Have you been Downtown lately? Where do you park? Old-timers might be confused by that question. If there was ever anything you could hang your hat on in Las Vegas, it’s free parking, especially Downtown. But no more.
Most Downtown casinos, which used to offer free parking, now charge a fee to park in their garages. It’s reimbursed if you’re a customer who’s staying, dining or gambling there, but you have to make sure you’re doing one of those things if you don’t want to pay—no more validating on the machine at the cage.
An exception of sorts is the Downtown Grand. You have to qualify there, too, but the arrangement is different. The Grand has a parking garage across Ogden that many ignore, but it’s actually very convenient to all parts of Downtown. The qualifying catch is that you have to be a player’s club member at a tier above entry level. Once you are, parking is free at anytime and for (reasonably) as long as you like. If you already have a Silver or Black card, you qualify. If you don’t, you can reach the Silver level by playing $2,500 through the machines within a six-month period.
Does that sound like a lot? It really isn’t. In terms of time, it equates with about three to four hours of play on quarter machines. What that ultimately costs depends on your results—you could lose (or win) a lot playing $2,500. But as I’ve discussed in this column many times, the proper way to assess the cost of gambling is to look at the average result.
The best video poker schedule at the Downtown Grand is 8/5 Bonus Poker, which has a 99.17 percent return for perfect play. Hence, experts are playing at about a 1 percent disadvantage, pegging the cost to earn the parking pass at about $25 (.01 x $2,500). It’s difficult to play error-free, so a realistic expected return for many is probably closer to 97 percent, increasing the expected loss to $75.
A good way to look at it is you’re paying $25-$75 for a parking pass that also comes with the extras you’ll get through normal marketing. You can earn the points in accumulated sessions over a six-month period, but if you earn them in a single month, there’s a bonus of a free entry into a $250,000 slot tournament.
It’s a good deal that makes mathematical sense, but if you don’t want the risk, there’s still one pure parking play remaining Downtown. At the Plaza, you can park in the garage for free for 90 minutes. Get a ticket when you enter, then leave it in your car, because you don’t even have to validate inside. Just feed the ticket into the machine when you leave and you’re good to go.
Just like the good ol’ days, at least for an hour and a half.
Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and LasVegasAdvisor.com.