LAS VEGAS (CBS / AP) — In a city built on luring tourists with cheap thrills and free cocktails, a big part of the Las Vegas Strip will soon slash away its most basic freebie: parking.
MGM Resorts International will announce Friday that it will become the first major casino company to start charging visitors for parking this year, a move that could bring in millions of dollars of revenue annually and change the landscape of the tourism hotspot that is increasingly catering to visitors who come for other pricey attractions besides gambling.
The move is a dramatic departure for both local residents and drive-in visitors who have grown accustomed to enjoying the perk of free parking when most big city venues attach a fee.
The largest hotel-casino operator in Sin City told The Associated Press that it will charge $10 or less for overnight self-parking at most of its Strip properties starting this spring, coinciding with the April opening of the company’s T-Mobile Arena.
The Las Vegas-based company has 35,310 rooms and 37,000 parking spots on the Strip, which come at a premium during major events. The parking fees will come at Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Vdara, Aria, Bellagio, The Mirage and MGM Grand.
Valet parking will cost more, but some parking at the Circus Circus hotel and the Crystals and Mandalay Bay Place shopping centers will still be free.
The company did not provide details on short-term parking fees and said its other properties, in Mississippi, Michigan and China, won’t be affected. Parking at some hotels will be cheaper than others, and Clark County residents will get a grace period.
Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the move shakes up a long-held entitlement of free parking among Las Vegans. They expect tourists to foot the bill on amenities that locals enjoy, he said.
It used to be that gambling revenue could easily offset those costs, but the focus has increasingly shifted to other offerings since Nevada stopped being the only state with legal gambling in 1978, the professor said.
That’s one reason to move to fee-based parking, because 70 percent of MGM’s revenue comes from outside the casino, including celebrity restaurants, high-end shops, shows and nightclubs, said Corey Sanders, the company’s chief operating officer.
Though MGM may be the first to disrupt the Strip’s parking model, Sanders said he believes competitors will follow suit.
“There’ll be initial backlash, but a month from now, three months from now, people will completely forget about it,” he said. “In general, these decisions are really hard decisions to make, but I think we have enough positive things to say about it and are creating enough enhancements to justify it.”
The revenue will help offset some costs of building a 3,000-space parking garage and making $36 million in upgrades to existing ones, he said.
Green said it’s surprising casinos are not already charging for parking but warned it would likely further alienate residents.
“Locals tend to increasingly feel priced out of the Strip,” he said. “It’s catering to big-money visitors, but actually it always did that. Locals just happen to get the benefits. Now there seem to be fewer benefits.”
Britney Gay, 24, of Las Vegas, said she usually chooses to park at MGM Grand’s garage but would go elsewhere because of the fee.
“Nothing is free, but still, parking is,” she said. “They need to do something free here for once in a while. Cause people come and pay their money to stay in these nice hotels. Can I get some free parking instead of free bottles of water?”
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