Over the past month, I’ve tested the new drink monitoring systems installed at Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, and Cosmopolitan bars. I know that nobody likes their play being tracked in order to get a complimentary drink. My goal with these visits was to see how the systems operate. Hopefully, I’d learn how to make the best of a less than optimal situation.
For my money, there’s really one drink monitoring system that is customer friendly. It should come as no surprise that the only video poker bars at a luxury property with a drink monitoring system, the Cosmopolitan, offers the overall best system for the customers. Below is information on how I ended up with this decision.
The quality of the drink matters as much as how quickly I’ll receive a drink. I’m at the age where I’m slightly snobby about my drinks. I have preferences and will usually drink at bars that will meet those requirements.
There’s a clear winner for best complimentary drinks. It’s such a great difference, that it puts the others to shame. I guess this category is an easy win for the individually owned and operated luxury hotel and casino. There’s a different process to managing one property as opposed to multiple properties. Insert your penny-pinching corporation jokes here.
The Cosmopolitan stands far above the competition for drink quality. Each complimentary drink ticket is good for one drink up to $15 or a Signature cocktail which costs $16. The $15 drinks include almost all vodka drinks and most middle shelf scotch/whiskey/bourbon. They pour many of these spirits from a bottle instead of a gun, so you know you’re actually drinking what you ask for unlike most spirits at MGM Resorts and especially Caesars Entertainment (note the sports book bar experience).
MGM Resorts and Caesars don’t even come close when it comes to their complimentary drink offerings. By now you’ve heard that MGM Resorts bars only pour 1.5 ounces of liquor per drink instead of 2 ounces like most of the bars in the country. In addition to the short pour, they limit you to 3 bottom shelf spirits per category. Most of those are poured from a gun – even if you ask for a bottle pour.
Caesars offers slightly better complimentary drinks than MGM Resorts. Your choices are mostly limited to middle shelf spirits. However, each drink uses a traditional pour so at least you’re getting a full 2 ounces of liquor in your drinks. Tag bar, my favorite video poker bar on the Vegas Strip, still offers a variety of mid-tier craft beer but you may be limited depending on the bartender.
Approximate Drink Ticket Cost
Complimentary drink tickets are given out based on how much money is played and the pace that you play. Each system is different and there isn’t an exact science to this just yet. However, standard, moderate pace of play should result in a complimentary drink every 15-20 minutes at all bars.
It’s easy to keep track of your pace by looking at players club points earned with MGM Resorts and Cosmopolitan bars. Just note how many points you have when you received your first drink ticket and expect that you’ll receive another around the same time moving forward. This isn’t exact but you’ll notice approximately when you should receive a complimentary drink ticket.
Caesars Entertainment is more tricky since the lights are placed behind the machine. You can periodically reach over the game to make sure you have a green light to get a complimentary drink or just ask your bartender to keep you posted when he or she walks by. The guys at Tag bar at The Linq will let you know if you need to speed up if you ask.
Here’s an approximate breakdown of how much you’ll have to play in video poker for each complimentary drink ticket (amount played for slots and keno may be different). This is based on my experience so you may find slightly different numbers when you play.
- Caesars Bars : 50 hands of $0.25 max coin ($1.25 per hand) video poker, $62.50 coin-in per drink.
- Cosmopolitan Bars : 105 hands of $0.25 max coin ($1.25 per hand) video poker, $131.25 coin-in per drink.
- MGM Resorts Bars : 120 hands of $0.25 max coin ($1.25 per hand) video poker, $150.00 coin-in per drink.
Frankly, buying drinks at all bars is probably your best value. If you’re just looking for quick and cheap booze then Caesars bars are probably the best value. The Cosmopolitan is the best all-around value if you’re looking for the quality of your drink and ease of obtaining that drink.
MGM Resorts might want to rethink their algorithm before expanding the drink monitoring system property wide. There’s no value to playing video poker with their short pour of mediocre spirits. If you want to get the most from your booze, your best bet is to drink beer or wine.
Drink Ticket Flexibility
The Cosmopolitan has the most flexible complimentary drink system of the three companies. Complimentary drink tickets at the Cosmopolitan are redeemable for 24 hours and may be used at either the Chandelier or Sports bar. They plan on integrating Bond next year which means you’ll be able to redeem tickets at all video poker bars.
Best of all at the Cosmopolitan is that you can redeem your ticket walk away. The option to relax in the Chandelier Bar lounge chairs and couches or in the sports book is quite appealing if you just want to hang out for a while after gambling. The other properties are far behind the Cosmopolitan in this category.
Since MGM Resorts hasn’t rolled the system out property-wide you must redeem tickets where you earn the tickets (Mirage lobby bar, etc). The Lobby Bar is the least convenient bar at The Mirage. At least you can redeem tickets later and take your drinks elsewhere.
Caesars Entertainment has the most restrictive system. You can only enjoy complimentary drinks while you’re gambling since they use a red light/green light/blue light system.
You shouldn’t have a problem obtaining complimentary drinks if you play video poker at any of the casino bars. Just play your video poker with at maximum bet and at a normal pace. The drink monitoring systems at all of the casino bars should only affect those playing a couple credits at a time looking for free drinks for the bare minimum of money played.
The Cosmopolitan stands far above the competition on the complimentary drinks offered. MGM and Caesars don’t even come close to matching the quality of spirits offered. Whether you’re drinking Woodford Reserve with 4 cubes or a Becky With The Good Hair signature cocktail, you’re receiving a better beverage at the Cosmopolitan. Even their bottles of water are real spring water and not recycled tap water that the other properties offer.
The Cosmopolitan’s drink tickets can be used at the bar while gambling or afterward in one of the lounges. If you’re like me and you play at a decent pace you can accumulate extra drink tickets to use while watching the games at the sports book or while relaxing in the Chandelier lounge. I’m probably a little biased here. I love the small sports book and lounge at Chandelier Bar more than most casino bars in Las Vegas.
The rate that you receive complimentary drink tickets at the Cosmopolitan is right in the middle of the pack. It’s not the best and it’s not the worst. However, you’ll receive better quality beverages and can enjoy them after you’re done gambling if you prefer.
We’d all be happiest without having our drinks monitored but this is Las Vegas of today. The Cosmopolitan drink monitoring system offers the best drinks and most flexible drinking experience for the player for a fair rate of play. This feels like a win-win of a less than optimal situation. I think that’s what I started out looking for and I found it at the Cosmopolitan.