Last-minute February New and Changed Info

Here’s a President’s Day freebie for all you outdoor lovers that don’t make casino holiday multiple points a priority in your life – and believe it or not, this describes not only many local residents but more out-of-town visitors than you might guess.  On Monday, February 19, no entrance fees will be charged to visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  This is an important date in that it will be the last day before a new schedule of fees kicks in on Tuesday, February 20, one that will significantly raise, even more than double, your cost, depending on how you plan to enter.  Check their website for details.  https://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/

The Palms

Remember how I told you in my blog early in the month how you could double-dip at the Palms by using the same points for two promotions for certain days.  At the time I knew the casino was aware of this “problem” – for them but not for the customer!  😊  Via the grapevine I heard they were trying to close this loophole so beloved by all of us players.  Well, they kinda did a few days ago by making a “rule” for the players club employees that they could not issue gift cards AND free buffet vouchers using the same earned points.  However, many customers just went the club desk to get these at different times and there was no guidance to the employees on how to check whether the proper points had been earned.

I have talked to one casino employee who wasn’t sure how this was going to play out the rest of February with two promotions still running on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  You can try to double-dip but I don’t guarantee your success.  However, I was told the casino was going to change/adjust promotion days in March so this would definitely no longer be a player option. ☹

South Point

This is probably not a new promotion but is one that just came to my attention.  South Point movie theaters are offering $4 movies for those 50+, not just on Monday senior day, but also on Wednesdays.  This price is good for all showings on those days, except there is an additional fee for 3D and XD.  You must show a South Point players card and ID.

Another discount day, for all ages, is Tuesday, with an all-day admission price of $5.25, with the same upcharges as just mentioned above.  (This promotion is available company-wide for Cinemark theaters.)  Also note that Tuesday Openings do not have this discount.

Inspirational Advice

“What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient, but restless mind, of sacrificing one’s ease or vanity, of uniting a love of details to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely and cheerfully.” – Charles Victor Cherbuliez, a 19th-century French novelist.

Posted in Casino Promotions, Non-gambling Activities, Non-gambling Promo, Palms, Senior Promotion, South Point Casino | 2 Comments

Tax Season Talk

I am getting many questions from casino players who are worried about the tax law changes enacted by Congress at the end of last year and how it might impact how they have to treat gambling reporting on their tax returns.

First, I need to correct some misunderstandings.  This new law will not affect how you report your gambling figures on your 2017 return, the one you are probably working on now.   You will probably follow the same reporting path as you did on your 2016 return if your financial situation, particularly the gambling details, have not changed much.

Second, the new law actually doesn’t change the basic rule for how recreational gamblers can report their wins and losses.  You put your wins under “Income” on page 1 of your return.  Then you have two choices when deciding how to report your losses.  You can add those losses to other deductions you report on a Schedule A, but there is a limit – you can only put down a loss figure that is not higher than your win figure on page 1.  However, many people will use a second option because their deductions, even including the gambling losses, is not as high as the standard deduction.  Therefore, they will take the standard deduction.  This second option has always been painful for gamblers, since that means that they will be paying taxes on their gross wins rather than the net win after they deduct their losses.  However,  for most gamblers who play at the lower denominations, they just consider this a small “entertainment expense.”

BUT – why is there always a government “but”?  Now that I’ve explained what has not changed for gamblers in the new tax law, I will need to explain what has affected many gamblers big-time!  Although this isn’t a specific change addressed to gamblers, it is something that many gamblers will need to carefully consider this year even though it doesn’t kick in until 2018 returns have to be filed.  Then that standard deduction I talked about in the last paragraph will just about be doubled.  That will make that second option a little less painful for those light gamblers with smaller win/loss figures because they will make up some of the loss they incur for having to pay taxes on their gross wins with the tax savings of a bigger standard deduction.

However, it will hit hard those heavier players with large gambling figures, especially those that are also being hit with reduced deductions, like mortgage interest or state taxes.  In our next edition of Tax Help for Gamblers (which will come out in time to help with your 2018 returns), Marissa and I will have to revise this former advice on which option to use, “Many [taxpayers] find they need to figure it both ways to see which has the lowest overall tax obligation.”  Sad to say fewer gamblers will find it better to itemize than to take the standard deduction, and they will end up paying taxes on their large gross wins.

So, what are many high-level recreational gamblers doing this year?  I’ve been talking to some of them.  This is not a happy group! Many are already being slammed in their home state that doesn’t allow deductions for gambling losses.  Now this seems like a fatal blow.  Perhaps they will just take up another hobby, they say.  More are considering dropping down in denomination to avoid those pesky W-2G’s although they are full aware that they should report all winnings whether there is a paper trail to the IRS or not.  A few think they could continue playing at high levels if they switched to the category of “professional” gambler, aware that the IRS rules for this are strict and involve gray areas that might have to be challenged in tax court.  But if they qualify, this would solve the main problem since they could net out their gambling income on a business Schedule C  – although the thoughts of this advantage would be tempered by the knowledge that self-employment taxes would be a hefty cut in their profits.

And speaking of filing as a professional gambler brings me to one notable change in the new tax law that specifically refers to this small category.  Although these professionals can still deduct business expenses related to gambling, such as travel costs to casinos, these expenses added to gambling losses can no longer total any more than the win figure.  Professionals now will run into the basic federal income tax rule that has always plagued the recreational gambler, that there is no way you can claim a net gambling loss for any one tax year, no matter how much you have actually lost.

Any hope for gambling tax breaks in the future?   Actually, there is a surprising supporter of the beleaguered gambler – casinos!

Say what?

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the lobbying organization advocating for the casino industry is putting out strong words about slot tax reform:

Outdated slot tax reporting requirements are cumbersome and costly for patrons, casinos and the government. AGA will unleash an aggressive campaign to modernize these outdated reporting requirements.

Go back to my December 22 blog where I discussed my hope  – if I can possibly live long enough – that I will someday see gambling tax relief.

Posted in Taxes | 4 Comments

Jean’s Story – Part 1 – In the Beginning

I wrote in this blog some years ago about Brad’s early journey to becoming a frugal gambler, 15 parts you can access in the “Archives” here on this blog homepage, starting in January 2011 and continuing for 7 months, through August. Many have asked if I would ever share details about my own early path.  I recently explained that I have shelved the idea of writing a whole book of memoirs, but here is the first part in “Jean’s Story,” which will be an off-and-on sharing of some of my life experiences before I became the “frugal gambler.”

Were there any clues in my early life that might give hints about my later life? I was the daughter of a minister and a former high school English teacher. I am now an author who writes books and articles that explain how to stretch your money in casinos.  Could anyone have predicted way back then that I would become widely known as the Frugal Gambler?

 “Frugal” From the Git-Go

Well, “frugal” could have been my middle name.  In fact, I wonder if I actually heard about that valuable concept when my preacher father asked the doctor who delivered me if he gave a “ministerial discount.”  (That was a common courtesy given to “men of the cloth” back in those days.) He did, and it was part of our family lore that I was a “bargain baby.”

Although the economy was doing better as the country was exiting the Great Depression when I was born in 1938, people remembered its pain, and thriftiness was the ruling virtue of the time.  My father was just starting out as a minister in a very small church with a very small salary, so I learned early from my parents the techniques of stretching your money.  My father put in big gardens and I helped my mother spent the summers canning fruit and vegetables for our winter meals.  My mother was a skilled seamstress who made all the pretty dresses for me and for my sisters when they came along later.  My father did most of the grocery shopping while my mother was busy with household tasks, and I loved to tag along to the store with him. Even at an early age I learned that “sales” and “discounts” were important words.

“Gambling” – A Big No-No

Although frugality was woven into every part of my life growing up, the word “gambling” was not only totally outside my environment, but in a forbidden zone I should never enter. My father was a minister in an evangelical fundamentalist denomination and I was raised in the closed puritanical environment of an extremely conservative church.

And being the “PK” (the preacher’s kid) I was expected to be a good example, following all the church rules and avoiding anything that was on their “sin list.”  Gambling was very near the top of that list. We had no cards or dice in our home since they were symbols of this evil. If a game that we wanted to play came with dice, we’d have to throw them away and use a spinner from one of our kiddie games instead. We weren’t even allowed to play games like Old Maid, because we were supposed to guard against even the appearance of sinful behavior. Someone might have seen us playing and thought we were engaged in a poker game!

But if you simply change the word “gambling” to “gaming,” you might have gotten a little glimpse into my future activities.

Our family always played games.  One of my earliest memories is begging my mother or father to play the “Uncle Wiggily” board game with me.  Many first-born children are resentful of their younger siblings, but not I! I was exceedingly grateful when my parents provided me with two sisters with whom to play games.  My sister June arrived when I was five and by the time she was two I was teaching her how to play “Chutes and Ladders.”

When our youngest sister Starr came along another 5 years later, June and I tried to teach her games as soon as she could talk. Then as we all grew older we graduated from the simple don’t-have-to-read-the-rules games to Chinese checkers, chess, and finally Monopoly, the ultimate of all board games, I thought.

My family played games almost every night except Wednesdays (which was prayer-meeting night); on Sundays we played religious games. My mother would pop up a big bowl of popcorn and we’d pull out a board game. When we three girls were old enough to play Scrabble, the family’s competitiveness really blossomed. Until my father developed Alzheimer’s in his early 80’s, one of his greatest pleasures in life was to get together to play Scrabble with his three girls (now a teacher, a doctor, and a lawyer) and often beat all three of us! Even though he oversaw a very strict and ultra-religious household, the gaming spirit was strong in the whole family.  Intense competitiveness, playing to win – early strong clues that perhaps made my current life not entirely surprising.

Posted in It's Personal, Jean's Story | 6 Comments

February News and Promotions

Many major casino changes continue in February, most of them painful cuts for casino customers.  It’s shaping up to be a Dog Year for many of us even if we don’t follow the Chinese calendar.

 

Caesars Properties

Benefits have been slaughtered for Diamond and Seven Star tier players. No longer can their Reward Credits be converted to free play at a more favorable rate than when they were at lower levels.  No guaranteed comp rooms.  The two intermediate Aspiration Levels are completely eliminated.  Go here and get the details  to determine whether you think the benefits remaining make it a good deal for you personally to put in the major play to reach those higher tiers.

 

Palms

An unwelcome surprise in the February mailers of many heavy players:  the number of multiple-point days have been majorly reduced while lower-level players have the usual more frequent ones.  The Palms is usually not included in the “Station Casinos” newspaper ads touting frequent multiplier dates.  You will look in vain for that Palms logo.

The Palms still does not have a senior program like the other Station casinos.  They finally do now offer the same Stations check-cashing promotion but the benefits are extremely weak.

 

BOYD PROPERTIES (The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, and Sam’s Town)

The long-running Young at Heart (YAH) senior promotion on Wednesdays at these properties have a new set of features.  Some former benefits have been cut, and there are new ones.  It’s a mixed bag, depending on what benefits you like or won’t want to take advantage of.  Here are the nitty-gritty details, a very long complex explanation that takes very close reading to be sure you don’t misunderstand or overlook anything.

(I have not been able to find details about YAH promotions at downtown Boyd properties online.  You will need to visit the players club in person to see if there are changes there.)

I got an e-mail from Boyd Gaming talking about a check-cashing promotion at The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, and Sam’s Town.  I’m not sure if this is a new one but here are the details.

Okay, now not everything is negative this month.  Here is more positive news.

Skyline Casino

This small but expanding Henderson casino will be starting up a players club on March 5.

 

Golden Nugget Casinos

Golden Nugget Casinos have announced that 24K Select Club members across its five casinos can now earn comp dollars and tier credits in one account and redeem comp dollars in any of its casinos.  Tier credits accumulate in a centralized account.

Members of the 24K Select Club can now download the Golden Nugget Mobile App to have 24/7 access to view their comp dollars, tier credits and tier level status, slot point balance and special offers across all Golden Nugget casinos, and receive mobile-only bonuses.

The five casinos are Golden Nugget Atlantic City; Golden Nugget Biloxi in Biloxi, Mississippi; Golden Nugget Lake Charles in Lake Charles, Louisiana; the Golden Nugget Las Vegas; and Golden Nugget Laughlin in Laughlin, Nevada.

In addition to the casinos, comp dollars can be redeemed in more than 600 restaurants, including any brand that falls under the Landry’s umbrella throughout the country. Landry’s owns and operates more than 40 brands, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Chart House, Morton’s The Steakhouse and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse.

 

Caesars Hotel Discounts

Details about hotel discounts for students, teachers, active military and veterans, government employees, and first responders.  Extra 10% off lowest available rate.  The discount will be in addition to any other promotions applied to your order.

 

Stations Senior Program

Check their website every month because benefits do change.

 

PALMS

The good buffet promotion I talked about in January continues in February.  Go to a detailed review written after the boss here at the LVA did the promotion personally. I want to add just a couple of notes.  First, you don’t have to actually “redeem” the points, just “earn” them.  You can redeem them later for free play, comps, or cash – so that actually is another dip on your promotion ice cream cone, in addition to any other benefits I discussed in my blog, i.e., the free movie tickets and free car washes.

Another important feature of this promotion is the flexibility of the time when you can use this food voucher you have earned.  As you see on the photo of the receipt, it is valid for 48 hours – which seems to be correct even though it says 24 hours on our monthly mailers.

—-

I love to end on an upbeat note!

 

Posted in Casino Promotions, Food Review, Senior Promotion, Slot Clubs | 5 Comments

Questions and Comments

Time to do a little computer housecleaning and tackling my Must-Catch-Up file.

First, I want to thank everyone who gave greetings on our recent birthdays – Brad’s #86 and my #79.  Don’t worry if you missed mine – I plan to stick with celebrating #79 on December 29 every year for many years to come.  The seventies just sound so young these days!

Next, some comments about the “Comment” section here on my blog page.  Although I welcome many different viewpoints and encourage details from players from all denomination levels and varied goals, I do occasionally have to refrain from “approving” a comment and it will not appear.  I will not tolerate uncivil discussion.  I do often approve remarks with which I do not fully agree –  and readers must remember that they are the opinions of the commenters and not necessarily mine – when I feel they will generate some helpful information from others.  I cannot approve comments of an extreme political or religious nature since they often would plunge us into a chaotic argument that takes us far away from the spirit and purpose of this blog.

Now on to your questions.  Frequently someone will ask, “Why do you play at XXX casino; I can’t find anything good to play there?”  I have addressed this issue many times down through the years, emphasizing that not every casino gives every customer the opportunity for a “good” – that is, an advantage play.  Perhaps these good plays are at higher denominations that would not fit a lower-level player’s bankroll.  Or alternatively, good lower denomination inventory may not be attractive for those who can find options for higher level play with the potential for bigger profits.  Location plays a big part in choosing good VP plays; many serious players must travel far and wide if there are no good options locally.  And sometimes – actually almost always – much of the EV (expected value) of a play is made up of extra benefits and you rarely know how much a player is getting just by a casual look at “what they play.”  You don’t know how much coin they play through, how much free play they get in their mailers, or what special-promotion invitations they receive.

A related question Brad and I get: “Why don’t you play at XXX casino; they have good games there.”  Some of the explanation in the above paragraph applies.  But there is a bigger factor here for us.  We just don’t have the energy to “scramble” as much as we used to.  We are most comfortable with a casino schedule that includes several “days off” a week. Right now we play regularly in only 3-4 local Vegas casinos, all off the Strip and fairly close to where we live.  There may be other good plays in far-away areas of town, but unless we lose some of the nearby ones, we choose to avoid the horrendous time-consuming Vegas traffic whenever possible.

And related to the above discussion, there is one question I have been avoiding answering: “You said you were going to write a book containing yours and Brad’s personal life story.  When is that going to come out?”

I really did have a firm plan for this and actually had spent many days and weeks gathering and organizing years of notes.  But a couple months ago I suddenly “woke up” with the realization that I was tired of being on a never stopping merry-go-round, with another deadline looming when I finally met the previous one.  I love to write and will continue to do short pieces – like for this blog.  However, a book is a major project and tends to monopolize and overwhelm the author’s whole life, seeping into every spare hour and pushing out even more-loved druthers.

So, this planned book is now on my not-to-be shelf.  But don’t worry missing stories about our personal experiences, both in and outside the casino world.  I will continue to include them, as I always have, here in this blog.  Some of you will remember the 17-part series I wrote several years ago, telling the story of Brad’s gambling path that began when he was 5 years old.  If you are a newer blog reader, you can go back in the archives (Search “Brad Stories” under “Category” on the right side of the blog home page) and find that.  Actually, those archives go clear back to April, 2000, with the first article I wrote for “Frugal Fridays” and then continue every year until it morphed into the “Frugal Vegas” blog, telling of our gambling journey over the last 17+ years plus some personal details of our pre-casino life.  (You need to sometimes click on “continue reading” to get to all the articles for one particular month.)

In future blogs I will continue to talk about current subjects but occasionally I will reach into my notes and dig out some of the stories that go back 75-85 years, ones that I haven’t shared before.  Did you know I heard the word “discount” on the day I was born?  That will be the beginning of one story I am anxious to share!

Posted in Brad Stories, Comments, Frugal Fridays, Gaming Writing, Memories, Q+A, Video Poker | 8 Comments

Still Playing the Comp Game?

After I wrote about a family reunion at the Harrah’s Tahoe casino in December, I received a lot of requests for more details, specifically about comps.  I guess that should not have been a surprise for someone whose nickname is Queen of Comps.  😊  And in this present environment of major casino cuts decreasing comps is a major concern to most players.

Some of you will remember my writing many years ago when we first started casino gambling that we called comps the “gravy.”  We never counted their value in our “profit” for the simple reason that we were earning more of them that we could have paid for on our limited budget at that time.  They were just an extra that allowed us to enjoy more luxurious vacations that we couldn’t have afforded otherwise.  We couldn’t have used comps to make up any of our actual monetary gambling losses. That would have been a fast way to go broke!

Now we are in a much different time in our life; we have enough money to pay for any activity or vacation that we wish to do.  Therefore, now any comps we can use to decrease our costs become a monetary plus, adding to any profit we earn in our gambling or making up any losses we might incur.  That is very important at this time when the opportunities for advantage play are rapidly disappearing.  We still do most of our casino play only when we have an edge, but that edge is often very slim and our records don’t always end up in the black at the end of each year.  The “long term” doesn’t always have the same end as our arbitrary date of December 31. Comps are still “gravy” for us most of the time, but I predict that in the future they will become a much bigger factor in how we choose where and when we play video poker.

However, this 5-day vacation for 7 adults and 2 kiddies did require major involvement with a casino comp system and the value was quite high.  We had 3 mini-suite rooms comped for 4 nights.  We never had a food bill.  We had free ski passes for the family.  (Brad and I declined to participate in that activity but it wasn’t for the lack of free ski passes!!!  😊) A party-bus was provided for group transportation to and from the Reno airport, including regulation car seats for the kiddies. And an unexpected shopping promotion running while we were there provided $450 in the sports shop for ski equipment rental and winter clothing.  Left-over comps of $350 not used for food gave opportunity for splurging in the gift shop.

Although Brad and I had both attained Harrah’s 7-Star status for 2017 and had saved up over the year a good number of comp benefits for this family vacation, the expenses were not covered completely by comps.  It is what I refer to as a discounted comp benefit and in this case let us keep hundreds of dollars in our pockets to spend for other expenses.

I must make an important observation here.  It is unlikely that we will be able to take this luxurious a vacation and have so much comped in the future.  Caesars has made major cuts in their higher-tier benefits for 2018.  And we have found that the perks and what hosts can do for you vary greatly from one property to another even within the same company.  And it is not just the bigger Strip companies cutting comps.  Casinos that serve mostly locals are also cutting benefits right and left.

We still play the “comp game,” but just as it is for the actual casino games we play it takes more work these days to find advantage situations.  I constantly research casino players club details and look for changes that affect extra benefits.  I talk to other players, who sometimes give me little-known information about various comp systems.  And I am continuing to develop friendly relationships with hosts.  Even though at many casinos their “power” is limited, we still use the Just-Ask maneuver and at times see surprisingly positive results. Some of that is probably due to the accompanying Be-Nice-and-not-Demanding attitude.  I find that grousing to hosts about casino cuts is not an effective technique, even sometimes having a negative impact.

Gaining an advantage anywhere in a casino has never been easy.  And today you just have to work harder than ever!

Posted in Caesars, Casino Hosts, Comps, Family News, Non-gambling Activities | 10 Comments

Skill and Luck – and Karma?

A blast from the past here while I’m coping with a major meltdown when my computer died and I am busy trying to retrieve old data and learn how to use all the new programs on my new machine! ☹  This is a condensation of a 2-part blog from 2003.

———–

A couple of weeks ago, Brad and I were doing a bounce-back collection run on the east side of the Strip, going around the block to pick up our rewards at Ellis Island, Tuscany, and the Hard Rock. I hadn’t been feeling well that week, so our plan was to head straight back to our condo without playing anywhere.

However, I suddenly realized that the Frugal Van was in need of gas and we were going right past Terrible’s casino where, using a coupon that we keep in the vehicle for just such last-minute change of plans, we could play for about a half-hour and get a comp for $25 worth of gas at a Terrible’s gas station. So we pulled into the casino parking lot.

We often play at Terrible’s, since they have very good promotions. I don’t know exactly how to put this politely — how about, Terrible’s isn’t exactly the Mirage! — but we enjoy being with the colorful group of gamblers in their customer mix, all seeming to have such a good time. Hey, we’re all a little eccentric at times! And I like a place where I can fit in when I’m in grunge mode. Brad can wear anything he pleases without checking with me to see if it’s “looks right.”

Anyway, we got out of the van in the parking lot and immediately met up with a panhandler. Brad is always a sucker in this circumstance, so I wasn’t surprised when he pulled out a roll of small bills (careful not to make a mistake and pull out the roll of big bills he usually keeps in the other pocket) and peeled off a single to donate. I’ve quit trying to convert him to the idea that it’s better to give money to charitable organizations so they can give longer-lasting help to the down-and-out. He doesn’t think that’s a bad idea and we send a check to the Salvation Army frequently. However, he also believes in crisis management – this guy probably really needs a drink or a cigarette right now!

But this time, I didn’t chide Brad for being an enabler. I really felt sorry for this person, who might’ve been the dumbest beggar in Las Vegas. The majority of the customers at Terrible’s are nickel bettors; quarter players are considered high rollers. We play $1 and $2 denominations and feel like whales. The pickin’s were probably pretty slim for this panhandler, so I felt uncharacteristically cheerful about Brad’s donation and agreed with him that it might do some good — maybe even help us break out of our recent losing streak.

We entered the casino and picked our machines. Brad reached in his big-bills pocket, looked at me, shook his head, and said, “I didn’t think we were going to play tonight, so I didn’t bring our regular gambling bankroll.” At which point, we both searched our pockets and billfolds and came up with a little over $600. We usually play $2 VP, but with this little bit of money, it would’ve been touch and go to last until we got the necessary points for $25 worth of gas. So we decided to play dollars and hope for the best.

I know many of you are thinking, “What’s wrong with this picture? Why would anyone risk $600, or even $100, to get $25 worth of gas? Why not just buy the gas and not risk any money? Wouldn’t that be a wiser move?”

The explanation for this involves a long discussion of the various personalities and goals of gamblers, something I talk about at length in More Frugal Gambling. But most of all, it gives a concrete example of our acceptance and use of the mathematically correct concept of “long-term” advantage gambling. We know that anything can happen in any one session or series of sessions. Skilled players can lose, and seat-of-the-pants players can get lucky and win. However, we believe strongly — and have proved the concept in actual experience — that if you gamble only when you have some kind of an edge, the longer you play the closer you will get to the long-term profit that the EV (expected theoretical return) holds out to you.

Therefore, we say to ourselves on any play, like this play at Terrible’s, “We will not look at one session loss to judge whether this was a good play.” It was, of course. The game return was less than 100%, but slot club points for gas put it well into positive territory and a promotion giving a bonus on a royal gave it extra value. So, although it’s never as much fun to lose as it is to win, we’re never surprised if we have a loss, even a big one, in any one session. We’ve experienced them many times and actually joked when we started playing at Terrible’s, “Well, how much is our $25 worth of gas going to cost us tonight?” But we were only joking, for we knew that this night’s play would just be tossed in the big bucket that holds the results of every session since we started casino gambling almost 20 years ago, a bucket that has been full of our original bankroll and overflowing with profit since 19 years ago.

So much for math talk and down to the rest of the story. We managed to play almost to where we would have had enough points for our $25 coupon for gas. But our $600 was almost gone and we were nervous. Would our smaller-than-usual in-our-pocket bankroll stretch long enough, even though we were playing a dollar game instead of our usual $2 one? Up to that point, Brad’s belief that helping the down-and-outer would reap some good wasn’t even helping us get one set of quads to assure we could get over the hump.

But suddenly, in the nick of time, his belief came through like a trooper and I hit a royal for $4,000 and was also given the $2,000 bonus.

Was this skill? Yes. By playing a good game, we would lose less in our numerous losing sessions, so when we did hit the royal, it would put us in profit territory and not just cover some of our previous losses.

Was this luck? Yes. You could say we were lucky that we hit a royal this particular session, since a royal comes around only about every 80 or so hours on average.

Did karma make us lucky that day? There’s no mathematical answer to this question. You decide what’s the “right” answer!

Posted in Brad Stories, Casino Promotions, Memories, Video Poker | 7 Comments

Food News

I am definitely not a foodie, but I do have to eat.  However, I don’t live to eat, but eat to live.  Therefore, you will almost never read anything I write that talks about gourmet meals or celebrity chefs.  I would never watch a whole show on the Food Network, but occasionally when I’m browsing I see some chef yelling and screaming and generally acting rude and wonder why that helps anyone choose what they want to cook or where they want to go out for a meal.  But that’s just me.

However, I will talk about eating when I need to help people choose frugal food options in a casino.  In my last blog I talked about the new buffet at the Palms, called A.Y.C.E, and how you could use the popular money-saving technique of timing your visit toward the end of one lower-priced meal and then staying for the next one with a higher price.  (The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is one where this method will save you big-time!)

Now I can give you the details on a promotion which could possibly save you even more money on the Palms buffet.  Advertised as running in January and February, on Tuesdays and Thursdays you can get a free buffet voucher by earning (but not having to redeem) players club points:  200 for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 600 for dinner.

Now I immediately wondered if this could be a double-dipper on your promotional ice cream cone, because they are also continuing the Tuesday movie and Thursday carwash promos for earning 300 points.  So, I did an experiment last Thursday, checking to see if you could use the same points for two freebies.  I wanted to eat lunch at the buffet so I earned exactly 400 points and went to the kiosk and printed out my free carwash coupon.  I had heard the buffet offer would not be on the kiosk; you had to go to the players club desk.  So, I went to the club and gave them my carwash coupon and asked if I could also get my free lunch buffet coupon or did I have to get 300 more points.  It was explained to me that probably the casino did not mean for points to do double-duty, but that was the way it was set up. My 400 points covered both promotions.

I do not guarantee that the casino will change – “fix”? – this before the promotion ends, but in the meantime, this is one of those times – at least for now – that a savvy player will be able to combine promotions.  I think some players may even be able to make this a 3- or 4-dipper, if their free play can also be picked up on those days and/or their multiplier bonus-days hit those same days.

By the way, Brad and I liked the buffet better this 3rd time we ate there.  We took a little more time to really scout all the many offerings.  There are so many to “figure out.”  We found more hot items that hadn’t cooled down too much, and I found the majority of my really-likes in the salad section.  The sliders still got a big fat “F” – make them smaller – someone who wants that as the main dish could take two – the rest of us want to just have a small “taste” of a lot of items.  And get rid of hard stale tasteless big buns – think small and moist, like White Castles, or artisan, like tiny flavorful pretzel buns.

Brad still thinks some of the food in this buffet is weird but he is able to find enough he likes to satisfy him.  However, I can’t get him near the Palms coffee shop, the Lucky Penny – even with a free coupon.   We ate there twice and he decided that this was the most bizarre place in which he had ever eaten since he was served a hot dog on a hamburger bun in Portugal 20 or so years ago.  In yesterday’s  R-J there was a glowing review of this restaurant describing a couple of meals that “upend tired coffee shop images.”

“Upends” is a good word to describe this place.  They put together items in an unusual way that makes the menu actually unreadable – you just don’t know what you will get when you order most things.  I don’t think the reporter ordered the potato soup. So, they want to make everything different?  You will get a big bowl in which the bottom is filled with a few tablespoons of “soupy” pinkish-orange liquid that had no identifiable flavors and then dumped on top is a large order of French fries like you would get at McDonald’s.

It is enough to get us back to the Food Court where the food may not be gourmet but at least you know what you are ordering.  The big problem is that I  suddenly found out this is no longer as option if you have a food coupon.  Now all Rewards Dining Offers you punch out at the kiosk have this in the printed details: “The Eatery/Food Court excluded.”

I must confess that this recent major change caught me by surprise because I did not heed my own much-repeated advice:  Always read the fine print every time because you never know when the casino will change the details of an offer.

 

Posted in Casino Promotions, Food Review | 4 Comments

January News and Promotions

Wishing everyone a successful 2018, whatever your life goals!  And a good time to give you a promotion warning.  As always, read the fine print on any coupon you plan to use.  Many food coupons, especially from Vegas local properties, are not valid on holidays, for example tomorrow, New Year’s Day.

And while on the subject of fine-print, here are some more warnings.  Are you tired of reading about these?  Actually, I am tired of writing about them – but I am still getting e-mail and face-to-face complaints from people who were “tricked.”  The first one comes from a full-page Station Casinos newspaper ad from today’s R-J advertising the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day buffet prices.  However, if you don’t have a Boarding Pass players card or you have just the bottom tier-level Preferred card, your price will be higher.  Fine print says that “Prices shown are for Gold, Platinum, President and Chairman members.”

Station Casinos recently also ran a newspaper ad about multiple point days that fooled a lot of people.  I have given this warning before.  In ANY written material or ad about Station Casinos offers or promotions, you MUST check the logos at the bottom of the page.  That multi-day Holiday Bonus multiplier did NOT have the Palms logo!  If you checked the Wheel of Fortune jackpot ads in the same newspaper, you would see the difference.  That was property-wide and included the Palms logo at the bottom of the ad.

This careful reading is necessary not just for newspaper ads. Individual mailers are getting more property-specific and player-specific for the big casino companies, including Stations and Boyd properties.  You can’t figure if your friend or neighbor is doing a particular promotion or has multiple points on a particular day that you can take advantage of these.  Promotions can be different for players at different tier levels or who play more or less at particular properties.

Okay, end of warnings and rants!

 

PALMS

Renovation is still in full swing here, but welcome news is that the new buffet is finally open.   It is called A.Y.C.E, pronounced I assume “ace.”  (May take a while to figure it out unless you read somewhere that this acronym stands for All You Can Eat.  Very low-brow if you compare it to the hoity-toity and commonly mispronounced originally advertised name of Haute Plates.)   It has a large selection of food items but divided into various categories based on how they are prepared, rather than the usual ones of ethnic roots.  Although new restaurants these days try to make things “different,” some unusual dishes and combinations just end up seeming “strange.”  Although I don’t mind trying new menu items, Brad was not impressed – he felt the whole thing just was “weird” and he couldn’t find much that appealed to him.

I like the new modern “small-plates” style.  However, there is a major problem with this.  Although it works well on the salad bar and anywhere that cold selections are offered, it falls short with most of the hot choices – they aren’t hot!  There needs to be a remedy for this fast cool-down problem.  Related to this is that items like slider sandwiches quickly end up with stale buns.  I’m not sure what the solution to this problem could be – maybe see-through individual plastic/glass covers that hold in the heat and keep out the drying cold air – but it certainly needs to be addressed.

Opinions of friends have been mixed on this buffet, but that is not surprising.  Food likes/dislikes is such a personal choice!

There is one major frugal action I can tout here, one of the first frugal tips I wrote about almost 20 years ago when it used to be more common before many buffets started closing an hour or two between mealtimes:  Since the Palms buffet opens at 8 a.m. and doesn’t close until 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Friday and Saturday), you can save money by careful timing of your arrival. Lunch prices start at 11 a.m. but go just before that time and pay breakfast price, which is $3 cheaper.  You can do the same thing later in the day when higher dinner prices start at 4 p.m.; go just before 4 p.m. and save $6 for each person in your party and still be able to enjoy the upgraded dinner selections.

 

TUSCANY

PUB 365 (where the Mexican restaurant used to be) – Voted “Best Beer Selection” in the R-J “Best of LV.”  Tuesdays in January earn 100 points for a 2-for-1 entrée coupon for this sports bar.  Also, seniors 50+ get 20% off here for the January senior special.  An extra plus for some:  you can watch all Golden Knight games here.

 

BOYD PROPERTIES

The Young at Heart (YAH) senior promotion on Wednesdays continues to be a popular program at all the properties.  It is important, as I keep repeating, that you read the official rules so you know the benefits and the restrictions of this promo.  You can go to the website of the particular casino where you want to do this promotion, click on YAH, and there is a link to the official details. Be aware that the programs do not all have the exact same benefits or restrictions.  Also, be aware that the rules sometimes are modified with no official notice to the players so it pays to check these links every month.

You can find Brad and me at the Gold Coast most Wednesday afternoons pounding away on the $1 NSUDs.  We sometimes take advantage of the free food offers, depending on our schedule that day.   If you have a book to be autographed or just want to chat, join Brad and me at a table near the Red Zone at 4:30 where we can all wait – and hope – for our names to be called in the drawing.

Posted in Casino Promotions, Food Review | 7 Comments

Gamblers Ask About New Tax Law

An explanation from the American Gaming Association (AGA) from a press release I was e-mailed  – with my comments in [ ]:

What Does Federal Tax Reform Mean for Casino Customers?

Background

Congress recently enacted extensive changes to our nation’s tax law. Among the changes contained in the final bill were a reduction or elimination of many deductions for both individuals and businesses. This document is intended to address questions about how changes to the law will impact casino customers.

Rules for Deducting Gambling Losses

  • Under the new law, those who itemize deductions will continue to be able to deduct gambling losses up to the amount of their total winnings. For example, a slot player who wins $25,000 in jackpots may deduct up to that amount in verifiable gaming losses when they fill out an itemized tax form. After making this calculation on the form, the player will only be responsible for paying taxes on any net income they have received from gambling. If losses are greater than winnings, the customer would have no tax liability for their gaming income. [This deduction was “saved” at the last minute.]
  • The new law will impact those who meet the IRS’s narrow definition of a “professional gambler” by capping their deductions for both wagering losses and expenses to the amount of their winnings. As an example, a professional gambler who has $50,000 in winnings can deduct up to that amount in combined losses and expenses such as travel, meals and hotel stays. Prior to these recent changes, professional gamblers were allowed to separately deduct expenses incurred in carrying out wagering transactions without regard to their wagering wins and losses. This limitation will expire after 2025 unless Congress chooses to extend it.

Other Changes to Consider

  •  Another consequential change made in this bill was to significantly increase the standard deduction taxpayers may claim (now $12,000 for individual filers, $18,000 for heads of household and $24,000 for joint filers). As a result of this change, estimates indicate 90% of tax filers will no longer choose to itemize deductions under the new regime. For those among the two-thirds of taxpayers who already chose to take the standard deduction, this increase in the standard deduction is likely beneficial and shouldn’t impact current treatment of wagering wins and losses. Casino patrons who itemized previously, however, should consult a tax professional to determine whether they will continue to achieve the greatest tax benefit from itemizing under the new law.
Legal Disclaimer: This publication does not, and is not intended to, provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and readers should consult their tax advisors concerning the application of tax laws to their specific situations.  [Very important suggestion – don’t depend on personal opinions you read on Internet gambling forums!!]

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In another release, the AGA talks about future concerns that need to be addressed:

While there were wins, there are other areas where we will need to continue to engage to protect and promote the industry as “fixes” are considered in 2018 and beyond. High priority targets include:

1.  Lifting the Slot Tax Reporting Threshold: The $1,200 slot tax reporting threshold was set in the 1970s. The tax reform debate provided us an opportunity to introduce this topic to legislators and pave the way for adjusting the threshold in a favorable way for our members and customers. I encourage your continued engagement to help us make a compelling case for how a higher reporting threshold will help lower administrative costs and provide our customers an improved experience when they visit your facilities;

2.  Promulgating Regulations that Work for the Industry: Legislation of this size and scope will undoubtedly require significant details to be determined by the IRS and the Treasury Department. AGA will remain vigilant to ensure any rulemaking by executive agencies is consistent with industry practices and priorities; and

3.  Assessing and Addressing the Impact of Certain Changes: It may take some time to fully understand the effect some changes have on the industry and our customer base. For example, doubling the standard deduction for individuals will likely result in fewer taxpayers electing to itemize and net their gambling income/losses. AGA will need your continued input to know whether this has a measurable effect on customer behavior, and we stand ready to work with Congressional champions to help address any unintended consequences that threaten the health of the industry.  [Maybe lead to being able to use NET win/loss figures and use “session” records that can show lower numbers than W2-G jackpot figures???  I plan to live a long time but I would be surprised to see this in my lifetime! 🙂 ]

 

 

 

 

Posted in Taxes | 3 Comments