Las Vegas Rip-offs: Part 3

7. Tipping in Vegas

Everyone in Vegas has their hands out for a tip these days. While you never have to tip, in many situations the employees put you in a situation where you feel forced to tip them. Don't get me wrong, certain service employees should be tipped well for proper service in Vegas. These include cocktail waitresses, food servers, and maids. Most of these employees are earning minimum wage and support their families on tips. A friendly and helpful casino dealer is also worthy of an occasional tip. Don't tip them too much; a dealer at the Hard Rock makes $80K per year with tips! Keep in mind that many bartenders in Vegas belong to labor unions and have a base salary that is substantially higher than minimum wage. This doesn't mean you shouldn't tip them, but it's something to consider when leaving them a tip.

On other occasions there are tips that are basically bribes, such as the $20 tip to hotel checkin clerk in hopes of scoring a 'free' upgraded room. In this case, your 'tip' is getting you something in return.

What I find aggravating is many of the others who are looking for a tip. I recently hit a .25 Royal flush jackpot ($1000, which does not require a tax form) that was a handpay. Employees came out of the woodwork. Let's set the record straight, it takes two employees (not FOUR) to be involved in a handpay: one to actually pay you and one to be a witness.

I had another occasion where I was too tired to schlep my family's bags up to the room. One bellman unloaded the bags, tagged them, put them on a cart and they disappeared to some backroom. Obviously, a tip is needed here. I check in to the hotel and about 15 minutes later, a knock on the door and it's a different bellman! Because each of them handled the bags, the $1 per bag rule would seem to apply both. They double dipped me on tips!

Room service tipping is a complete insult (and I won't even talk about the prices for room service food). You are forced to tip 18% before you even receive your meal. What happens if the meal takes 2 hours to be delivered? You tip 18%. What happens if the meal is not hot? You tip 18%. What if they bring the wrong order? They replace it, you get to wait again, and yes, you tip 18%. This 18% fee is typically listed as a 'service charge' on the bill but it's nothing more than a spiffy phrase for a tip. On top of all this, some room service clerks act like they aren't already getting a gratuity and they'll be overly friendly and helpful in a blatant attempt to get you to tip them AGAIN. Another great example of being double dipped on tips.

The tip plate at a buffet is another gripe. I guess I could see leaving a tip in a low end buffet where the cook goes out of his way to prepare something edible for you. But to tip a buffet chef (who is already knocking down a decent paycheck) where you already paid $30 just to sit down? No way, Jose.

8. ATM fees in casinos

Ok, this rip-off isn't exclusive to Vegas. It seems every casino in the country charges an exorbitant ATM fee. Special consideration goes to the New Frontier in Vegas, which leads the way with a $3.50 fees, not including what your own bank will charge you. The best idea is to take the bankroll you're comfortable playing with and leave those ATM and credit cards in the car or at home.

In today's era of ticket in, ticket out technology (TITO), this is a disgrace. What they need to do is install TITO on all the machines, then install a TITO self-serve kiosk where players can cash out their vouchers whenever they like.

9. Charging sales tax on a comp

A comp means free, right? In most cases yes, but not everywhere. At Coast properties in Vegas, when you pay for a meal with your points, they deduct sales tax from your points along with the cost of the meal. This means you're paying about 7% more than you need to.

10. Drink prices at shows and late night breakfast specials

As if paying $125 for that show ticket wasn't steep enough, they also gouge you on the drink prices. I've received reports that the Sahara charges $8 per bottled WATER. At the Rio a couple reported recently paying $25 for two alcohol drinks. And the most ridiculous report was from a member of the Mamma Mia audience at Mandalay Bay who paid $17.50 apiece for drinks.

Mac King and Ronn Lucas at Harrahs/Rio are 'free' shows, but you'll pay $6.95 for a drink in order to get in. These shows are both easily worth that price, but paying $6.95 for a Coca Cola is a rip-off!

That cheap deal for steak and eggs sounds great. Oh, you want coffee with that? The price of your meal jumps 50%. A great example is the early morning special at the Barbary Coast. Price on the meal is (Ham/Eggs or Steak/Eggs) is $3.25 and a cup of coffee is $1.75. That price for a cup of coffee isn't necessarily a rip-off, but when that price comprises such a substantial percentage of the final cost of the meal, it is a rip-off, relatively speaking.

And there you have it, my Top 10 rip-offs of Las Vegas. Look for my next article, 'How to Avoid the Top 10 rip-offs of Las Vegas' in the future.

Special thanks to the members of and the members of Skip Hughes VPMail ( who provided many of the ideas contained throughout this article.

Scott Michaels is a writer for Video Poker Player magazine. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email Scott at

This article was published in the August 21st edition of the newsletter. ISSN 1521-1983-Library Of Congress,Washington,DC Copyright 1997-2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, without the consent of the publisher,, AND author is prohibited.