Thursday, July 14, 2016

MGM's Enhanced Parking is a Steep Hill to Climb

(You didn’t really think I’d talk about my first live experience with MGM’s new “enhanced parking” policy and do it in fewer than two posts, did you?  Do you not know me?  This is part 1--Part 2 is now posted and can be found here.

Twitter is a wonderful thing, and once again I urge you all to get on it and follow me.  For one thing, imagine the fun of seeing yours truly trying to fit a blog post into 140 characters or less.  And besides, it seems that a certain huge internet company that shall remain nameless is doing it’s gosh darn best to keep it a secret whenever I have new post up.  So following me on Twitter is may be the best way to know when I’ve got something new for you to enjoy (following me on Facebook works for that too).  

Twitter started allowing tweeters to tweet polls.  I always wanted to try one and the other day, I finally came up with something to survey the public about.  Of course, it was about me.  Specifically, I had four ideas for my next blog post and wasn’t sure which one to do first.  So I polled my Twitter followers. 

The problem is that each possibility had to be described in a few characters (25 I think).  So I couldn't really explain the ideas clearly and that may have skewed the results.  Also, only 36 people voted (but honestly, that’s more than I expected!) so I dunno how representative it is.

Anyway, the four options, exactly as I presented them, and the results, were:

Why I playedwhich tourns – 8%

3way all I won w/ 0 out – 25%

Update on MGM parking – 33%

Dlr shafts player purposely – 34%

The “winner” has been published and can be found here (here’s a secret, I was gonna publish that one first anyway cuz it was the easiest to write and I was running late).

For awhile, the MGM parking post was leading and I think it actually finished tied, but to make it add up to 100%, Twitter had to pick one to give the extra percentage point to.

I was surprised, I really thought based on some other comments that people were tired of my MGM parking rants.  I guess some people can never get enough.  Truth is, nothing could stop me from talking about this now that I’ve fully experienced MGM’s “enhanced parking” in all its glory. So I’m glad there are some people who actually do want to read my report.

You can find my previous posts on MGM’s new parking policy here, here and here.  Now as I mentioned last time, I qualified for my MLife Gold card and am entitled to free parking (both self and valet) at any MGM property in Vegas—at least for the time being.  So this will not be a post about how much I hate being charged to park at MGM casinos.  Note:  I still hate that anyone is charged to park at a casino where the whole idea is to get you to come in and lose several mortgage payments playing games of chance where the odds are stacked against you.  But let someone who actually is stuck paying write that rant (since I’ve already done it).

I’m just going to explore the mysteries, the wonders, the inconveniences and the sheer awesomeness that is MGM Resorts International's “enhanced parking.”

When MGM announced they were going to charge for parking, the actual fee they would be collecting was only one issue I had with it.  The other issue was the inconvenience and delay of both entering and especially leaving a giant parking garage while waiting for people to pay or present a validated ticket to exit.

I remember last summer I parked in Binion’s garage downtown.  I busted the tournament around midnight and collected my usual min-cash.  I had parked on like the 6th level and by the time I descended down to the fifth level, I ran into a solid wall of traffic trying to exit the structure.  It took me 20-30 minutes just to get out of the damn garage that night.  It wasn’t just that they had only one exit lane and one attendant there (who probably once called Benny Binion “Sonny.”It was also due to the fact that once past the gate, cars had to wait a long time for pedestrians and cars to pass to enter the street.  It was a huge fustercluck, and I could only imagine that it would be a lot worse at the MGM properties.  Even without gates and such, exiting the MGM on a night when there’s a concert or a fight can be a mess.  Now, adding the fact that everyone is going to have to stop and pay or enter a ticket to exit was sure to make it a lot more chaotic.

But as the system was set up, they made it all computerized.  There is no one there to take your money.  You have to pay before you get in your car to exit.  There are signs all over the garages that say “Have you paid for parking?”  I suppose they could be accused of rubbing it in but that is not the purpose of the signs.  They don’t want you to be the poor schmuck who gets to the gate and doesn’t have a paid ticket with which to open the gate.

There are actually three ways to open the gate to get in, and three ways to open it to get out.  To get in, you can just pull a ticket that comes out when you push the button at the gate.  Pretty standard.  If you have a valid NV driver license, parking is free (for now), so you can pull your license out of your wallet, and run it under a super-market style scanner, which should confirm your local status and open the gate.  Finally, there’s a totally different slot for you to insert your magic MLife card, and should you be worthy, the gate will magically open for you.

For exiting, the driver license and MLife card work exactly the same way.  But if you’re one of those unworthy schlubs who must pay, you had better remember to visit one of the kiosks right inside the garage (next to the casino entrance) and pay the piper.  I really didn’t explore this since it is beneath me, having been designated one of the 1 percenters by the MGM gods.  I assume the kiosks take credit cards and cash, but honestly don’t know.  But you better have inserted your ticket in the machine and figured out a way to have the machine bless your ticket so it will open the gate when you and your car try to open the gate to get out of the garage.

I arrived in town just a few days after they started enforcing the new parking rules.  Of course, there was much confusion among the visitors and employees alike.  They had a bunch of (presumably temporary) employees at all the gates to help explain what people needed to do to get in and out.  They would even insert your MLife card or ticket for you, or wave your license under the scanner for you.

Still, it was rather chaotic, especially early in the trip.  Before I got there, I recalled seeing a tweet from poker guru Ed Miller that said something like, “Hey, MGM Resorts….the 15 minutes it took me to get into your garage was 15 minutes I wasn’t spending money in your casino.”  Heh heh.  Leave it to Ed to point out when something is –EV.

Aside from the general chaos, it seemed that at every entry/exit point that had more than one gate, one of them was always closed for a malfunction.  I saw this almost every time, and there was usually a long line of people trying to get in or out of garage.  Fun stuff.

Now, my own very first experience with the new system took place on my first night in town, at the Mirage.  Why Mirage?  Well, there was an unofficial PokerAtlas/Ante Up mixed game scheduled for that night.  Alert readers will recall that I’m not really a fan of mixed games but I did want to be social and join my friends and colleagues.  That was also the night of game 6 of the NBA finals, so I stayed in my room and watched the game before heading over to the Mirage.  Thus, I was too late for the mixed game; it was already full.  Aw, shucks.  I was sociable with the group and then went ahead and played 1/2 NLH. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to write a blog post about that game in the future.

But this is a post about parking. At that point, all I had was my feeble MLife scum-of-the-earth card that they just give to just anybody. I was a member of the cool crowd but couldn’t prove it.  Now, as I drove to the Mirage, I assumed that my old card would be read by the machine as a Gold card and therefore I would be let in as the royalty I am.  But I wasn’t sure.  .

As it happened, there were two entry gates to choose from, and both were working (I think one of the exit gates was closed).  I picked the one that had the fewest cars waiting (by a factor of one, I believe).  Now here we come to one of the issues of the new parking system that I had already heard about from the 2+2 forums. They were complaining about the locations of the gates at some of the properties—notably Aria, if I recall.  The gates at Aria—and here at the Mirage—were on a steep hill.  So you would have to be at a dead stop on a steep incline to get a ticket or insert your card or whatever.  And then when the gate opened, you’d have to climb that hill from said dead stop.  And people were understandably worried that if the car in front of you had a manual transmission, it could easily roll back right into you before the driver was able to get it in gear and navigate the hill.

Hell, my car has an automatic and it started to roll back when I tried to drive up the hill from the dead stop after the gate opened.  Once inside, my friend Don, who was in the mixed game, asked me which gate I used. I told him and he said the other one—the one he used—was even worse, because that one not only had the same incline but also had a big speed bump right there in front of you where you stop for the ticket.  And he said his car’s tires were spinning like crazy before he was finally able to get over the speed bump.  Really great design!

Anyway, before I got past the gate, my main concern was opening it.  There were a couple of attendants there helping other people—none were free.  There were already a few cars stacked up behind me when I pulled to the gate.  I wasn’t sure my crummy old MLife card would work—or how to insert it.  I didn’t want to delay the people behind me any longer than I had to trying to figure out.  I guess I sort of panicked.  I knew—or at least thought I knew—that pushing the button and pulling out a ticket would open the gate.  So I did that.  And sure enough, pulling the ticket got the gate open, and then I managed to accelerate enough to climb up the ramp and look for an “enhanced parking” spot at the Mirage.

As I walked into the casino, I noticed all the kiosks there where people are supposed to pay for parking.  I wondered if, inasmuch as I had a ticket, I would have to visit one of those kiosks to get my ticket validated, even though I presumably wouldn’t have to pay.  There was a kid—and I do mean a kid, not sure he could actually go into the casino—helping people using the kiosks to pay for their parking. I really just wanted to go to a machine and read any instructions I might need.  But the kid asked if I needed help, and I told him I had pulled a ticket out even though I was sure I was qualified for free parking—I just needed to get the right card.  He said in that case, I wouldn’t need the ticket, or the kiosk, I should just be able to insert the card at the gate and it would open.  Then he said if that didn’t work, I might have to put the ticket in first, then put my card in.

OK….I would have felt better if he looked old enough to vote, I suppose.  I headed to the Mirage poker room, and after saying hello to everyone, I went to the podium with my plain vanilla MLife card and explained that I believed I had qualified for gold status and thus wanted a new card.  The woman up there checked and confirmed I was indeed entitled to the magic gold card.  She made a new one for me.  To my surprise, she gave me back my old card and said something like, “You should just keep this gold card in your car, and carry the old one with you to clock into games.  The gold card only matters for the parking.”  Hmm…..I hadn’t thought of that.  Then, just for fun, I asked her if my old card would have opened the gate.  She surprised me by saying no.  Really?  The machine that opens the gate reads the color of the card?  There’s some extra coding on the strip of the card that only is there on the right color card?  Well, it didn’t matter, I was “in” and although I could have tried to use my old card to get in or out any time after that, I never thought of trying it.

In fact, I didn’t leave the gold card in my car, I kept it in my wallet and stuck my old card in a draw.  It dawned on me that if my car was stolen while I was parked at an MGM property, having my card in there would let them escape too easily.  If I didn’t leave the card in the card, they’d be unable to open the gate to make their getaway.  They’d have to ram the gate to get out, and damage their new stolen car.  Hmm…..maybe I didn’t think that one through too well.

Anyway, when I was ready to depart, I followed the kid’s advice and just inserted my newly minted gold into the machine (after a false start or two inserting it the wrong way) and viola….the gate opened!  I felt like I’d won something.  So I still had the ticket I’d used to enter, which I decided to keep as a souvenir of my first “enhanced parking” experience.  Yes, I still have it!

The next night I parked at New York New York and this time I would try out my new Gold card to try to get into an MGM property.  In the past, I’ve parked at NYNY a lot.  There are a couple of places I like to eat there, and I think that the MGM poker room is about the same walking distance from the NYNY parking garage as it is from the MGM parking garage.  So if I’m going to eat at NYNY, it’s always been pretty convenient to park there.

Until now, that is.  I arrived early evening and there was of course a line to get to the gate.  And at NYNY, that gate is up a much steeper incline than the one at Mirage.  I don’t recall a speed bump, but man, I really had to floor it to get going forward once I had figured out the right way to insert my gold card to get the gate open. And yes, I was rolling back before I started going forward.  But the card worked fine once I figured that out.   As I was waiting my turn in line, I noticed a much, much longer line of cars waiting to get out.  These cars were all pointed downhill—again, a very steep hill—and I sure didn’t want think about the possibility that someone at the gate couldn’t get out for whatever reason, and you’d have a mass of cars trying to back up that hill trying to get into another lane to exit (assuming there was another lane open).

As I was driving up the parking garage, I noticed what appeared to be a brand new entry/exit point for the garage that never existed before.  I made a mental note to investigate when I was ready to depart.  It was on the second or third level of the garage and I had no idea where it might lead to.  But when I was ready to exit, I drove up to it and it appeared to be a legitimate exit (and entrance) that I could take.  There was no one in line (either to get in or out), and, remembering the line I had seen exiting at the “normal” exit earlier, I decided to take my chances and take this new exit.  To where, I wasn’t sure.  Ah, the thrill of discovery!

The gates were of course at the top of a steep incline, but at least the waiting line to exit (if there was one) was on level ground.  Only the entry would present a steep incline to navigate.  As soon as I approached the gate, card in hand, the gate mysteriously opened all on its on, without my having to insert a card.   OK, cool.  But keep in mind that I didn’t have to insert my card to exit, that will come into play later (in part 2).

It turned out that this exit lets you out onto Frank Sinatra Drive.  Now this is pretty inside baseball, but Frank Sinatra Drive is kind of a secret street located between the Strip and the I-15.  Once you know about it, you can use it as a shortcut to get to some Strip properties’ parking areas.  You do have to be careful because once you get on it it’s not that easy to get off of it.  Unless you live in Vegas, or go there by car as often as I do, the first time most people discover it is by accident when they make a wrong turn. And if you visit Vegas and never have a car, you may never encounter it at all.  Anyway, it took me a bit out of my way but it was no big deal.  Much better than exiting NYNY by the regular exit, at least in my mind. 

And that will do it for part 1.  Part 2 is now posted and can be found here.


  1. You should get a new card printed every time you visit an MGM property - i'm pretty sure gold status lets you cut the line at restaurants and you may get better discounts if you have to buy something at a gift shop.

    We stopped at Mirage to try a table game and I asked for a card reprint at the table - they not only screwed that up I thought they might lose my license!

    1. Not sure what the point of getting a new card every time would be. Would I get points for new cards? Also, I don't think MGM has the class system for waiting lists and lines like CET does.

      And after you said you almost lost your license, not sure I want to chance it!

  2. The gold card does allow you to jump the odd restaurant Q.

    1. Thanks....I mostly eat at Stage Deli....not sure it will do much good there! :)

    2. At CET rooms, it can get you ahead on the waitlist for poker....doesn't work at MGM rooms.

  3. A.... nice beamer and hoots


    1. Thanks, Big L (I assume the "L" was mysteriously omitted?)

  4. I've seen several cars roll back at Aria. Mine did it a few times and it's on automatic. Only way I've been able to avoid it is to have a foot on the brake and the other foot on the gas. And I have to hit the gas before I take my left foot off the brake. Otherwise the car rolls back every time.


    1. Just absurd. Terrible design.

    2. Sounds like lyrics from Sammy Haggar's "I can't drive 55'???

    3. LOL...yes indeed, thanks!

  5. The system checks your license plate and will often let you exit without you having to use a players card. But sometimes I still have to use the card because the gate won't always open quickly.


    1. Hmm.....hold that thought and come back and let's discuss when you read part 2! Thanks.

  6. Did you ever have an issue with comps at the MGM poker room recently? Not sure if I want to talk about it on the blog or in a PM on 2+2. I only learned of it a few hours ago after the guy at the front desk told me about it and he seemed reluctant/embarrassed to talk about it because it would make some of the regulars pretty upset.


    1. Wow...have no idea what you're talking about, Steve, no idea at all. I used my comps a few times this trip and had no issue at all.

      If you want to take it private, you can email me at the address on the right (robvegaspoker(at)

      Thanks. You have piqued my curiosity.