town wants to play there, or there’s something else going on there everyone once in awhile that brings you there? Hmm…could be a problem even for the locals.
But here’s what I fear. As I noted before, it’s inevitable that the other Strip properties will start charging for parking. For one thing, they are no less greedy than the folks in charge at MGM. They wear corporate suits too. And also…for self-defense. People wanting to go to Mirage will park at Venetian or Treasure Island and walk there. They will park across the street at Bally’s to go to Bellagio. They will park at Tropicana or Hooters to play MGM or the other MGM properties in the vicinity. And…it’s a bit of schlep, but you can park at Planet Hollywood and walk to MGM (or to Aria). I know, I’ve done it. So when there’s suddenly no parking available at casinos that aren’t charging for parking for their own patrons, guess what they’re gonna do? If you said, “Adapt a similar policy to MGM’s,” you win!
And then it will become difficult for all but the most degenerate of poker degens to qualify at all the properties to assure themselves of free parking at every place on the strip they might want to play poker. And for yours truly, it might very well become impossible. And even with just MGM casinos, cutting down my trips to Vegas as I have, and playing in a larger variety of rooms (most of those, non-MGM properties) means my ability to keep up my free parking privileges for a long time are shaky at best.
Of course, you can still qualify for Pearl or Gold status the old way—by playing in the pit, pouring money into the slot machines, paying for expensive meals at the MGM properties. I dunno what the rules are for qualifying that way—I never did any of that stuff and never needed to know. And no idea if you can combine poker play with slot and or pit play to qualify. My guess is no, but not clear.
And I want to repeat what I’ve said previously. I give a lot of credit to the poker room managers at the MGM properties for encouraging their bosses up the food chain to make this concession for their poker players. I have no inside knowledge of how this came about, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some blood was spilled over this. I only say this knowing how top casino management in general (at any casino) thinks about poker. Which is, almost never, unless they absolutely have to.
But that concession will not help a lot of players, the non-poker players or the visitors who don’t visit often enough to play 75 hours in one chain’s rooms Those people had better start planning on pouring money into slot machines, or putting a mortgage payment or two into a buy-in at a blackjack table.
The MGM suits point out that parking costs almost everywhere else in the country. True enough. But when I paid a shitload to park at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles a few years back, there was no casino where I was encouraged to lose a car payment or two at games of chance that were guaranteed to take money out of my pocket over time. I’ve played in a bunch of different casinos in Southern California and not once did I ever have to pay to park. I guess Atlantic City charges for parking—but is a shithole like Atlantic City something that Vegas wants to emulate?
I keep hearing that the Vegas business model has changed. They no longer make the majority of their money from gambling. That’s why they need to make money on everything. But to me, that’s sort of a chicken-or-egg thing. Did gambling revenues go down all by themselves, forcing casinos to jack up the costs for everything else? Or did they go down because people now spend so much more than they used on everything else in Vegas (food, drinks, shows, clubs, rooms, spas, etc) that they don’t have as much money as they used to gamble with?
They used to give away the store to get you to come in to play games with bad odds. In exchange you got whatever thrill you got for gambling, knowing you’d likely lose but that there was a chance you’d sometimes come home a winner. They still want you to do that but they also want to overcharge you for rooms, food, drinks, shows, clubs. None of those are bargains any more. And they now want to charge you to park for the privilege of overpaying for all those things, and of course, gamble!
Will this change affect Vegas tourism in an appreciable way? Who knows? But let me give you a example from some people I know, my friends Woody & LM, who I’ve mentioned often. They love Vegas but never, ever gamble. They go to get away from the rat-race, to relax in a nice hotel room, or the bar, or by the pool in nice weather. They like the spa. They enjoy a few fine meals while in town. Occasionally they see a show but are more likely to catch a movie while in town.
The last two times they went they stayed at the Aria and loved it. They would love to go back there, the room and the amenities were all outstanding. But when I sent them the new parking details, they told me they were never going to go back to Aria—or any MGM property again. The resort fees they paid were bad enough, but this is where they draw the line. They can still stay at other Strip places for now….and when that is closed off to them, they will likely stay at Red Rock or even Orleans before ever finding themselves in an MGM parking garage again. They can certainly do pretty much everything they want to do in Vegas at the Red Rock, without ever hitting the Strip.
They can’t be the only ones who feel this way. I mean, once people have seen the Strip, can they avoid it on their next visit and just do Vegas at a locals place (that will likely never charge for parking)? Depends on why they come to Vegas. They might need the Strip for a show or a night club. But unless they have a hankering for a specific Strip restaurant, they can find good food at a lot cheaper prices elsewhere. And you know, those locals places have slot machines and blackjack tables too.
Ironically, it’s the poker players who come to Vegas that need the Strip more than most tourists. The games are better on the Strip than in the locals places with the nits. That is, until the recreational poker players stop coming to Vegas because of the parking fees.
I guess we’ll just have to see how it all plays out. Rant over (for now). (Edited to add: Well, I did rant some more after experience the final product myself. See here).