How to live the high life in Vegas for free

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The Independent Culture
THE IDEA has got around that you can stay in Las Vegas and have a good time for free, writes David Spanier. Well you can certainly live in Vegas better - and at less cost - than anywhere in America.

I am not talking of the obvious route of being a high roller. Although if you are a big player, nothing is too much trouble for your eager hosts. A suite at the new MGM or Caesar's Palace, with steam room, jacuzzi, grand piano and spiral staircase up to a four-poster bed is just for starters. To get this kind of treatment, a player would probably need a credit line at the casino cage of dollars 50,000. What is not so well known is that even low-level players can qualify for 'comps', which may be worth up to 40 per cent (the standard rate) of the house's expected win on their action. A player who bets dollars 25 a hand at blackjack and plays for four hours, which gives the house an expected win of dollars 100, can expect to receive dollars 40 in comps.

All that is required is to tell the pit boss in advance and ask to be 'rated'. The same goes for slot machines, where players are given a plastic card which records their play. Why not take it? Whatever you get back in free meals or entertainment cuts the cost of your trip. The catch is, you have to play.

Most beguiling of all are the many little extras which ordinary visitors can benefit from on any three-day trip. They include cut-price rooms, free drinks and free plays at the tables. To get on the inside track, all you need is Bargain City, an entertaining little book by local author Anthony Curtis.

I can vouch for his expertise at getting perfectly legal 'freebies', because I have seen him in action. In one run, Curtis racked up dollars 108 profit from free bets, plus souvenirs, show tickets, popcorn and numerous cocktails.

The technique is to make use of casino coupons or 'funbooks', which casinos hand out to their guests. These include all kinds of incentives to encourage you to gamble, such as coupons for a free bet at dice, blackjack or keno, discounts for meals and shows, and special offers.

While not to everyone's taste, such 'lucky bucks', as they are known, should not be despised - especially the free bets, such as 2-1 on an even- money chance. The limit is usually set at dollars 5 but the process can often be repeated at different places. If you could do this 100 times at dice - (which of course you can't - the net profit to the player would be dollars 235.

Bargain City by Anthony Curtis (Huntingdon Press), dollars 15 including postage from: 5280 South Valley View Blvd., Suite B, Las Vegas, Nevada 89118, USA.