Question of the Day July 25, 2014
Click here to subscribe or unsubscribe from our various email lists
Q:I'm a Vegas limo driver and recently drove a wedding couple and their friends to Bellagio after their wedding because they wanted to take pictures in the Conservatory and by the Fountains. While by the fountain show, a Bellagio security guard came up and informed them that wedding pictures were not permitted anywhere on the property. I'm not sure why this is a rule or why you can take pictures anywhere on the property unless you're in a wedding gown, but this is what they were told. Do you have any clue why this rule exists?
A:This was the first we'd heard of any such policy, and it sounded somewhat strange: We wondered whether it was the notorious recent Hakkasan "Hippos & Whales" scandal rearing its ugly head once more, or the Head of Security had recently been ditched at the altar, or maybe just the quid pro quo for MRI rolling out free Wi-Fi everywhere.
Having just placed a call to a very friendly security representative at the property, we can now confirm that none of these theories is to blame, but there is indeed an official policy in place.
The gentleman with whom we spoke informed us that at some point in the not-too-distant past -- he wasn't clear on when, but guessed at around a year ago -- a new blanket policy was introduced at all MGM Resorts International properties here (we're not sure if it applies outside of Vegas), whereby only the properties' in-house photographers may be used to take any kind of professional photographs, be they for a wedding, bachelorette party, birthday dinner, etc. In Las Vegas, MRI currently owns Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mandalay Place, MGM Grand (including Signature and Skylofts), Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, and THEhotel.
There's a flat-rate charge of $175/hour, with a disk of 50 edited (e.g., color corrected, red-eye removed, cropped to your liking, etc.) photographs costing an additional $200 (you get to keep all the photos from the shoot, but there's a charge for the corrected copies you select). The rate is the same 24/7 and the photographer will escort and snap you for as many hours as you book; it's advisable to reserve the service at least 48 hours in advance, although they can sometimes accommodate last-minute shoots within 24 hours.
The insistence of using a house photographer seems somewhat restrictive and yet another way for the casinos to make a buck, when your own brother may be a camera pro who wasn't going to charge you a bean. The good news, however, is that while back in the day any photography or filming in a casino environment was a very touchy subject and certain areas, like the race and sports book, were completely off-limits, there was another more positive recent change, in that all areas, aside from the casino floor, have now been officially declared public domain. Hence, nowhere is off-limits, apart from areas where there's live gaming, where catching someone in the background would ostensibly necessitate the signing of official release forms (but who wants a horde of drunken hollering crap-playing strangers as the backdrop for their romantic moment, anyway?).
If you're dining in one of the property restaurants or lounges that has a built-in photographer, hustling you for some shots, you're under no obligation to buy, but if you do, it starts at $45 for two 6 x 8 prints in an album.
If all you're doing is taking some snapshots, albeit with a fancy personal camera, then all is good and there's no need to hire a pro; it's only once the tripods and lighting stands come out, and it's obvious that your're part of a professionally orchestrated scenario, that security will be obliged to shut you down if you're not using the house talent.
We researched this answer with reference to only the MGM Mirage International properties in Las Vegas, and spoke specifically with Bellagio, so it may be that lesser fees apply at some of the less-haughty properties in the group. If anyone out there has come across a similar policy in place at any other non-MRI property around town, we'd be intrigued to hear about your experience.