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Here's why you may not get free drinks in Las Vegas anymore

Time was Las Vegas casinos served free booze so you would stay and gamble — and maybe loosen up enough to play even more. Now a few big casino companies are shifting gears by rewarding certain gamblers and leaving others high and dry.

Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts are experimenting with technology that allows them to track how much people are spending on casino games. The idea is to serve up drinks to gamblers based on how much they spend on playing.

For now, the play-to-drink practice applies only to video poker fans at certain bars.

Caesars has installed indicator lights on the rear of video poker machines at sports bars in all nine of its properties on or near the Strip. Guests have to wager a certain amount on each hand for the “green” light to flash. Only then will bartenders serve free booze. Lower bidders have to pay if they want a splash of wine or a cocktail.

A Caesars statement describes the new policy as a “comp validation system.” The company says it enables it “to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units.”

Caesars’ system is in use not only in Las Vegas but also at Caesars resorts throughout Nevada, including properties in Laughlin, Reno and Stateline near Lake Tahoe. 

MGM Resorts is test-driving different technology at one bar at the MGM Grand and one at the Mirage.

Machines now print out free drink vouchers for gamblers who hit a certain amount of play time.

“The new technology has eliminated the guessing game for bartenders about how many drinks each guest is eligible to receive based on play,” says a prepared statement sent in an email. One free drink, however, is served as soon as a person puts money into a machine.

The statement also included this bad news for low-rollers: “We may expand this technology to other bars.”

Last June, MGM Resorts tinkered with another longtime Las Vegas perk: free parking. It now charges at its hotel resorts for self and valet parking. Caesars Entertainment has not followed suit and continues to offer free parking.

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