I’m a Southern California native, and Las Vegas has always been one of the easiest getaway locations around. My parents used to take me and my siblings every year and I remember having fun playing the carnival-style games at Circus Circus as a kid. It also happens to be the gambling center of the world, and there are plenty of shows, restaurants, and other things to keep you busy there as well.
Unfortunately, Vegas has become expensive again after the dirt-cheap rates they had in the years following the recent recession. Rooms on the weekend now cost $200+ a night if you stay at the nicer places on the strip, and can be even higher if there’s a convention of some sort (which is always a possibility). Thankfully a few years back I unintentionally stumbled upon a way to get complimentary free nights, resort credits, and more, and I’ve experimented over the last couple of years to see what works best.
First, let me show you the offers I’ve received just from July 1 to August 1:
I received a whopping nine offers during the month of July, which is usually peak season. Some of these offers had travel dates into the Fall, but I personally prefer that time of year as it starts to cool down a bit. So…how did I earn all these? Bear with me as I explain how I figured this out and how you can replicate it.
In the past I posted about a way to manufacture spend online through a fantasy sports website, which I considered to be gambling (although the government does not consider it to be). Let me say right now that I’m not a fan of gambling, but I don’t consider my method below to be “real” gambling. You’ll see why as you read on.
How to Get Comps in Vegas – Stumbling Upon the Answer
In 2011 I was in Vegas and just walking around Circus Circus waiting for a friend to finish up playing blackjack. I’m not really into gambling so I wasn’t interested in joining, but while I was waiting I decided to drop $20 into a nearby penny slot machine. I know I know…slot machines are like throwing money away. Every penny I put into a slot machine is money that I expect to lose. If you’re hoping to win money…you shouldn’t. You’re probably going to lose it. That’s how these casino owners can build 4,000 room hotels in the middle of the desert and still make massive of profits. But over the next ten minutes I happened to win $100.
I went back to the MGM Grand where I was staying. I decided that the $100 was free money, so I might as well spend some time at the casino and blow it on slots again. I found the same penny slot game and over the next 2 hours my $100 turned into $500. Normal people would stop there, but I’m anything but normal. I didn’t really feel like going home with gambling winnings (again, I’m not a fan) so I upped my bet to the max on the penny slot, which was about $5/spin. After doing this a few minutes, a casino worker noticed me and yelled “Hey! You need a player’s club card!” I replied “I’m not really into that sort of thing,” and she said “But you’re betting so much money!” She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and she literally signed me up on the spot and handed me the card. I inserted it and continued playing that night and the next day. Eventually it was time to go home, and I was back down to a $100 winnings. That was totally fine with me, as I got plenty of time in at the machines and it turned out to be somewhat fun.
Over the next year, I received email after email and letter after letter from MGM resorts offering me free nights, free play, and all kinds of other complimentary benefits to come back to Vegas. I knew immediately that it was because of the Mlife membership I signed up for combined with the amount of money I was playing with. I took them up on a few of the offers and didn’t play slots again. The offers mostly dried up after the one year mark.
I went back to Vegas again (I go about 2-3 times a year) and, as a self-proclaimed travel hacker, decided to test the system to see how much I need to play with to actually earn me comps again. I played with $150 this time. I lost it all over several hours of playing (again, I always expect to lose every penny I put into a slot machine). The offers started coming in again, though not as strong as before – it was mostly discounted rates, free play, resort credits, or show tickets. I went back on one of these offers, which included free play (basically they match your money up to a certain amount) and spent another $200. I lost it all as expected, but the offers that came my way were much, much better after that.
The process of earning comps comes down to these two things: 1) Time spent gambling; 2) Total money wagered per hour. It’s not that complicated from that perspective, but each casino calculates comps its own way based on your play. The one thing that’s certain is that casinos love slot machine players more than anyone else. Why? Because slot machine players almost always lose money! The casinos run a (very profitable) business, so they want people that will come and provide them with profits. Slot machine players are the best at doing that, so they want them to return to the casino as much as possible.
Over the last year I continued to maintain that same amount of play – about $400 total a year on slots, playing slowly (maximizing my time in front of the machine), and on most occasions losing all the money.
Let me be clear here – the comps I earned shouldn’t be considered true comps. That $300-$400 a year I’m spending is essentially in return for the “comps” I earn in the future. The difference is, however, that the value of the comps I receive are far, far in excess of that $300-$400. It’s rare that I pay for a room in Vegas anymore – the only time is if I’m staying on an Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts Rate.
Maximizing Your First Time
If you’re going to Vegas and not using points, I recommend booking your hotel room using the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program. You’ll get early check-in, free breakfast, a $100 resort credit, and late check-out among other benefits. There are several MGM/Mlife properties (my recommended properties and program) on this list, but the Palazzo is also a good option. The $100 resort credit will help keep your Vegas costs down.
I also recommend MGM properties because of Hyatt status recognition. The standard/free Hyatt status gets you Mlife Sapphire tier status, Hyatt Platinum status ties to Mlife Gold, and Hyatt Diamond gets you Mlife Platinum status. These will get you Mlife tier multiplier credits (basically more comps for playing) plus food/shopping discounts and other benefits. You can see all Mlife benefits here.
Most of my offers have come from Mandalay Bay, which leads me to think they have low occupancy compared to other resorts. I don’t know if it will have an impact, but playing slots there might help if that’s possible. Most of my play comes at other casinos for reference.
Summary and Key Takeaways
Spending money and time at slot machines is the best way to earn complimentary free nights and other goodies from Vegas casinos. MGM’s Mlife program is the one I’ve experimented with the most, although I’ve done the same with The Venetian/Palazzo’s Grazie program and had success. I did a bit with Total Rewards (Caesar’s Palace, etc) but it did not yield the same results in my limited trial.
- I recommend MGM’s Mlife program because they have the most hotels/casinos and because you can potentially use your Hyatt status to earn additional comps/benefits at these hotels.
- First of all, make sure your Mlife Club card (or other program if you’re at another casino) is inserted!
- Play at slot machines. Spend $300-$400 and play slowly. Expect to lose all this money!
- Remember to keep handing in your club card when you buy food, check-in to the hotel, etc. It won’t help as much as gambling/losing money, but it’s something.
- Wait for the email offers to start rolling in!
- Repeat roughly once a year, spending about $300-$400. That’s where I’ve found the sweet (suite?) spot to be.
Is this a risk? Absolutely! Technically I guess this is till gambling since you’re giving $300-$400 up front for the hope to earn complimentary nights and other benefits. It’s been working for me for years, and that small price is definitely worth paying to earn me free nights and resort credits.
I’d love to hear if anyone else has experience with this or comments on this process!