What are the odds of staying on budget in Las Vegas?

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. It’s an old adage that alludes to all the possible scenarios that could potentially play out on a trip to sin city. You know, gambling sprees, alcoholic binges or snap weddings at a drive through chapel. Have you seen the movie The Hangover? It’s the perfect example. As Las Vegas has changed over the years, so too has the meaning of the catch phrase. What stays in Vegas these days? Mostly your money.

Scene from the Hangover in Vegas

“It was the best breakfast ever, but it cost us $54,” said Tara Macdonald, raving about the chorizo sausage hash and French toast combo she enjoyed inside the Linq Hotel, at the very popular Hash House A Go Go, which boasts the “best brunch in Las Vegas” on its website. “Try our world-famous fried chicken waffle tower,” it reads.

Indeed, the menu looks amazing. The French toast, for instance, is served with cinnamon, heaps of almonds and bananas, and was covered with copious amounts of syrup. The portions were huge, and she couldn’t finish her plate.

“The lady driving cab laughed at me. She said she never comes to the strip, only for work, because it’s too expensive. Then she told me she can get breakfast for a buck-fifty just across the bridge. That made me rethink my Linq experience,” she laughed.

The high cost of your morning meal is just one illustration of how Las Vegas has been trying to nickel and dime tourists in recent years. There are many others. Everything from $5 bottle of waters to $40 valets, it all adds up. The alcoholic beverages aren’t cheap, and in many cases not free to gamblers anymore. Free-parking is a thing of the past and the major corporations, which own and operate the hotels and casinos, are also charging exorbitantly high resort fees, something Macdonald had issue with.

“I had to plead with the front-desk manager at Treasure Island, where we stayed, to take the resort fees off our bill because the pool wasn’t even open. It was one of the reasons we went there. Thankfully, he did.”

Faces & Aces

Chris Kim has been going to Las Vegas for years, and he absolutely loves the place. Intrigued and fascinated by its pomp and pageantry, the Southern California native started his own show years ago, Faces & Aces Las Vegas. It’s a podcast that delves into all the city’s nuances, the things that make it one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world.

“The beauty of Vegas is there’s so much that appeals to so many. There’s nerd stuff, there’s foodie stuff, there’s art and of course there’s gambling and alcohol. It has mass appeal, and once people arrive, they can feel the electricity. They get their second wind,” he said.

Faces and Aces Podcast

Faces and Aces is a terrific podcast that paints a picture of the city most will never see. Over the years, Kim has chatted with taxi drivers, bartenders, street performers and lounge singers, who all do their part in making the city tick. The most recent episode featured the story of Briana Hansen, an audience member, who was summoned on stage by the legendary Blue Man Group. Kim also interviewed Scarlett Christine, who performed as a showgirl in Folies Bergère and as Lance Burton’s 1st on stage assistant.

“While strip performers’ names are on the marquee, there are dozens and dozens of people who help the stars shine bright. These are the people I like to have on the show,” he said.

Fun Facts

It may be more expensive now but Las Vegas is still a great place, and people are still flocking there.

  • Did you know there were 42.5 million visitors to Las Vegas last year? It’s big business.
  • More than 100,000 people go through McCarran International Airport every day, not to mention the 530,000 flights per year.
  • The average gambler wagers more than $500 per trip.
  • The Adventure Dome at the famed Circus Circus gets about 3.2 million visitors a year, each at $40 bucks a ticket.

Ready for this? According to the Las Vegas Sun, the cost of the most expensive burger in Las Vegas is $5,000. The Fleurburger 5000 at Fleur in Mandalay Bay. It is made with wagyu beef, foie gras and truffles, and is served with a bottle of 1995 Château Petrus 5000. In 2019, 26 people ponied up the 5k and ordered it. That’s one high rollin’ hamburger.

Fleurburger Vegas

5 Tips to Navigate Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) says that 1 person in 5 (6.5 million) visit Las Vegas for the first time every year. Kim understands their plight, and has provided these five simple tips to help navigate the city:

  1. Maximize your budget. If you purchase your attractions and show tickets ahead of time online, sites like tix4tonight.com or groupon.com, usually provide good deals and discounts.
“I was just booking a room at The Plaza. Its website suggested I could book for $99 a night. When I went to Groupon the same room was $79 a night and it came with $10 free play, 2-for-1 drinks, free coffee and entries into free drawings. A little research can help save money and stretch the budget,” Kim said. 
  1. Gamble where the odds are the best. On the strip, the Cromwell has decent gaming odds (3:2 blackjack, double zero roulette). However, the best gaming odds can be found in downtown. A handy app like Betmingo can also help you find what you’re looking for.
  2. Plan some meals off strip. You’ll spend less and the food is just as good as some celebrity chef restaurants you’ll find on the strip. Spring Mountain Road has a ton of excellent Asian food (Magal is a favorite for Korean BBQ). Also, great happy hour deals can be found at off strip places like Cleaver and Herbs & Rye.
  3. Have a plan. Research things you want to do and see, places you want to eat, etc. That way, you don’t spend all your time and money inside the casino.
  4. Be flexible. If plans go out the window, be okay with it. Vegas is a “go where the moment takes you” kind of town.

…French toast anyone?

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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