Starting A Fight, Part 1: Should You Spring for a Nicer Hotel?

Wynn PopeyeStarting A Fight

Vegas Bright writer Kelly Lamrock introduces the audience to a new series titled “Starting A Fight”, where he tackles various topics while defying conventional wisdom. 

I came to Vegas late – I was 41, to be precise.  I always assumed it wouldn’t be my thing.  I came to a friend’s 40th birthday party on the grounds that I should try it once.  After my first day, I just….got Vegas.  The choices, the absurdity, the anonymity, the complete lack of judgment around you – it all suited me.  Six years and thirteen trips later, I know and love this city.

Which also means…..I have developed opinions.  And if you read my bio, you’ll know I used to be a politician, so I don’t mind a good argument.  So I am launching this series called Starting A Fight.  Basically, each article I will tackle some topic where I don’t buy the conventional wisdom and I will happily tell you why.  Then, you can use the comments section to either tell me I am a bloviating idiot or to advise me that I have spoken your fondest thoughts aloud.

Just remember these ground rules – this is all in fun and there really is no wrong answer.  In all things Vegas, if you did it and had fun, then you were right.

So here’s the first bit of conventional wisdom I will throw out there, piñata-like, to whack down.  Some will say that the more you spend on a resort, the more you get.  People who aren’t staying at the Bellagio or Wynn would if they had more disposable income.  I totally disagree.  In fact, I believe there are several downmarket resorts that are much more fun than the posh resorts.

To tell you how I arrived at this conclusion, let me tell you about my one resort-switching trip.  One year, my girlfriend and I did the long distance thing.  To break up the time apart, we resolved to each fly into Vegas.  To make it worth our while for the long trips (especially hers), we booked a 13 day Vegas stay.  The first week, we were joined by a gaggle of our friends.  The last few days, she and I did the couple thing.  And our choice of resorts reflected the different settings.

For our group of friends, we all decided to stay at Bally’s because it fit everyone’s budget and was centrally located.  For our canoodling second week, my girlfriend and I had a suite at Encore reserved.  This would be the acid test – when we left aging, smoky Bally’s for the deep red tastefulness of the Wynn and Encore, would we feel relief?  Would we feel like we could never, ever go back to the way it was before we knew true Wynnian luxury?

Well, the results are in.  You don’t need me to tell you that the Wynn is an impressive resort.  It was everything you pay for and more.  The surroundings were relaxing.  It was NBA Summer League time, so there was some star watching to be done.  The pool was beautifully kept and the lounges had awesome cocktails.  The service was impeccable.  Not only was staff attentive and friendly (in that distant, smooth way of the well-trained), but there were little touches.  One time, a patron was loudly objecting to being told to leave.  Security just appeared and, through some protocol that was clearly rehearsed, the guy just…vanished.  No one grabbed him or made a stir.  He was just surrounded and walked out at an angle where he had to move.  One staffer even appeared beside us and made friendly small talk to distract from the extraction going on to our immediate right.  It was almost beautiful to watch.

If you have the bucks, I can’t tell you otherwise – the Wynn is great.  But if you ask me if I had any more fun than I did at Bally’s, well, I can’t tell you that either.

We both talked after about how we could appreciate the Wynn but still find the lower-end resort just as much fun, if not more.  Here are some things that you can often enjoy while spending a lot less:

Casino energy. The high-end resorts are classy and pricey. A $100 a hand blackjack table has two serious dudes at it.  A $10 table has rookie players, girls’ night revelers, folks ditching their trade show, laughing, noise and…fun.  Stately works for restaurants.  Casinos feed off folks happy to be there whether they are experts or not.  And don’t sweat that dude and his girlfriend standing on 15 and denying you “your card”.  That’s a myth, statistically.  Make friends and enjoy the tables where people aren’t betting enough to matter.

In and Out With Ease. The Bellagio, Caesars, MGM, and Wynn are great places if you want to spend your day at one resort. If you’re a nomad of the Strip and love to take in the atmosphere, the 15 minutes it takes to escape your hotel (or heaven forbid, run back to your room for a second) can break your mood. I like to casino hop, and so I like smaller resorts. I kind of appreciate places like Bally’s, Monte Carlo, and the Mirage where you can barrel from the elevator to the exit without having to break for libations.  Speaking of libations…..

Cheap(er) Libations and Supplies. OK, the Strip is rarely cheap.  And I am not adverse to paying for quality in a craft cocktail.  But the places where you can get a $5 shot, a $3 light beer or even a bottle of water instead of an $18 pina colada are appreciated.  Heck, sometimes you want a Jello shooter or a frozen drink in a cheesy souvenir.  Sometimes, you just need a pair of cheap sunglasses and not a Rolex.  The shopping markup is less if you stay among the mall walkers and not among the trust fund kids.  Also,

The company. This depends on your preference, but sometimes you want to be somewhere that is more comfortable than aspirational.

 The bottom line is that, while you get what you pay for in décor and amenities, sometimes you have just as much fun spending a little less on the resort and saving that money for the shows, dinners, and experiences Vegas offers.  If you’re a resort homebody and want to relax in a steady home base, the high-end places will treat you well.  But in my unpopular opinion, I’d rather not pay for the lobby of my resort.  Stay at a moderate resort, and stroll over to see the glamour when the mood strikes you.  You’ll save enough to have one of those pricey drinks, too.

[Photo Cred. @LasVegasJunkie]

About the Author

Kelly Lamrock
Kelly Lamrock didn't see Vegas until he was 40. Now, he goes several times a year. When home in Atlantic Canada, he's a lawyer, international consultant, and former Attorney-General. When in Vegas, he is consumed by the search for the best craft beer, the perfect sportsbook, and a post-show cigar. He loves Vegas because, as Jerry Seinfeld says, "wherever you're from, Vegas is pretty much the opposite of that."

23 Comments on "Starting A Fight, Part 1: Should You Spring for a Nicer Hotel?"

  1. Where I stay depends on who I’m with. When I’m with the fellas, I stay at more reasonably priced resorts (read: Anything not named Wynn, Bellagio, Cosmo, etc.), because in that scenario I prefer to spend my money on booze, gambling, and other bad decisions.

    When I’m womaned up, I’ll stay at Wynn, Bellagio, Cosmo, etc., because in that scenario I prefer to spend my money on…well…you know…her.

    My point being I have an absolute blast no matter where I stay. Each type of trip offers different experiences, which is just the beauty of going to Vegas. It never has to be the same experience twice, unless you want it to be.

  2. Love this one! Great job. Mirage is pretty amazing. I really enjoyed staying that the Casino Royale once. Room is literally off the elevator and you don’t walk far at all. Rooms are NICE like Holiday Inn Express nice. Of course with Fat Tuesday’s right downstairs you’re in a prime location.

  3. I can not agree more (disclaimer, I’ve never stayed at a high end Vegas resort). I love to gamble and stay at Excalibur. And I really miss the old O’Sheas. One of these trips, I want to stay at Casino Royale.

    Thanks for writing this, I’m already looking forward to part 2!

  4. im with you…..i love the elbow rubbing with the common folks……besides i will never be able to afford the Wynn for a nite

  5. ChrisinNashville | February 26, 2018 at 9:45 am |

    Nice article and I pretty much agree. I used to go to Vegas for a guys get together once a year. All we needed was a clean bed (or couch) and a shower. No thrills, no making us feel like millionaires. We just needed a place to sleep for four hours every now and then. But I went with my wife once and I wanted something nice so we spent a little more and got some pampering.

    And a 13 day Vegas trip?!?! I don’t care where you stay, count me in on that!!!

  6. I have been going to Las Vegas 3 to 4 times a year for over 20 years. My first few years were spent at lower quality resorts like Imperial Palace, San Remo and Vegas World. Then for about 10 years I decided I wanted to experience high end luxury on my vacations and stayed at Caesars, Venetian or Wynn on my visits. However, or the better part of the last decade, I have returned to mid-level strip properties (Excalibur, Bally’s) or even off-strip properties like the Orleans and South Point. I grew tired of the outrageous food prices at the high end resorts and the stuffiness of the dealers and casino staffs. For me, I find the mid-level properties to be more relaxed and offer a better value and the clientele and dealers more willing to have fun at the tables.

  7. Ever hear of Down Town? That’s the place to stay!

  8. 13 days? after 3 nights I’m ready to catch the 430pm back to Dallas. 13 days in Hawaii… I’m all in.

  9. As you know, I splurged on The Bellagio once, and never, ever will again. I can say I did it, and now it’s done.

  10. I’ve “splurged” on Wynn, Venetian rooms for special events with the wife so I get this article totally…and at some point in time we leave the property in question to visit one of the “less fortunate” properties because for one they usually pay better to the player and, well, like in the article they are just fun. BUT with almost all the properties now charging Parking/Valet Fee’s and Resort Fee’s and changing BlackJack to 6:5 while raising table minimum’s and Video Poker pay tables to favor the house more and more….has the Strip reached a tipping point yet? This is a dangerous game the bean counters are playing.

    Remember that the high end properties are actually trying to not pamper to us normal folks but big whales where they close up shops for personal shop time for the rich. When casino’s start to act like country clubs and exclude the normal folks and everyone follows suit that it’s a dead market. Not enough rich folks to go around. Vegas needs the volume to stay open…bean counters just don’t get it….people with vision do. It has to appeal to EVERYONE and be FUN that’s what built Las Vegas!!!

  11. Greg Garrett | February 26, 2018 at 8:46 pm |

    Im coming to town on Monday, I admit it, Im staying at circus circus. It’s cheap and it allows me to use my m life rewards on food at the other mgm properties. I agree that you don’t always need a fancy place to stay but once and a while it’s nice.

  12. Ferry van Beek | February 27, 2018 at 3:56 am |

    Hi Kelly, nice article! And I won’t start a fight with you cause you’re absolutely right. My wife and I come over for business every year in April. First week we stay in a posh resort (We’ve done Palazzo, Venezia, MGM and last couple of years MO) for our week of business. After that we ‘downgrade’ for our two weeks of holiday. We stay at the Embassy Suits on Swenson and I can tell you that’s pretty good too. Free wifi, breakfast included and every night free drinks during the managers cocktail reception. Properties on the strip have become very expensive and are priced above value for money imo. Although the service at MO is pretty fantastic as well and it’s good to be pampered every now and again.

  13. Jeremy Pielmeier | February 27, 2018 at 7:03 am |

    I go to Vegas with friends at least once a year and we have been going for at least the last decade. We get a room at a casino like Harrah’s or Flamingo each time and split rooms 3 or 4 ways depending on the amount of people going in total (usually 6 to 8 of us). We spend about 5 hours a night in the room sleeping and use it for little else more than a place to shower and store our belongings. We are there to have a good time, see the sights, gamble, drink, and general nonsense. I personally love sitting at a $5-$10 minimum table and chatting with people from all around the world, people that would love to win but if they blow a couple hundred on the table they are still having a good time. The drink service at the tables is just as good at Flamingo as it is at Caesars and in most cases I find the dealers to be more friendly. Not one of our group has ever seen the point of buying up to a higher priced casino. We come to Vegas for exactly what we get at the “lower end” strip resorts friendly people (for the most part) and Vegas atmosphere.

  14. I definitely have a hard time justifying paying for a high end room, because in Vegas I just simply don’t spend a lot of time in the room, other than to sleep. My usual hotels are ones such as the Flamingo, Excalibur, and NYNY. As long as the room is clean and safe, it definitely doesn’t need to be fancy.

  15. I don’t think you defied conventional wisdom here. Seems like most Vegas related sites where there’s commentary, most comments line up with what you say here. Looking forward to other entries in STARTING A FIGHT series.

  16. Hello Kelly, I always enjoy your Vegas perspectives; keep them coming. I had a bucket list item to stay at least once in every casino on the strip and surrounding locations. I concluded it adds to or detracts from the “Vegas Experience”. Selection now is based on the value and as others noted on the occasion. Next time in town perhaps you could compare and contrast a signature cocktail on the strip vs downtown. The Dorsey vs the Laundry Room (Commonwealth) for example.

  17. What a great and fun concept for a new series, Kelly. But I’m not here to fight… agree as long as you have a good time — with the addendum that you didn’t hurt anyone, did not bury a dead hooker or find yourself being buried by hookers — you’ve done Vegas right!

    I’ve loved the company paying for my elusive suite at The Cosmopolitan, knowing that it was out of my paygrade to go there on my dime. I will eventually find the time to splurge on a higher end Strip resort, but until then I love the affordable Downtown Freemont area, and The Downtown Grand has yet to spoil my stays there yet.

  18. I stayed at many mid range resorts of the years and have no interest in them any longer. Just because I can afford Aria, Encore or VP does not mean that I’m out of touch. As I have gotten older, I enjoy the atmosphere at the higher end resorts. The service, the spas, and the restaurants are more up our alley. I’m not trying to relieve my college years anymore. Finally, as it relates to blackjack, just because you play higher level doesn’t mean you are not having fun. I have had just as much fun at $50 table than a $10 table. It is important to remember that a $100 bet, due the bettor’s net worth, could be comparable to a $5 bet.

  19. almost all of my vegas trips are solo, so I stay on budget. I stay downtown 5-7 nights per trip, most nights are comped, if not, I go with the cheapest. if I am going with friend(s) I am willing to splurge a little to stay somewhere nicer and split the cost.

  20. After well over 30 trips/21 hotels I can definitely say it was cool to stay (comped, pre-resort-fee) at a few upper-end places, just once. But if I could, I’d stay again at Lady Luck, Terrible’s, Sahara or Imperial Palace. I think the only ones who would disagree with you/us are the suits selling luxury for their own profit! (Btw check “averse” vs “adverse”.)

  21. I totally agree with you on this! My husband and I are in Vegas often. We have stayed at all levels of hotels. When we bring the baby, staying at a place like Wynn or Delano is nice because the rooms are spacier, and you can get some separation from the crib. When I go with friends my favorite place to stay is the Linq! central, tons of bars/food, and not too pricey (especially with Total Rewards on your side).

    Mirage is our other favorite! I would love to be able to splash out for Cosmo besides for very special occasions, but its only amazing if you have the balcony, and that is mega $$$.

  22. I have stayed in a range of hotels, going from the Imperial Palace to the Venitian, and what I’ve learned is that something in the middle, probably the higher end of the middle range, is probably the best, at least for my own tastes.

    For me, Imperial Palace was too old and dingy at the time, and had various issues that actually detracted from the experience in the room. These are things like a noisy, in-room, air-conditioning unit, worn out furniture, etc… Venitian on the other hand was great, extremely comfortable, and beautiful, but it was way more than what I would typically need to be comfortable and relax. Planet Hollywood, especially after everything has been renovated recently, now hits the sweet spot of that upper-middle tier where the amenities in the hotel are modern and comfortable without getting to the over-the-top level of the high-end properties. This allows me to really relax and make the most out of the time I am in the room, even if it is just for a pit stop most times.

    While those items do influence my decision on where to stay, like Kelly states in the article, I think there are equal components regarding the casino atmosphere, accessibility to a variety of food and drink options, ease of getting to and from my room and to and from the Strip, and the overall location of the resort, that play into my decision making process regarding what hotel to stay at.

  23. Les Thurston | March 12, 2018 at 7:01 pm |

    We stayed quite a few times at Caesars and then a half dozen trips to Bellagio. One night after getting the munchies around midnight, I had to go from my room down to casino level and walk to another zip code to a door to get me to the walk over toward Bally’s and then cross over to other side of street at Cromwell. The it is a short walk down the sidewalk to Flamingo. All of this is necessary to get something to eat in the food court.
    I have found that high end hotels don’t offer anything to eat late at night with the exception of a exhorbatantly over priced coffee shop.
    We enjoyed the Bellagio. It was a nice casino. The rooms were nice. The staff was nice. However, we felt it was time to move on to someplace with affordable options late at night.
    This is the long explanation of how we ended up at New York-New York. This has been our home base since 2015.
    We have found NYNY to be more layed back and the other patrons there are more down to earth.
    Our MLife offers currently are offering four nights at basically any hotel of our choice on South end of Strip, and yet we still prefer NYNY.
    My second choice would be Mirage. It has awesome location and a light to cross over the street right outside it’s main entrance. It has great food options around the clock.

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