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John L Smith: Parking Peril Is 'Very Vegas' Issue

In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, cars drive into the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts International.
(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, cars drive into the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts International.

Locals in Las Vegas have no shortage of opinion on the issue of casinos charging to park on the Las Vegas Strip. 

It’s hard to explain to outsiders who are used to having to pay to park in other cities. 

Wynn Resorts, however, recently announced they were ending the controversial policy just about one year after starting it. 

MGM Resorts still charges its customers to park. 

State of Nevada contributor John L Smith called it a “Very Vegas” issue.

"Welcome to Las Vegas-the-something-or-nothing town," he quipped, “Free parking has been a long tradition in Las Vegas. It’s one of those things that we have all taken for granted.”

Smith noted that in other big cities around the country what people pay for a parking spot every month could be a mortgage payment in Las Vegas.

“You travel to Los Angeles and find a parking garage somewhere and you better believe you’re going to pay top dollar to park there.”

With the private casino owner mostly a thing of the past, profits rule. He notes the corporate casino culture of today will look for profits anywhere.

As for Wynn Resort's decision to change its policy, Smith has a few thoughts.

“This is a corporation that has gone through tremendous tumultuous times over the last year or so, from losing its founder and chairman Steve Wynn to going through major multimillion-dollar fines in Nevada and with its casino project in Massachusetts. I have to believe that if ever a company needed a little good PR in the newspaper it was probably Wynn Resorts,” he said.

Plus, there's a chance that its regular visitors are not happy about it and voiced that displeasure. As Smith noted, walking into Wynn Resorts property is not like walking into a Kmart, "It's an expensive experience."

As for the chances that other casinos will rollback paid parking, Smith doesn't see it as likely since MGM Resorts already took a beating on the policy and weathered that storm. 

“They’ll probably stick with the program," he said.

In addition, the massive parking structures sitting behind the casinos might become a thing of the past, he said.

“You have to believe that the next generation of Las Vegas growth is going to include eliminating some of those parking garages," he said because there is only so much room on the Strip.

Horse Racing

“There is no question that something has to give inside the American horse racing system,” he said, “It’s a very big business but it is also a very flat business.”

The sport came to national attention with the unusual outcome of this year's Kentucky Derby. Smith notes that besides the Derby, which draws thousands to come out, drink juleps and wear funny hats, there are many days in thoroughbred racing where only a couple of thousand people are there to watch and bet.

Smith said some racing venues are adding either full casinos or slots in an effort to draw in more people but in some states, those efforts are running up against the exclusive casino contracts of tribal casinos.

He believes a better answer might be to look at how minor league baseball and other sports market themselves.

"They’re marketing the party instead of the sporting event itself,” he said.

He said racing facilities need to make it a more user-friendly place to go with a brighter atmosphere to have a good time. 

John L Smith, State of Nevada contributor 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.