LAS VEGAS (AP) — MGM Resorts International said Friday that it will become the first major casino company to start charging visitors for parking on the Las Vegas Strip.
Competitors, customers, experts and officials reacted to the move that will change a long-running perk as Sin City increasingly caters to visitors who come for costly attractions.
WHAT TOURISTS SAY
For some longtime visitors, the extra fees are not welcome.
Deanna Hudson, 57, of Spokane, Washington, said that for years she has driven 17 hours to Las Vegas for vacation and stayed at the MGM Grand.
She says hotel guests should get a freebie because "I think they charge enough with the resort fees and fees for extra people in the rooms." But the property's lazy river pool is a family favorite, so she said they will probably still stay there in the summers.
WHAT LOCALS SAY
Some want perks such as discounts on food and drinks to keep them coming back.
"Tourists are going to keep coming. I say support the locals," said Angela Pflederer, 45, of Las Vegas.
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
Sin City is focusing more on food, drinks and entertainment, and MGM believes it has enough of those options at its properties that visitors will be willing to pay the parking fee, a gambling analyst said.
"Las Vegas has been moving away from being gambling-centric," said Alex Bumazhny with Fitch Ratings.
A state history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says the fees are a sea change.
"When we travel, the idea of paying for parking borders on the obscene. How could that be?" said Michael Green, also a native of Las Vegas.
WHAT OFFICIALS SAY
County officials support the fees, saying freeloaders don't pay their share of casinos' astronomical costs for land on the Strip.
"A significant problem at some of the Strip properties is people who aren't guests are using the facilities," said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who chairs the board that governs the Strip.
Fellow Commissioner Chris Guinchigliani said that in the long run, the parking fees could lead more people to use public transit or bikes, reducing congestion and creating "a different benefit" for the area.
"I've traveled all over the world, and I'm amazed Vegas has been able to keep free parking," Guinchigliani said.
Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said it supports all resorts, which "continually evolve the experience they provide in order to accommodate their guests and be successful as a business."
WHAT COMPETITORS SAY
The Cosmopolitan casino-hotel said it doesn't have plans to follow in MGM Resorts' footsteps. But it left the door open, saying it's "always evaluating the business."
Other major casino operators have not spoken out about the parking fees.
"We will monitor the situation for now," says Michael Weaver, spokesman for Wynn Las Vegas, which operates the Wynn and Encore casino-hotels.
He declined to discuss MGM's decision, as did the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates the Palazzo and Venetian casino-hotels and the Sands Expo convention center.
Caesars Palace representatives couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Rindels reported from Carson City.