A fascinating article in the LA Times details how casinos in Las Vegas are eliminating free parking. For those in the know, that will also spell the end of free parking when traveling from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS).
We’ve seen fundamental changes in Las Vegas over the years as it updates its business model to reflect evolving consumer preferences. The days where free drinks, free food, cheap rooms, and ample complimentary parking were used to draw in gamblers is waning. Younger generations don’t enjoy spending time in smoke-filled casinos spending money in a way in which “the house” invariably wins.
Las Vegas’s renaissance centers on fine dining and great shows: a new choice for a new generation. Shows have been available for decades, but were secondary to gambling. Not anymore. Thus, like most fine dining establishments or fancy theaters, hotel operators are wising up to another revenue opportunity: charging for parking.
I remember way back in 2002 driving to Las Vegas with my brother and John for the first time. We parked for free at the Luxor and I distinctly recall being puzzled that there were no tickets and parking was free. But that was the Vegas way. It worked for decades.
Starting today, though, MGM Resorts International will begin charging locals for parking and have already been charging visitors for a few months. Other hotels are following suit.
The End of “Free” Parking at Las Vegas Airport (LAS)
Residents are fuming that casinos are eliminating free parking because that means an end to what amounted to essentially free parking when they travelled.
With no parking enforcement inside casinos, residents would park their cars — often at MGM which was closest — and leave it, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. The cost of cab ride is $12 from MGM to the airport and Uber is even less. That sure beats $10/day for economy parking or $16/day for long-term parking at the airport.
MGM claims the costs are necessary to pay for upgrades and end parking abuse:
[MGM Spokesman Gordon] Absher said that the parking wasn’t free for the hotel to provide, and that the cost of upgrading and maintaining the garages and structures made the move necessary. He also said that the parking structures had long-been “misused.”
“You wouldn’t believe the number of cars that had been parked for weeks,” he said. “People were storing vehicles there, taking taxis to the airport from there or parking and then walking to their job.”
MGM Resorts spends $30 million annually on parking structure maintenance for 37,000 spots. The upgrades at some of the properties have included the rows of red and green lights that let motorists know if an aisle has open spots. That cuts down on constant circling and congestion inside the lots.
I question the high cost of maintenance, but understand the hotel no longer wishes to subsidize locals who use its parking structures to skirt airport parking costs.
Where You Can Still Park for Free in Las Vegas
There are still a handful of hotels who will not charge you for parking. Those include:
- Circus Circus
- Treasure Island
There may be more — feel free to comment below if you have any recent experience with this.
Locals will hate this trend more than visitors. I’ve driven from LA to Las Vegas on several occasions over the years and even $10-15/night for parking makes me more likely to fly into Vegas now. Plus that AMEX lounge…