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Are ever-increasing resort fees affecting visitation to Las Vegas? (Rerun)

Casinos and other businesses are seen reflected in the glass walls of an overpass along the Las Vegas Strip on Nov. 11, 2020.
Wong Maye-E
Casinos and other businesses are seen reflected in the glass walls of an overpass along the Las Vegas Strip on Nov. 11, 2020.

Sure, rooms as low as $20 still exist in Las Vegas, but most come with a hefty resort fee. And President Biden is directing the government to reign them in.

For many decades, Las Vegas was a place you go and spend little on food or a room, with the idea that the casino would make money from gambling.

The idea hasn’t disappeared. And some places still advertise very low room rates. But the reality is much different. You might see an ad online for a $25 room, but upon payment time, you’ll notice resort fees. And you’ll pay a tax on the resort fee, too.

Only 7 percent of hotels in the country charge resort fees. So many of them are in Las Vegas, we could only find two within the tourist corridor that don't add the fees to your bill.

It’s gotten to the point that last year, President Joe Biden talked about it in his State of the Union speech, calling them junk fees. Congressional and state legislative bills have been drafted — in the case of California, passed and going into effect soon. And the Federal Trade Commission may take action against them and other hidden fees.

So what do Nevada's two U.S. senators and four House representatives think of potential anti-fee measures? In short, they're not saying much, says Gabrielle Birenbaum, who reports from Washington D.C. for the Nevada Independent.

"I think it puts the Nevadans in a bit of an awkward in that they know that these fees are unpopular, they knew that this is something that their president really feels is important to help consumers into his electoral success, I imagine," says Birenbaum. "But [the congresspeople's] interests are often more aligned with the industry or the workers, not as much the consumers, many of whom come from out of Nevada."

But those consumers — both out of and in Nevada — are plenty steamed and not afraid to express it. That includes the subscribers of the local resort consumer publication Las Vegas Advisor, published by Anthony Curtis.

"Unpopular doesn't say it," he says. "There's nothing that the casinos have done — including parking fees, including changing rules on games, making machines tighter — there's nothing they have done that angers and riles customers more than resort fees, according to our people."

The resort industry, wary of regulation and compliance costs like most industries, has long argued that resort fees cover amenities such as in-room wi-fi and phone use, as well as gyms and pools, and that Las Vegas hotels are more like resorts than your standard Hilton and Marriott properties. Anthony says such an explanation is a "dodge."

"They're doing it for two reasons," adds Curtis. "They're doing it to publicize a lower rate. And they're doing it so they don't have to share commissions. And that's all there is to it."

Both Curtis and Birenbaum believe that barring lawsuits, the fees are here to stay. "They have no incentive to [change the fee system] other than some sort of regulatory fix," says Birenbaum.

Guests: Gabrielle Birenbaum, Washington, D.C. reporter, The Nevada Independent; Anthony Curtis, publisher, Las Vegas Advisor

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.