There was a day when the Rat Pack ruled Las Vegas, Liberace dominated the strip, and the booze flowed freely at opulent casinos.
But, today, most, if not all, of the Rat Pack is dead, a new generation thinks of Michael Douglas as Liberace, and the practice of comping alcohol is going the way of cursive handwriting and landlines.
Now, to get a free drink at some of Vegas's best casinos you have to start playing—and continue playing, big time. Then, and only then, will the fruits of Bacchus flow in your favor.
As the LA Times reports, both Caesars and MGM Resorts are now using technology that allows the casino owners to see how much people are spending on games—before pouring free booze. Call it a "play-to-drink" scenario, where bartenders respond only if major cash is poured into the casino machines.
The practice is being tested on video poker machines as we speak. At Caesars sports bars throughout Nevada, an indicator light flashes green when guests have fed enough cash into video poker games. When bartenders see green, they pour. This policy is known as a "comp validation system" and Caesars says it allows bartenders "to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units."
So throwing a couple of bucks into the video poker machine won't get you wasted. Only "max play"—a.k.a., more money than you're probably looking to spend—will, per the "Red Light, Green Light" comp system.
MGM Resorts' system—which is being tested at the MGM Grand and the Mirage—causes machines to automatically print out drink vouchers when the desired amount of play time is reached. MGM Resorts says, "The new technology has eliminated the guessing game for bartenders about how many drinks each guest is eligible to receive based on play." One player at the Mirage found that he had to play for over an hour between comped drinks.
Not everything about Vegas in the old days was great: Gangsters ran rampant, dining meant "gourmet" buffets, and racial segregation was a big problem.
But the free-flowing booze? That is something that we will most definitely miss.