The big news Friday was that MGM would start charging for parking at its Las Vegas resorts. It seems there are few exceptions to the new policy. Only M Life players, presumably active ones at higher tiers, will receive free parking as a comp. Hotel guests will even be charged the fee that will be in the area of $10 per day. Exact figures are not yet available.
Valet and self parking will both have fees. Self parking is excluded from the policy at Circus Circus and two shopping districts.
Downtown Las Vegas already charges for parking
Many locals immediately complained about the new policy. Las Vegas residents already deal with paying for parking at downtown casinos. The city owns a deck, as well as most individual properties.
Parking structures collect fees in one of two ways. Some lots collect the fee when the car arrives. El Cortez and Main Street Station are examples. Others charge an hourly rate. Plaza, Golden Nugget and Binion’s are included in this option.
All of these downtown casinos have one thing in common. Each will comp parking if you patronized the establishment. This usually includes gambling and dining. Hotel guests never pay for parking. The roll out of parking fees has not stopped locals from visiting.
MGM Resorts can learn from downtown Las Vegas
The initial press release includes vague information about how free parking will be handled. It says there will be a grace period for locals and that some M Life players will receive free parking as a benefit. One conclusion to draw is that the policy is not decided.
MGM parking was a hot topic on Friday after the announcement. Players were concerned about giving action to MGM properties and getting stuck with a $10 parking fee when leaving, maybe after losing all of their money. Being forced to pay for parking after losing a few hundred dollars is an experience that may drive players away. This cannot happen in downtown Las Vegas as minimal play gets parking comped. Hopefully MGM Resorts will use this model.
Smaller Las Vegas Strip poker rooms depend on locals to help get games started. Large poker rooms still have a number of locals in the action. Charging poker players $10 to park could deter them from visiting. There are plenty of local poker rooms with decent action. If MGM does not permit poker rooms to comp parking, it could hurt traffic. Small rooms like Luxor, Excalibur and Mandalay Bay would be the most affected. Any drop in traffic for these set of rooms on the south end of the Strip could end in a closure. There is already a case that Luxor is unnecessary with two other rooms within a short walk.
Another thought is that hotel guests will be unhappy about getting hit with this fee. It is logical to conclude that a resort fee would cover parking. It always has in the past. It also seems restaurants and nightclub patrons will get hit with the fee.
Will other Las Vegas Strip casinos follow?
That is the big question. MGM Resorts is using the $90 million parking investment as a reason to charge for parking. Others may not be able to make the same excuse. Competitors that try to charge without making any improvements may receive more of a backlash from customers, especially older properties that do not offer quality parking structures. This may also be a chance for competitors to advertise free parking for locals. Tropicana already does this with a special lot reserved for those with a Nevada license plate.
MGM Resorts needed to address the parking situation created by its new arena. Most of the casinos in that area are owned by MGM Resorts. Properties farther north on the Strip will not have the same parking problems caused by large events, another argument against charging for parking.
Parking fees are the new resort fee. It will be interesting to see which casinos jump on the bandwagon in 2016. Competitors will be watching to see how angry customers are. If free parking turns out to be a reason guests book with Caesars over MGM, it is unlikely that adding a $10 fee will pay off in the long run.