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10 Sneaky Ways Las Vegas Casinos Take Your Money

Published On 07/08/2016 Published On 07/08/2016
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Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Everyone knows when you hit the casinos in Las Vegas, there's a chance you're going to lose. But look out -- hotels and casinos have more methods to separate you from your cash than just those losing bets at the blackjack tables or the slots. There are numerous ways casinos hope to keep shaving cash from your bankroll, and sneaky little tactics to keep you playing longer. Check out these extra ways the casinos (and even restaurants) can soak gamblers.

Casinos are windowless traps

What time of day is it? Where is the nearest exit? Good luck finding some daylight at many mega-casinos like MGM Grand or Caesars Palace. These palatial facilities may be beautiful in a kitschy sort of way, but are designed to keep you numb to the outside world. While some newer Vegas casinos like the Cosmopolitan are getting away from this type of design, many still hope to leave you in casino purgatory with a maze-like design of games, shopping, and restaurants, where there's nothing else to do but give up your cash.

Good luck cashing out

Need chips? That's easy. Need to cash out? It always seems that the casino cage is hard to find, requiring a walk deep into the casino -- past many other games and temptations. And once you find it, often there is a line with only one person there to service those who want to trade their chips in for cash. The casino keeps enticing you with more action, a bite to eat, or a visit to the gift shop.

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Chips don't seem like real money

Julius "Big Julie" Weintraub -- a Vegas legend who popularized gambling junkets from the East Coast to Sin City in the '60s and '70s -- said it best about casino chips: "The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the chip was a genius." There's just something about those colorful chips. They don't seem like real money and are easier to risk than real cash -- and the casinos know it. It's as if you're not really playing with your own money. Some people even collect the chips and take them home, which is just free money for the casino.

Wild carpets keep your eyes on the prize

This is one of those tiny design details, but you can bet that the casinos are sweating even the smallest of small stuff. That busy carpet on the casino floor is there for a reason – to keep bettors' eyes looking up. That means seeing slots, craps, blackjack, the sports book, etc. No navel-gazing or staring at the hideous floor -- the casino wants your thoughts on gambling.

Careful who you learn from

Many casinos offer free lessons on how to play the games -- but the casino doesn't exactly have a ton of incentive to teach the best bets that give players the best chance to win. Better advice? Seek out a book or other source online with strategies to take advantage of the better betting options at the tables and slots -- such as pass-line bets with odds at the craps table and basic strategy at blackjack.

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There's no such thing as free booze

Nothing in life is free. The casinos know a few Buds or gin & tonics are more likely to keep bettors at the tables or feeding cash into the slot machines. And who tends to win in the long run? You guessed it, the casinos. And while the casinos have gotten tighter with free drinks, there's a reason Vegas casinos raked in $11 billion in 2015. Those free drinks help add to that total. You don't have to be a teetotaler, but a night of heavy imbibing could lead to another trip to that ATM.

Cash advance leads to winless trance

One of the worst ideas in a casino is to use a credit card cash advance -- using that charge card to continue at the blackjack table or Lucky 7's slot machine. This is a bad idea. You're already down, so now you're going to chase lost money by putting debt on a credit card? First off, the casino charges a percentage for this "convenience" and the card company also charges a hefty percentage -- plus the interest rate for carrying over debt on a card. If the thought of a cash advance enters your mind, it's time to head to the Bellagio for the fountain show or the Mirage for the volcano show -- both are free. Better yet, avoid the temptation at all – the airport might be the best option.

Dirty hidden fees, part one

Many casino hotels charge what are called "resort fees" -- daily charges tacked on to the hotel bill for "resort amenities" rather than just including them in the cost of the hotel room -- which is just a way to bump up what you thought was a reasonable bill. Imagine you've taken a beating at the tables for a few days and then the casino hits you with another $50 upon departure. "This is one of the worst," says Anthony Curtis with LasVegasAdvisor.com. "The fee should be transparently included in the rate. Only a few casinos no longer charge the resort fee." 

Dirty hidden fees, part two

There are plenty of great restaurants in Vegas and plenty of places to eat in Vegas for $10 or less -- but on of the most infuriating practices for a few restaurants, especially on the Strip, is the Concession and Franchise Fee (known as a CNF) -- sticking it to diners for an extra 4.7% on every bill. What's it for? When your bill comes, the restaurant adds a surprise charge for such things as "prime real estate locations." Really? And it's applied to an entire bill -- including taxes -- a tax on a tax!

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The club you don't want to be a part of

Joining the  players club at casinos will earn you "cash back" or "player points" -- the more you gamble, the more perks and points you get, redeemable for things like merchandise, free room and meal comps, or cool jackets. But remember the big picture -- these clubs are designed to keep players at the tables and slot machines longer. Curtis argues that players should always join the clubs to get something back, but the casinos wouldn't offer these programs if they weren't getting the better end of the deal. Don't defy logic by losing hundreds of dollars to earn points that score you a beer koozie.

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Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. Email him at seanchaffin@sbcglobal.net or follow him @PokerTraditions. His poker book is Raising the Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering & Poker Faces and it's available on Amazon.com.

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