Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Post-COVID Gambling: Why I'm Done with Las Vegas

Honestly, at this point, you can keep it.

Las Vegas has changed, almost entirely for the worse. I've spent a lot of time on here in recent months bemoaning bad odds, tightened (or non-existent) comps, increasing fees, declining properties, rising prices and a general loss of focus on customer service in Las Vegas that has all added up to what amounts to a large middle-finger to the traditional Las Vegas Visitor.

Enough with the gamblers, Huzzah! to the Day Club patrons, the pool partiers, the people who want to pay rack rate for a 3rd rate room. In short, those with little concern that they're being financially assaulted, willingly in most cases, for the illusion of luxury and 'hip' in a town that no longer possesses any of it.

Las Vegas has always been a magician's trick, an illusion that you were having something you are not, a high roller experience that was decidedly tacky. The odds always favored the house and Las Vegas has no time, or patience, for people who understand that fact. They don't want the person who wishes to come in, have a good time, gamble, and maybe enjoy a nice meal or three. What they are focusing on now is three-fold.

1. As stated prior: They want the party people, the people who have no issue (until it comes time to pay the credit card bill) slapping down $3500 for bottle service on an alcohol they can get for $40 (or less) at home. they want the girls in bikinis to awkwardly dance down the aisle to their overpriced cabana acting like they are excited (when they're really not, and it shows) to be drooled over by a group of 20 and 30-something men. They want people who are willing to over pay for "exclusive" access to Day Clubs, where DJs pump out music and women dance and kiss each other in hopes of getting in on the liquor bottle gravy train. (Trust me, if you get bottle service in Las Vegas there will be enough women coming by and flirting with you for free drinks you will not get a sip yourself.  They'll take the drink and you'll never see them again, but at least they pay attention to you I guess?) Don't get me wrong, men try this as well, but from what I've seen they usually get told no and are encouraged by security to move on. Las Vegas pools and day clubs have morphed into a giant faux-dating game where the Bros think they have a chance.

2. The bone idiot: People who will gladly play 000 Roulette or 6:5 Blackjack with horrible odds or continually plunk money into slots set at the State minimum all while thinking they are James Bond instead not realizing they are the sucker at the table. Yes, people occasionally win, and when they do the casinos broadcast it far and wide, but almost everyone else loses, and never has a chance. Even Las Vegas sports books have joined the trend of kicking out, or severely limiting, punters who do even minimal research and try to win. They want people in their casinos who want to give them their money. Period end of story.

3. The violent: Yes, it's true. Vegas has become an unsafe mess since reopening from the pandemic. Almost daily tales of shootings, stabbings, fights on the strip. Endless videos of large groups getting into fisticuffs and, eventually, shots fired. This is not limited to the Strip, but to almost every tourist area. The fact is that Las Vegas is incapable of policing itself and is now an unsafe town.


Because of all of this Mrs. TPM and I will be going to Las Vegas for our Birthday trip in October, in part because it's already booked, and we'll stay one night on the Strip, two nights Downtown, and two nights off-strip, and then we're going to say goodbye for a while. Possibly a long while.

Until Las Vegas reverses course I can no longer recommend it as a travel destination. In fact, I would urge you to stay away. ONLY when the casinos start to lose significant business will they even consider changing course.

We may just be a small raindrop in the Las Vegas ocean, but that's one less raindrop they're going to see.

Good Bye Las Vegas. It's not me, it's you.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Post-COVID Gambling: Whither the Las Vegas Strip.

 The following is a post that I wrote on Vegas Fanatics.com in response to the thread: Why I broke up with MGM  


The entire thread is a good read on how people are currently feeling about the Las Vegas Strip and why I believe that the current business model they are pursuing is unsustainable.


As bad as MGM is, Caesars might even be worse. From unkempt properties to poor customer service to throttling comps the Las Vegas Strip is no longer about gambling. It's about conventions and day clubs and night clubs and too-expensive restaurants and the $25 cocktail at the bar. Gambling is just another thing to do on the Strip and, outside of a handful of really, really big players, they really isn't any incentive for them to cater to the gambler any longer.

Why give away a room to a player who might gamble say....$10,000 over a couple of days when you can charge someone a sales rate for a room over a weekend and they and their friends will rent a pool cabana, get bottle service, eat at the nice restaurants, go to a night club and get more bottle service, spend a ton of money on liquor, maybe gamble $1000 over the entire weekend, lose it all because they aren't serious about it, and walk away with a weekend spend of higher than the gambler?

This is why you're seeing the de-theming of Harrah's, why all of the Mardi Gras decorations are gone. Because conventions don't care about themes, they care about meeting space and restaurants and activities.

Once the corporations took over Las Vegas, and realized they could make just as much, if not more, money on other amenities outside of gambling (with no risk BTW) the writing was on the wall. By "no risk" I mean that there's no chance a "hot run" at Ka is going to destroy the quarter's profit. There's no chance someone renting a cabana is going to hit a Wheel of Fortune Jackpot. these revenue streams are easier to trend and trending are things that CEOs who have read a few management books really like to see.

All that said, here's why I think it's not going to get any better.

For all of their faults, and there were many, in the past Las Vegas had visionaries. People like Jay Sarno, Steve Wynn and, to a lesser extent, Sheldon Alderson. Casino owners who had a vision for what they wanted Vegas to be and they weren't afraid to take risks to get it, and most times, lose it. What you have now are management-school bred MBAs who are running things and making decisions not on some vision, but on trends, projections, budgets and financial reports. People like to say the "bean-counters" are running things. That's not true, but the people who are running things are solely looking at the numbers the "bean-counters" provide and are using that solely to make business decisions. There's not one casino owner in the C-Suite on the Strip who's thinking "I wonder what comes next?"

The closest you have to that in Las Vegas right now are the Stephens brothers and Circa, which really was a visionary property in the downtown area. Yes, it's just like having the best house in a bad neighborhood but people seem to be flocking to that best house and their 21+ rules really don't seem to be hurting them. In fact, it seems to be helping them. They built a monster Sports book (truly one of the best places to watch a game in Las Vegas) and a pool that is also built around sports. They've turned The D into a place that's a must-visit and while they need to invest in it (especially the HVAC system) they have an undeniable piece of Vegas history in the Golden Gate. While they say "never say never" when it comes to eventually purchasing a Strip property I would think that's a long way out. What they're probably hoping for is that one of the big two corporations decides to bail on Vegas, which could happen eventually. (again, eventually being a LONG WAY out.

As with anything however, this worm will turn. Prior to the pandemic articles were already being written in the national media about the perceived lack of value on the Strip. Even before the shut-down their were worrying signs that people were starting to look other places as travel destinations. Occupancy rates were starting to dip on the Strip. Gaming was declining on the Strip and increasing downtown. Post pandemic this all changes as people just want to get out of their damn houses and cut loose.

That will change however. And when it does guess who the Strip casino operators are going to look to in order to bail them out?


That $10,000 gambler who they all but jettisoned when times were flush. My hope is most of them have moved on by the time this happens.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Danger Will Robinson!! Danger!!!

Cashless gaming has long been the apple of the casino industry's eye. Linking an app to your bank account to allow them to more efficiently drain you of your funds is the gold-standard for an industry that plays lip-service to "responsible gaming" but really doesn't back that up with any solid action.

And suddenly.....it's here:


Cashless gaming system introduced at downtown Henderson casino. Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas Review Journal.


Customers can download an app, available to Android and iPhone users, and register with a phone number and an email address. They then link their bank account to the app and, after registration, are told if they’re approved and offered a line of credit. If qualified for the program, the maximum charge is 1 percent, normally less expensive than a traditional ATM fee.


While casino gambling has traditionally been a cash-centric business, the goal has always been to move away from hard currency and into the realm of digital.  Having an app that allows gamblers to link to their bank account and more easily withdraw funds is exactly what they're looking to do. Prior to this when you felted, you had to get up, walk to the ATM and withdraw money, usually with a very high withdrawal fee (from $7.99 to $9.99 in some places). Gamblers referred to this as a "cooling off period" where, ostensibly, the gambler might decide that pulling out more money is a bad idea and just call it a day.

In reality this never really happened, due to a combination of alcohol and dopamine.

I foresee a LOT of issues stemming from these apps, and cashless gaming as a whole. While casinos already are willing to take every last dollar from you, they will find it easier to do now, protestations of being advocates for responsible gaming to the contrary.

Let me tell you a quick story about my last trip to Vegas. I'll leave the casino name out of this.

On Sunday morning Mrs. TPM and I woke up, got ready, and went down to a video poker bar for a round of Bloody Marys as is our custom. While playing VP, an obviously drunk and tired man walked up to the bar, sat down at a machine, and tried to ram his credit card into the cash slot. The bartender yelled at him to STOP! that he was going to lose his card in the machine (they could get it back but would have to open it of course) and that they were "cash only".  He then responded "So, I need a debit card then?"  Bartender: "No, cash only".

At this point it was very clear that this man had been up all night.  He said out loud that he was down $10K and had been playing craps all evening. He was clearly not in a right state of mind and should have been backed off, offered an escort back to his room or pointed toward an Uber to get him to wherever it was he was staying.

What did the casino staff do?


They pointed him to the ATM machine.


Now imagine if he had an app on his phone and had the ability to cheaply, and easily, load even more money onto his card.  Given how much he had lost, he was NOT going to make it up on those machines. It's possible that, had he just taken a time out, he might have woken up after a nap refreshed, and made some kind of come back the next day, OR he could have had a clearer head and just accepted his losses and moved on.

The point is, even without cashless gaming the casinos do little more for patrons than putting those "when the fun stops" flyers by the ATMs. They do absolutely nothing to actually promote responsible gaming. In a world where online sports books are starting to receive much (well deserved) scrutiny about entangling problem gamers, should not the casinos face the same level of scrutiny?

I understand that you might be reading this and are probably thinking "Wait, this guy gambles, why is he so up in arms?"


Fair question.  The reason I am so up in arms is because I work hard to gamble responsibly. I only bring gambling the money I am willing to lose, I never hit up the ATM, and I quit when my daily budget is done. I also have a wife who does not gamble much at all to keep me in check when I've had 4 too many, and I've learned from mistakes I've made in the past. Trust me, these lessons were hard earned and I've seen too many people on the casino floor who have not learned them, or cannot learn them because of addiction.


I view gambling as a form of entertainment. My gambling budget is the cost of being entertained. Too many people view it as a get-rich-quick scheme, and while it may be a LOT of things, a path to financial freedom it is not.


It's a path to financial ruin, and the cashless gaming movement is only going to make it worse if not reigned in early.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Las Vegas March 2022: Falling Behind Early (and Staying there all Trip Long)

I last updated on February 1st that we had a couple of gambling trips lined out for later that month (Lake Charles, LA) and then in early March (Las Vegas).


Those two trips have come (and gone) and the gambling results were.......not good.

In short, I fell behind early, and stayed firmly behind on both excursions. VP life was a mixture of missed draws and bad results. Premium quads are a myth to me right now, and I've missed more dealt trips in a row than I can ever remember.  

Not to mention 4 to a Royal and not being able to draw flies.  Since my last October trip to Las Vegas, I have been cursed. It's to the point that we're considering a live chicken sacrifice to appease the gambling gods. (those bastards)


Not that I'm not getting quads, but they're the baby type. Forced to grind it out on Bonus poker I'm hitting 5s-Kings for 125 credits, which is enough to keep you playing, but not nearly enough to cut into a first night deficit, or to eek out even a tiny profit.  I've tried triple-play quarters, Dollar single play, desperation two-dollar single play and, yes, even quarter single-play as things get really dire.

My quad count in Lake Charles was 4. For the entire weekend. Over 6 days in Vegas I had 49 quads and 3 straight flushes, none of the royal variety.  As I said though most of those were the BP 125 variety, which just brought up a low $100 bullet to less than $100.  In other words, they were great for points and comps but awful for building my actual bank roll.  That's where I am in video poker right now. A ton of missed draws as the machines are doing a great job of giving me exactly the cards I don't need.

Trying to change it up to slots has been even worse. I haven't had a meaningful slot win since my BS $1206 "jackpot" at the Golden Gate in October.  In Lake Charles I did not have a bonus 'win' over $100 and in Vegas nothing over $50. 

In short: A slump.

Such things happen in gambling however and it's not something the various You Tube slot and Vlogger channels typically highlight. You Tube is a land of big wins, hand pays and big bonuses. The land of comped suites, even for those who don't gamble much, which misrepresents what Vegas has become for many.

To be fair: I get comped rooms, meals and (in some cases) suites because I do gamble, a lot. For example, I have hosts at the two casinos in which we stayed. Getting two nights comped at Circa, some free play and around $200 off my dinner at Barry's Prime.  At GVR I got a Jr. Suite with a balcony comped for 3 nights, some free play and a free meal at Bottiglia. Not too bad.

Despite the bad run of gambling we had a LOT of fun on this trip. Circa is a GREAT resort in which to stay, especially if you don't have children, the service there is very good, the staff very friendly and the drink service that I experienced was top notch.  Fremont Street remains one of my favorite places to stay and play.

Green Valley Ranch is still my home away from home. I love that casino, the District adjacent to it, and everything in the area. The comps there are fair and, during the weekend, running away from the madness of the Strip and Downtown is something so much fun that it's hard to say no to. The dining there is varied and relatively cheap and they have one of my favorite pools in Las Vegas.


From that perspective: I still love Las Vegas. I just wish that I could find a way to break this slump I'm in playing VP.


Our next trip is Tulsa, in May.  Maybe some Tribal casino gaming will break this slump?

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

2022: New Year, New Plan, New Strategy, Different Results?

I'm typing this post out on the last evening of "Dry January", having decided to partake in the relatively new 'tradition' of taking January off from drink.  I'm not going to lie, it felt good sleeping well at night, having greater mental acuity and a host of other benefits that total sobriety affords one.

That said, I'm ready for a nice, cold beer.

It was particularly tough during playoff football. Not because I "had to have a drink" but because I "like" to have a drink or three when watching football, when grilling or smoking tasty meat in the back yard, because football and a beer go hand in hand.

Not that I'm going to run out tomorrow and buy a six-pack and down it, I'll probably remain off the sauce until the weekend.  But Saturday I'll likely be out on the smoker with some type of protein slow cooking, and a beer in hand.

As you know, in 2020 I decided that the whole "Vlogging" thing was not for me. I have neither the desire to walk around filming everything I do any more than I have a desire to spend hours editing and putting special effects on videos. I can write a blog, easy, but recording, editing and uploading a video takes time and effort that I'm just not willing to put in.

That said, I do enjoy talking about gambling, food, drink and travel so I will still incorporate video at some level, but it might be stored on YouTube and linked to this blog. I'm still working out the details within my own mind.

On a casino front, we're going to kick off 2022 with a bang.

Feb 10 -12: L'aberge Lake Charles

March 9-14: Las Vegas

May 9-12: River Spirit, Tulsa OK.

Gaming structure will be about the same. A ton of video poker and  quite a few slots, with some Blackjack thrown in for good measure, and a heap-ton of sports betting. Given the expanded options in Louisiana now more quick trips across the border might be in the works to take advantage of the many betting apps over there. Sorry Texas, you suck.

So, get ready to see my mug some, to hopefully read my words more, and *crosses fingers* to see some big wins this year. 2019 was a toss, 2020 started off strong and tapered off, so I'm hoping for a big comeback in 2021. Starting a couple of weeks out in Louisiana.


Until then......Eat well, Drink Top Shelf, and pull Premium Hands.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

College Football: The Red River......whatever.

When UT-Austin and Oklahoma-Norman play tackle football it's always a big week. People in my generation grew up calling it the Red River Shootout, but the woke folks over at ESPN have decided that such things are no longer allowed.

So, we have had the Red River Showdown, Rivalry and a host of other names, none of them which have stuck.

What we do know is that it's a pretty big rivalry game (yes, we still miss UT-Austin vs. aTm on Thanksgiving) that's pretty much appointment viewing because something weird is going to happen.

..........

I've decided, moving forward, to get rid of the FIVE.  One of the big reasons is that I'm not comfortable being forced to pick 5 games.  There are weekends where I have more than five, and some where I only have one or two that I really like. So I'm replacing that little experiment with this, an overview of the weekend at hand, I'll share some things that I'm considering but offer no picks.

..........

Tonight I like Houston.  I grabbed them at -4.5 early in the week and the line has since moved to -6.5 or -7, but I still like them against Tulane. After stubbing their toe against Tortilla Tech in the season opener the Cougars have started to get things together and, especially on defense, are starting to get on a roll.

I also like Temple as a big dog (+29 currently) against a Cincinnati team that I think is going to have a "we just beat Notre Dame team in their house" hangover.  I don't like Temple to win, but I do like them to cover comfortably.

Another play that I'm really liking is Stanford +13 against Arizona State. The Cardinal are a good team, not a great team, that can stay close to other good teams as are the Sun Devils. I'm still not a believer in the fighting Herm Edwards.

..........

Aside from those three games I think Michigan State (-6) is light against Rutgers as is Louisville (-2.5) vs a Virginia team whose defense cannot stop a hard-charging Jr. High Marching Band.

..........

Outside of the Red River game, the rest of the schedule does not pop-out to the eye, on paper. It's during weeks like this however that college football endlessly surprises.

Good luck however you bet.

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