It's been almost a year since MGM Resorts rolled out parking fees at its 12 Las Vegas properties, and the internet roared its terrible roar and gnashed its terrible teeth via angry tweets, Facebook rants and even a change.org petition.
Online, some visitors threatened to swear off Vegas for good, while others scolded MGM for its corporate greed and vowed to redirect their spending elsewhere. Savvier observers wondered if the MGM initiative would ignite a trend, spreading paid-parking kiosks up and down the Strip.
At the time, Caesars Entertainment declined to comment on the possibility of adopting a pay-to-park system, but 10 months later, on Nov. 29, the company announced its own plan to roll out valet and self-parking fees beginning later this month.
"Our priority is to ensure that our hotel guests, local residents and Total Rewards loyalty members have an improved parking experience," said Caesars Entertainment president of hospitality Bob Morse via a release. "Guests who stay, game and shop at our resorts have said that parking spaces and valet services have become increasingly scarce, so we believe that implementing a paid parking program while also investing in LED parking guidance systems will help address these issues."
Under the program, valet parking at the Linq, Harrah's and Flamingo will run $8 for up to four hours and $13 for four to 24 hours and each additional day. At Bally's, Caesars Palace, the Cromwell, Paris and Planet Hollywood valet parking will cost $13 for up to four hours and $18 for four to 24 hours and each additional day.
The company has not released the pricing structure for self-parking, though local residents and Total Rewards loyalty members rated Platinum or above will continue to self-park for free. The latter will also receive free valet parking. Only the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, located just off the Strip on Flamingo Road, will retain complimentary valet and self-parking for all guests.
Soon after Caesars revealed its program, Wynn and Encore jumped on the bandwagon, announcing paid valet service beginning midmonth starting at $13 for the first four hours, with days or partial days thereafter at $18. Self-parking (for now) remains gratis. Cosmopolitan was the next to follow suit, announcing paid valet and self-parking beginning in early 2017. Valet will follow the same pricing structure as the Wynn, and self-parking will cost $7 for the first four hours and $10 for longer stays and additional days. As at Caesars, loyalty club members will be eligible for free parking depending on their status level.
While the Caesars plan was met with the expected digital whining and some hand-wringing over casino monopolies and the lack of competition on the Strip, where together Caesars and MGM account for more than 20 different properties, reaction was much diminished from the furor invoked by MGM's paid parking debut.
Perhaps that's because Vegas has already called the bluff of so many tourists who claimed that having to hand over cash for a parking spot would keep them away. Through the first 10 months of 2016, more than 36 million people visited Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, putting the city on track to beat the record 42.3 million guests who arrived in town last year. Regardless of how they felt about the Strip's parking policies, people still showed up.
That's good news, but it also means that adding a price tag may not solve Caesars' apparent parking woe: essentially that there simply isn't enough. With Strip visitation at record levels, charging for a spot in a garage or to leave your keys with the valet doesn't change the fact that more people likely means vehicles fighting for the same real estate.
Perhaps its time to consider a solution focused on giving guests a functional alternative to renting a car rather than just somewhere to park it.