Call it the a-park-a-lypse.
Its origins can be traced back two years to early 2016 when MGM Resorts announced a "major parking strategy" that included new and renovated garages and the implementation of parking fees for the very first time.
Despite a mighty backlash that included a change.org petition and a Facebook group dedicated to boycotting the company, the payment kiosks were installed as planned in most MGM lots, the exit gates were lowered and the universe did not end. And then the most predictable thing in the world happened: Other casinos followed suit.
Once-unthinkable fees spread up and down the Strip and ballooned in price. By the end of 2016, Caesars Entertainment had jumped on the paid parking bandwagon, the Cosmopolitan had announced its own fee system and Wynn Resorts had rolled out valet pricing, followed by self-parking charges last August. Las Vegas Sands has been the notable holdout, maintaining complimentary garages and valet at both the Venetian and Palazzo.
Elsewhere on the Strip, however, the cost of a spot has climbed. Today, you'll pay $18 to park your own car for a night at MGM's luxury properties, the Aria and the Bellagio, and $30 per day to valet. At Caesars Palace, it's $15 for 24-hour self-parking and $23 for valet.
Though a barrage of dissatisfaction has greeted these changes — with locals and visitors alike bemoaning the violation of a closely held norm that casinos would offer freebies like drinks and valet to get gamblers in the door — that outpouring of frustration hasn't made an identifiable impact. Until now, that is.
Last week, Wynn announced an end to paid self-parking for overnight visitors and a new validation program for non-hotel guests and locals.
"We have come to believe that charging additional parking fees is counter to the personalized service we provide," said Wynn Las Vegas president Maurice Wooden via press release. "This new policy directly reflects the way we know our guests want and deserve to be treated."
Under the policy, which will launch July 1, parking is included in the resort fee for overnight guests. Patrons not bunking in the property's bronze towers can be validated for free parking with a $50 spend, applicable to all restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, retail and on the casino floor.
"We believe that $50 is an approachable amount for a majority of our guests to enjoy the benefits of complimentary parking," said chief marketing officer Michael Weaver, who added that the resort fee would not be increased to account for self-parking of hotel guests.
The changes will likely be welcome news for Wynn patrons and perhaps can be seen as the first consumer-driven move in a goodwill campaign for the company after a tumultuous start to 2018. Free parking won't erase the cloud of founder Steve Wynn's resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct, but it may bring a little fresh sunshine to the Strip resort.