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MGM parking fees on Vegas Strip buck tradition

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  • Las Vegas rang in 2008 with a pyrotechnic display fired from the rooftops of seven casinos and live concerts Downtown at the Fremont Street Experience. During the 8 minute, 30-second show themed “The Best is Yet to Come,” more than 30,000 fireworks were launched from the rooftops of the MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Flamingo Las Vegas, Venetian, Treasure Island (TI), Circus-Circus and Stratosphere. (Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau)

LAS VEGAS » In a city built on luring tourists with cheap thrills and free cocktails, a big part of the Las Vegas Strip will soon slash away its most basic freebie: parking.

MGM Resorts International will announce today that it will become the first major casino company to start charging visitors for parking this year, a move that could bring in millions of dollars of revenue annually and change the landscape of the tourism hotspot that is increasingly catering to visitors who come for other pricey attractions besides gambling.

The move is a dramatic departure for both local residents and drive-in visitors who have grown accustomed to enjoying the perk of free parking when most big city venues attach a fee.

The largest hotel-casino operator in Sin City told The Associated Press that it will charge $10 or less for overnight self-parking at most of its Strip properties starting this spring, coinciding with the April opening of the company’s T-Mobile Arena.

The Las Vegas-based company has 35,310 rooms and 37,000 parking spots on the Strip, which come at a premium during major events. The parking fees will come at Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Vdara, Aria, Bellagio, The Mirage and MGM Grand.

Valet parking will cost more, but some parking at the Circus Circus hotel and the Crystals and Mandalay Bay Place shopping centers will still be free.

The company did not provide details on short-term parking fees and said its other properties, in Mississippi, Michigan and China, won’t be affected. Parking at some hotels will be cheaper than others, and Clark County residents will get a grace period.

Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the move shakes up a long-held entitlement of free parking among Las Vegans. They expect tourists to foot the bill on amenities that locals enjoy, he said.

It used to be that gambling revenue could easily offset those costs, but the focus has increasingly shifted to other offerings since Nevada stopped being the only state with legal gambling in 1978, the professor said.

That’s one reason to move to fee-based parking, because 70 percent of MGM’s revenue comes from outside the casino, including celebrity restaurants, high-end shops, shows and nightclubs, said Corey Sanders, the company’s chief operating officer.

Though MGM may be the first to disrupt the Strip’s parking model, Sanders said he believes competitors will follow suit.

“There’ll be initial backlash, but a month from now, three months from now, people will completely forget about it,” he said. “In general, these decisions are really hard decisions to make, but I think we have enough positive things to say about it and are creating enough enhancements to justify it.”

The revenue will help offset some costs of building a 3,000-space parking garage and making $36 million in upgrades to existing ones, he said.

Green said it’s surprising casinos are not already charging for parking but warned it would likely further alienate residents.

“Locals tend to increasingly feel priced out of the Strip,” he said. “It’s catering to big-money visitors, but actually it always did that. Locals just happen to get the benefits. Now there seem to be fewer benefits.”

Britney Gay, 24, of Las Vegas, said she usually chooses to park at MGM Grand’s garage but would go elsewhere because of the fee.

“Nothing is free, but still, parking is,” she said. “They need to do something free here for once in a while. Cause people come and pay their money to stay in these nice hotels. Can I get some free parking instead of free bottles of water?”

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  • This is not a problem for Hawaiian visitors as we don’t take our cars anyway. What I don’t like is MGM’s sneaky check-in charge of $75 for unwanted things like Internet plug in, drink tokes, and such. Irritating enough that I stopped going to Vegas for their shows and food. I don’t gamble and laugh at people who say they are gamblers. The O casino has been rated the best breakfast buffet, BUT the lines are so long it’s time for dinner by the time you get in. There are way too many shopping malls everywhere and sell too many expensive things we don’t need just like our new Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. The tourists are so rude and many of the illegal immigrant service works can’t even speak English. They keep playing dumb when you request an extra slice of prime rib. Good luck if you can find a wait help to order drinks after you find a seat to sit down. I am surprised at waiters who ask, “How much are you going to tip me?” Even after they sneak a 20% tip fee to your bill. The rudest people are the tourists. Something about that place brings out the worst in people. Forget Vegas. They deserve to suffer earnings losses due to competition from other States and nations joining the party. Lucky for us Hawaii folks we are living in the most beautiful State in the Union and are populated by the nicest people in the world. We can take a vacation in any of our 5 star hotels around the islands with real palm trees and world-ranked beaches with pristine waters and clean sand. And we can always jet westward to the Orient for exotic adventures that are real. Forget Vegas. They are still trying to rip us off.

  • Vegas is in decline. They need to find other ways to bring in revenue and these new fees will negatively impact the perception of the city where everything is cheap… because it’s essentially subsidized by casino revenues. People are slowly evolving and realizing gambling is for buffoons. Millennials don’t gamble. Once the older generations start passing away Vegas will become irrelevant.

  • I think this move will just cause others to follow. The hard core MGM customers will be happy to pay the parking fee as it will mean they probably will get closer parking to the entrances, those who attest the fees will simply park someone else and casino hop back to MGM as they make their rounds. Other casino’s will gain the influx of extra cars of which many may only use to casino hop to begin with which means less revenue going to the other casino’s. Casino after casino will follow suit and then it will be the norm. Similar to like how airlines operates..One takes the bold move to raise the norm, everyone else follows suit.

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