I’ve been to Las Vegas approximately 12 times in 4 years…yeah, I have a problem…but in my opinion, it’s a great problem to have. There is nothing more fun that being in a city where anything you want to do is available to you 24 hours a day.
During my many trips out there I’ve had the good fortune to stay (almost always comped) at: Imperial Palace, Paris, Caesar’s Palace, Rio, Flamingo, and Venetian. But where I’ve most enjoyed staying is at Bally’s.
A Brief History: Bally’s was originally ‘MGM Grand’ when it was first built in 1973. Owned by casino mogul Kirk Kerkorian, the (then) MGM Grand suffered such a devastating fire in 1980 (killing 85 patrons/employees) that fire codes for hotels were changed worldwide. The casino was eventually sold to Bally Entertainment (hence the name change), and as subsequently been bought and sold, although it has retained it’s name.
I just love Bally’s for intangible reasons that are probably only important to me.
- It’s smaller/simpler. I’m not using smaller or simpler in a pejorative sense. I mean, it isn’t over done like Wynn, Venetian, Caesar’s or the newly opened Cosmopolitan. It truly targets the middle class gambler, both with regard to their age and their income. I don’t get lost in Bally’s like I do the other behemoth casinos. I like that it’s not trying to be anything that will be “tired” in 10 years. It just “is”.
- Decent (Not Great) Games. Ok, so this is one that I have harped on in blogs and podcasts: Pay Schedules! I admit, the video poker pay tables have been lowered, but not entirely decimated. I played on a 7/5 progressive Bonus Poker machine on my last trip out. Sure 7/5 lowers the payback schedule from something like 99.17% or 98%-ish but with it being a progressive, it does moderately improve the payback. That said, it’s not the 6/5 BP I played next door at Planet Hollywood.
- Drink Service. There is a cocktail waitress named “Diane” whom my wife and I have come to know as a friend. She knows exactly what we drink, brings the drinks in large glasses, and quickly. Jason and I experienced a server who wasn’t Diane and she wouldn’t let us have another drink until we’d finished our current cocktail. That’s a bunch of bull—-! Gimmie my drink, woman, or no tip for you! With Diane, that’s not even an issue…why? Because I’ve built a relationship with Diane over the past 4 years and she’s more a friend than a server. A friend would never require you to finish your drink before providing a fresh cocktail.
- Caesar’s Entertainment. Ok, so some people might argue this is a severe bad thing. I don’t. I’m willing to take a lower pay schedule in return for Bally’s being part of a nationwide company where I can stay/play anywhere they (Caesar’s) has a casino, knowing that my comped rooms will allow me to use them in Vegas (and vice versa). I’m willing to trade off a “Full Pay” video poker machine for the opportunity to stay in dozens of locations around the country for free.
- No Douchebags. You know who they are. They’ve got on Ed Hardy, are usually from L.A., have tattoos, greased back hair, tight T-shirts and are wearing their sunglasses inside. They seem to flock to Rio, Hard Rock, Venetian, Planet Hollywood, Caesar’s, Palms and (to a lesser extent) Wynn. You know where they don’t hang out? Bally’s! I can only assume it’s because it’s not hip enough for them and/or it has no nightclub. For whatever their reasoning, it’s a DB-free safety zone!
- Smoke. Jason, my wife, even I have never had a problem lighting up a fine cigar (Jason/me) or a cigarette (my wife) while we’ve been there. It’s not a smoky casino, but I’ve seen plenty of patrons light up a quality smoke with ZERO grief given by neither the employees nor the gamblers. They appreciate Vegas is one of the last bastions of smoking happiness.
- $20 Tip. It works. Every time. Nuff said.
You may or may not find Bally’s to be your cup of tea. I appreciate the rooms aren’t as swank as Caesar’s, Venetian or Wynn, but taking the totality of the circumstances, even between a comped Caesar’s room versus a comped Bally’s room…Bally’s would be our first choice.
(I’m a 33 year old attorney and my wife is a 29 year old psychology Master’s student, so it’s not like we’re 85 years old looking for some place quiet to rest our oxygen tanks).