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PGP: Aria Limits Comp Booze Offerings To Well Brands

By Chuckmonster on Monday, 23rd November 2015 11:57am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 25


Aria is a nice property. Joint owners MGM Resorts International and Infinity World spent close to $10 billion dollars building it and probably another billion bucks bandaging birthing boo-boos. Lots of folks who initially hated the place now like it. Despite numerous flaws - biffed parcel layout, the fucked up mall, bad apartment building idea and dumb marketing - I gave Aria high marks at opening.

With stunning architecture, modern, casual elegance, good gamble, and some of the best restaurants in town, Aria was one of the best value propositions on The Strip. The property has won coveted Editors Choice Best Vaue Trippies award in 2013 and 2015.

Now, thanks to MGM Resorts International's Profit Growth Plan - an internal company program aimed to increase company profits by cutting costs, optimizing services and implementing hidden fees - Aria's value shine is being tarnished by a bean counter's greasy fingerprints.

Are you a casino player? Do you like to call your booze when the wait staff arrives to take your drink orders? If so, you can take your business elsewhere. Instead of Maker's Mark bourbon Aria gladly served, table game players have now been Profit Growth Planned into Jim Beam. Instead of Hendrick's, you be getting Seagrams. Instead of Grey Goose, you're getting Smirnoff. If you want the (slightly better) stuff, the casino waitress isn't going to bring it to you... whether you ante $5 or $50.

I'll hazard a guess that Aria isn't the only MGM property to sever the nuts off of booze comps. For those who remarked in previous Profit Growth Plan post about weekend 'surge pricing' at Bellagio's bars "they'll never get rid of free drinks" - the road to your hell now has an on ramp.

MGM CEO Jim Murren is, at his core, a numbers guy. He's not an artist, a reveler or lover of Vegas fun on any level. None of this is a surprise.

What I do find surprising is this concerted effort to eliminate gambling as a worthwhile activity. Instead of making games of chance more enticing to potential players - "we offer artisan booze to table game players" - MGM properties are quietly punishing the few table game players they have left, specifically those with tastebuds that yearn for good booze and, by extension, a finely crafted $64 veal parm.

It only took one comment by Sheldon Adelson to send players scurrying for the exits at The Venetian/Palazzo. Not only has MGM slashed their M Life program benefits, they've paired these cut benefits with with variable pricing models, a reduction in quality and addition of new "hidden" fees.

How many times will tourists shrug off yet another new fee/decreased service/cut benefit before casting aside MGM brand loyalty or - gasp - giving up on Las Vegas altogether?


Comments & Discussion:

Hasn't CET down this for years? With an up charge for premiums? Granted I would think at a higher end place like aria this wouldn't happen but outside of the high limit I can't say I'm surprised

So, this isn't really just an MGM thing, or particularly new. It's more just a dirty little secret that only alcohol aficionados will notice. One of the other Vegas blogs that you have taken issues with has been talking about free drinks are house brands for, uh, some time now.

Just go search for 'Vegas booze switch' or something along those lines.

bad news for me: no more willett at the tables. bad news for Aria: no more hourly EV that is equivalent to 2 cases of willett from me.
also side note: willett is also $5 more per pour at high limit bars around the baccarat area than it is at lift bar by the elevator at Aria.

@minvegas this is new at aria and part of PGP.

re: bottle switching, bartenders have been doing lazy pours since the invention of bartenders and laziness. your understanding of this is completely wrong.

also, I take umbrage at your misconstrued, condescending and prickish presentation of my supposed opinions regarding content farms. my problem with them is having my work stolen without attribution.

Murren- The fun sucking chupacabra of the Las Vegas Valley.

Re Caesars: It's true they've been doing this for years, but you can still order a call liquor at their flagship properties. I was, in fact, able to order a Maker's and soda at Caesars this weekend.

And that is what makes this change at Aria so galling. MGM has always looked at Aria as a flagship property. Restricting their call liquors cheapens the experience for customers and makes the property no different from a Monte Carlo or Luxor. Shameful, really.

When the price difference between a bottle of Makers and Jim Beam is probably about 4 cents an ounce... that seems kinda stupid.

and hey, Chuck, not all bartenders are lazy, some of us are conserving energy for other things.... miss ya buddy!!

I visited the Palm's Casino on November 7th of this year to play a little $1.00 video poker at the center bar (don't know the name). The bartender (not lazy yet extremely self-absorbed) made a point of walking the entire length of the bar to inform me that I needed to insert a minimum of $100.00 in the bar top machine in order to "earn" a "comped" drink-any drink.
Seriously? A person sits at the bar and some moron takes the time to approach that person as if sitting at the bar required a license...
I indicated: "Hey, thanks! Did I ask for a drink? Did I even look your way when I sat down 75 feet away from you?"
Bartender indicated: "Customers need to know."
I responded: "Actually, no the customers don't need to know unless they ask for a drink."
Bartender: "There's no reason for that".
Me: "I'm sorry, does my right to express an opinion also require a deposit of $100.00?"
Bartender: "Just sayin..."
Good times! Yeah, I can be a bit of an ass but the grinding of every penny, nickel and dime from the customer makes me weary.

I remember the first time I ever heard the words "resort fee" together...maybe 2009? I was booked at MGM Signature for a balcony/strip view suite for an entire week. I had lucked up and scored it for $99/night...which fit perfectly into my self-imposed rule of not paying more than $100/night for work trips (I was there for a convention). Upon checking in, I was notified that there would be an extra $20/day charge for my stay due to the new resort fee policy they had enacted the previous week. I had a very long discussion with the hotel manager about why I was NOT going to pay it...I had booked through Expedia and was never notified of the charge, etc...he said that he had no authority to remove it. What a terrible way to start a trip...it left a bad taste in my mouth for that property and MGM-Mirage Resorts in general. Shortly after, the resort fees were at all MGM properties. Prior to that trip, I had been a decent MGM player, I was consistently at the 2nd tier level, and favored MGM, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and New York, New York as my casinos of choice for not just gambling, but also dining, drinking, and sleeping. After the conclusion of that trip, I became a Total Rewards loyalist. My next few strip stays were at Bally's, and I even got to the point of exchanging Christmas cards with a video poker host there. When Caesars falsely announced to the world that I had requested they add resort fees to their properties, I was crushed. I had decidced that after that MGM Signature stay, I would never pay a reosrt fee ever again. Convictions are very important to me...if you don't believe me, I went to eat at a restuarant last week, walked in the door, heard Dave Matthews on the speakers, turned around, got in my truck, and went somewhere else. El Cortez and Golden Nugget became my new homes. I have not stayed on the strip since Caesars implemented resort fees...and it's likely that I probably will not again.

I finally broke down and paid a resort fee, at The D. The only reason I felt OK about this is because 1. Derek Stevens actually had the gonads to give Vegasgang a candid interview about why he did it, 2. the overwhelming and incredibly generous hospitality him and Nicole have shown this group year after year.

I used to be a minimum 4 times a year Vegas visitor. Logistically, that's not an easy thing for me. From where I live, it's a 4 hour drive to the nearest airport that flies to Vegas, then a 4.5 hour flight from there. About 2 years ago, I got so sick of all the new fees, bad gaming conditions, and poor customer service, that I cut my trips back to twice a year...once for a yearly work convention, once for VIMFP. I am no longer spending my vacation dollars in Vegas. I still listen to all of the podcasts, read every word posted on this site, and interact with lots of "Vegas" people on twitter...but, my passion for it has diminished severely...which is a real shame because I'm kinda at a point in my life where I am much more flexible with my work schedule, and I have more disposable income to spend on vacations. When Vegas became more about pleasing shareholders than pleasing customers, my desire to be a part of that died a quick death.

On my past 6 Vegas trips, I've spent 100% of my gambling budget downtown, 100% of my hotel budget downtown, and the majority of my eating and drinking budget downtown...the only exception being at least one visit to Cosmopolitan every trip. I would lay heavy odds that my nest 6 trips will be the same. That being said, if paid parking, weekend surge drink pricing, and no call drinks at a luxury property become the standard for the town, there's a pretty good chance I might not have 6 more trips in me. I really hope that's not the case.

Viva Tunica (where I can stay without a resort fee, play decent odds, and get whatever drink I am in the mood for)!!


Between taking away decent booze, removing comps from table games players, and charging all sorts of things under Scott, from Bellagio's guise - this new plan is a giant load of crap. Megamaid has gone from blow, to suck, as in suck the remaining money out of the people who do not realize what is happening to them.

MGM is so short-sighted to realize that short term profit gains through this program are not going to be worth it in the long term. People will wize up, much like the gamblers who realized that downtown lets their gambling money go farther. Those that don't, will eventually run out of disposable income to spend at Jimbo's Palaces and stop coming. What will they do then? Savvy customers have already proven they will not come back unless the conditions are right, ala Uncle Sheldon and his foray into removing comps earlier.

It is kind of sad that monetization has taken over the Strip to the point that I don't miss going there at all. Off-strip and Downtown places have become my places to visit. I won't stop going to Vegas, but I will stop going to many places I enjoyed. At least I will have the memories of how things used to be. Sadly, I'll turn into the #GOML guy and tell stories about how good it used to be to the young whippersnappers.


I don't like it but certainly understand.. Everyone wants to play $5 be 3:2 s17, surrender... With a dealer getting living wage plus tips, and top shelf booze flowing then get full f&b and a comped suite in brand new casino. But the reality is these companies need to pay off some of the staggering debt. The high end play has slowed down since 2008 and the again with all the stricter anti-money laundering stuff which used to subsidize lower end play.

I just returned from my last trip to Vegas. What used to be fun and somewhat affordable is now far from being either. The last straw was spending $30 for breakfast in the Aria cafe for food that was about 1/3 the quality that I get in pretty much any diner in NJ and half the size, all with a lovely view of the construction plastic draped from the ceiling to the floor, directly in front of me. Add in the $5 bottles of water, $32 resort fees for "free" amenities that I don't use, $7 cupcakes that aren't any better than Hostess cupcakes imported from Mexico, ever-tightening gambling odds, and the fact that our demographic just doesn't really matter anymore, and it's time for my friends and I to take our annual group vacations elsewhere. This 4 day trip cost twice as much as the last one did, just 3 years ago, and I don't even drink anymore. If I still did, MGM would be out of debt, just from one long weekend.

As a table game player with a voluminous appetite for quality liquor who mostly plays at Aria...

I really, really feel unloved and underappreciated right now.

Aria has some fantastic restaurants (Sage, Serrano, Five50... I wasn't there when Carbone opened so I haven't tried it), excellent staff, and I love the style of the place.

But come on MGM, this is atrocious. First you make tolerable blackjack unavailable at less-than-green-chip levels. NOW you're taking my quality booze away?!?

Screw you, Jim Murren. And I say this as someone who LOVES Citycenter's architecture.

I gambled less this year than last year. Next year, I might simply not gamble at all. Or gamble in Macau instead. At the Wynn, which gives me free drinks.

Screwing the steady gambler is not a good business strategy. Sure, cheap drinks for low limit players, that I can understand, but players at the green chip tables should keep their quality booze.

I'm not valuable enough a customer for properties like Aria, and I realize this. For what it's worth - I neither visited Vegas, nor gambled at all until a few years ago. MGM is not interested in enticing a customer like me, which is good 'cause it isn't working. I'd like to think that my travel budget could grow, and if it does I might get a little more for it. Why should I spend/wager more if I won't get a better experience for it?

I returned from Vegas a few days ago, and I swear that I laughed out loud at some of the food and drink prices that I saw on the menus. It's not that I'm getting priced out on the Strip (I am), but my conscious simply isn't going to enjoy a $20 hamburger, or a $12 8oz beer (yes, I would). It's just not as much fun anymore.
I am quite happy with my DT mainstays (MSS and ElCo). Triple 7 has a good, cheap IPA and decent food. I like gambling there. ElCo is like a cozy second home to me, and there are TONS of good food options in the vicinity. I still visit the Strip for a day on most trips, but I can see that changing. I have great memories there and I remember when it was different, that's what hurts. But unless I'm hitting some deuces on VP, I am really not having a good time on the Strip anymore. But the Jim Murren's of the world don't really give a crap about me anyway.

After reading all of the great comments above, I couldn't resist adding fuel to the fire, eh, conversation. Ever wonder what happens with unopened alcohol left behind in a room? Well, at Bellagio, it gets added to the stock in the service bars and served. Off-brand beer may get tossed, but that unopened bottle of xyz wine you left behind just got served to Ruth from Duluth playing penny slots, and she thinks it's the best ever. And your Grey Goose, well, they got $150 for that free bottle. Trust me, everything you reported about Aria is also true at Bellagio. Sad to see the changes. Yep, shareholders rule.

Just more fodder to influence my opinon of MGM. Murren like most CEO's is under pressure from Wall Street to improve the bottom line. Rather then achieve it from top level service, great properties, and building brand loyalty, he will squeeze it by nickle and diming his customers.

Now the below 30 aged crowd will probably shrug it off, but the 35 to 55 demographic of high earners and gamblers who are looking for a higher quality experience will get tired of this.

As much as the CET devaluing of player systems comps has gone down the past 18 months, I still like my preferred pours at the bar, comp rooms, and diamond lounge drinks in LV. Once they start taking that away, there will no longer be any reason for me to frequent their properties. MGM has given me a reason now to avoid theirs. I will just watch the fountain shows, visit the conservatory, and ride their monorails on my way to other properties.

Apologies for the inelegant statement. I phone-posted it in a hurry. I'm not a mind reader; I was just trying to point out that it's an author whose journalistic integrity you've previously called into question, mostly because of employer affiliation. That was why I called it "a blog you take issue with", since at the time of a prior article you did seem to take exception with industry workers trying to also be trustable bloggers.

I like you, I hope you don't dislike me, but when things become the politics of "A likes B and C but has in the past been critical of G" my poorly developed social skills are usually the first to step on a land mine.

Used to be if you stayed at a five star property you got five star everything but from reading this I guess that isn't the case anymore. If you are going to cheap me on my drink then I may as well go to the CVS and buy my own booze, take it to my room and make use of the glasses and ice down the hall.

If it is this bad at Aria, how bad will it be at Excalibur? Only comped beer is Natty Light? Karkov Vodka? Maybe they will buy their own PGP branded "bourbon" and "scotch."

@levans. I think you bring up an interesting point. Does anyone know if these kinds of cuts could affect the star or diamond ratings? Do they even care? I would think so.

I would think that if guests knew they were getting the sub top level alcohol it may. It would decrease customer satisfaction.

I remember in the early days of AC gambling, I'd be served comp beer in a freakin' undersized plastic dixie cup. Choices were "regular" or "light," and it was usually crap beer like Natural Lite. To be fair, the dixie cup may've been law; the NJ Gaming Commission was micro-managing everything back then.

Nonetheless, I remember thinking: God, this is why I love Vegas. Name your beer and they bring it. There was a friendly and relaxed "make the player happy" attitude that extended to everyone, even low-roller VP players like myself, whether it be comp drinks of choice or inexpensive food everywhere you go. Now it's fleece everybody, all the time, with way-too-frequent crappy attitudes from employees to boot.

I think it's great that VT is trumpeting all these slimy little moves. Thanks, and please don't stop!

Lsst week could not get Makers at MGM, NYNY, or Excal also, so it definitely appears across the board. CET was still comping it, which is nice.

My DH & I spent Thanksgiving at the Delano, playing tables and slots at Mandalay Bay, Luxor, MGM, and Mirage during our visit. No drink issues on Friday at MGM or Mirage, but the Bartenders were studying new lists on Saturday and Sunday at the Luxor and, at least at the Luxor, we were told that the bartender could no longer comp Jameson for video play at the bar. It was only Jack, Crown, or Jim Beam. Seemed strange since Jameson is on a similar retail price point to these beverages. Also, multiple bartenders indicated that comped drinks could only include one liquor (like a rum and Coke or vodka and soda, BUT NOT a White Russian or Long Island Iced Tea)

Since Mandalay Bay did away with video blackjack at its bars (at least the two I Checked while there), I don't know if this holds true for Mandalay Bay. i was able to get a Jameson on Thursday night, but didn't approach again due to lack of games I like.

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