If you’ve been to Las Vegas in the past year you may have noticed that your adult beverages have been lacking. Some casino operators mandate that bartenders use less alcohol for mixed drinks than your bar at home. There are also some casino bars that use drink monitoring systems to ensure customers “earn” complimentary drinks. Las Vegas today isn’t the free wheeling and drink slinging town it used to be.
Thankfully, for video poker players the complimentary drinks at casino bars aren’t too difficult to earn. You’ll have to keep up a decent pace of play but the green light stays on or the drink tickets flow as long as you keep playing. Personal experience has shown me that this is more annoying than a serious problem.
Keeping the pace of play up only ensures a complimentary drink at casino bars. Earning a complimentary drink doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive what you ask for. If you enjoy mixed drinks you may not be receiving the type of alcohol that you request. This actually affects anyone in a casino that orders complimentary drinks. Some of these problems will even affect customers even if they’re buying drinks.
Short Pours And Liquor Swaps
For years it’s been a rumor that casinos are serving off brands, swapping liquor, or watering down drinks. The casino operators are starting to offer a little transparency about the how they serve adult beverages.
Last year MGM Resorts stated that they only pour 1.25 ounces of alcohol in each mixed drink. The normal pour for a mixed drink is usually 1.50 ounces. In a story that’s been removed by a local TV station, MGM Resorts claimed that other properties are short pouring drinks too. The original story is quoted here. The most recent story about the topic from that TV station can be found here.
The short pours effect paid and complimentary drinks. You may have noticed weak or strange tasting mixed drinks at some casinos. If a customer pays for a drink they’re actually getting about 16% less alcohol and paying more than a local bar.
More recently casino bars have taken offered a little transparency with their skimpy cocktails. Some casinos have installed signs to say that say they “reserve the right to swap out your alcohol.” If you’re fond of a particular brand this can be annoying. On the extreme side, this could make some people sick or cause an allergic reaction.
I ran into the liquor swap problem during my summer vacation. Even after asking which whiskey/bourbon/scotches were complimentary my friend and I were served something completely different. It wasn’t until we requested the bartender pour the drink out of the bottle that one of us received the correct drink.
Making The Switch
When I first started visiting casinos I used to almost exclusively drink mixed vodka drinks. In recent years I switched to a glass of a brown booze (whiskey, bourbon, scotch) with four ice cubes. I’ve realized that the switch is happening again.
The best boozy bang for your buck in casinos today to drink beer. The casino operators may limit the choices but they aren’t swapping beer out of the bottle. Beer in the bottle has the amount of alcohol that’s on the label. Hopefully, we’re not giving them any ideas.
Drinking wine is an option to get max alcohol from casino bars. However, unless you order and pay for a premium glass you’ll get whatever cheap stuff they have handy. This is probably fine for someone just looking for booze. If you have a preference it could be an issue.
Las Vegas has changed a lot over the years. Most casino operators are now billion dollar corporations. These companies must increase year over year revenue and profits for their shareholders. They not only look to maximize profits but to eliminate waste and cut expenses wherever possible. Sadly this is just how corporations work.
The sky isn’t falling but this is just something to be aware of when visiting Las Vegas.


Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gaming and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Check out his blog at Edge Vegas.
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