Lawsuit Strikes Back at Casino Resort Fees

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Resort fees have been a thorn in gamblers’ sides ever since the turn of the millennium. These fees tack additional charges on to casino resort stays.

Up until now, most people have begrudgingly accepted such charges. However, a Washington DC-based travel group is now striking back at resort fees with a lawsuit. They’re suing MGM Resorts over deceptive pricing.

You can find out more regarding this lawsuit below. First, though, I’ll discuss resort fees in depth and why they’re so bad for gambling trips.

What Are Resort Fees?

Up until the 2000s, casino resorts used to charge for every item upfront. If you wanted Wi-Fi or gym access, you would pay for these amenities beforehand.

This setup began changing, though, around the early 2000s. Hotel resorts started bundling services into a “resort fee,” which appeared on the final bill.

A resort fee is a single charge that covers multiple services. Here are examples of what’s included in this fee:

  • Airport shuttle
  • Business center
  • Cable
  • Concierge
  • Fax machine
  • Gym
  • In-room coffee
  • Mini refrigerator
  • Swimming pool
  • Toiletries
  • Utilities
  • Valet or self-parking
  • Wi-Fi

Casinos don’t make these services optional. Instead, they expect you to pay the bundle price no matter whether you use everything that’s available or not.

How Much Do Resort Fees Cost?

You’ll see an initial price when booking a hotel room. For example, the listed cost for a two-night stay might be $400.

Resort fees, however, jack up the final price. Your bill may be $500, which accounts for $100 in resort charges.

Casino Gambling

The cost of resort fees varies based on the hotel chain. It typically
runs anywhere from 20% to 100% of the booking cost.

You may be shocked when dealing with the upper range of this amount. With a 50% fee, for example, a $200 bill would turn into $300. If you don’t know that the extra $100 is coming, then you’ll be horrified seeing the bill at checkout time.

Why Do Casinos and Other Hotels Charge Resort Fees?

Casino resorts don’t see themselves as price gouging when adding these additional charges. Instead, they feel that they’re doing you a favor.

The industry’s argument is that, when separate, all of the individual services they provide would cost much more. Resorts reduce the overall price on amenities with a single bundle charge.

Of course, you probably won’t need one or more of the services. For instance, you might not use the fax machine or swimming pool. Nevertheless, you’re still expected to pay for these amenities just because they’re there.

Certain services that casino resorts provide might seem free at first glance. In reality, though, everything costs in the hotel.

Travel Group Sues MGM Over Resort Fees

Casino resorts have been relatively unopposed when charging resort fees. However, their luck may be running out after a recent lawsuit.

A DC-based group called Travelers United is suing MGM Resorts International over what it calls deceptive “drip pricing.” The nonprofit travel advocacy group claims that MGM’s resort fees violate the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

This lawsuit specifically takes aim at how the casino corporation hides part of the room rate, labeling the charges as a resort fee. Travelers United notes that these fees trick people into “believing an MGM hotel room is cheaper than it actually is.”

MGM Resorts charges resort fees at all of its US-based properties, including the following:

  • Aria (Vegas)
  • Bellagio (Vegas)
  • Beau Rivage (Biloxi)
  • Borgata (Atlantic City)
  • Gold Strike (Tunica)
  • Luxor (Vegas)
  • Mandalay Bay (Vegas)
  • MGM Grand Detroit
  • MGM Grand Las Vegas
  • MGM National Harbor (Maryland – near Washington DC)
  • MGM Springfield (Boston)
  • New York-New York (Vegas)

Lauren Wolfe, counsel for Travelers United, believes that MGM’s resort fees are illegal and in violation of DC laws.

“It is time to end the abhorrent practice of illegal resort fees by the hotel industry,” says Wolfe. “All mandatory hotel fees must be included in the advertised price in order to be legal.”

She also notes that MGM Resorts continues charging the same resort fees, even with many amenities now gone due to the pandemic: “This shows that clearly there is no correlation between amenities and resort fees.”

Will Travelers United’s Lawsuit Have an Impact?

MGM Resorts is far from the only hospitality company that tacks on resort fees. These extra charges are an industry standard at this point.

Multiple entities are now taking aim at these fees. The Travelers United lawsuit is one of a few major complaints to be filed against resorts recently.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a lawsuit against Hilton over resort fees in 2019. DC Attorney General Karl Racine also filed a suit against Marriott International in 2019 over the same issue.

MGM Grand Las Vegas

Thus far, no lawsuit has had a wide-reaching effect on resort fees. However, Travelers United adds one more high-profile complaint to the list.

Their case arose after complaints over the local MGM National Harbor casino requiring high resort fees. If successful, though, the lawsuit would probably affect other MGM properties too.

It could also have an impact on hospitality as a whole. After all, Las Vegas is a haven for expensive resort charges.

The jury is out on whether Travelers United will ultimately be successful with their case. Regardless, their lawsuit is putting more pressure on the hospitality industry to waive these fees.

How Can You Reduce Casino Resort Fees?

You don’t have to wait until the outcome of Travelers United’s lawsuit to see if you’ll have to pay larger resort charges. Instead, you can lower these fees by taking one or more of the following actions.

Stay at Casino Resorts That Don’t Require Resort Fees

The easiest way to avoid additional charges is to pick resorts that don’t charge them in the first place. Looking at Las Vegas, for example, Four Queens, La Quinta Inn, Red Roof Inn, and Royal Resort don’t have resort fees.

Such casino hotels are rare in today’s hospitality industry. Nevertheless, you can still find a few resorts that don’t tack on extra charges.

Request for Charges to Be Reduced or Waived Beforehand

Resorts want you to pay the full fees regardless of if you use the amenities or not. Nevertheless, some hotels are willing to negotiate the resort fees if you communicate with them ahead of time.

During such negotiations, you can point to which services you won’t be using. The resort may work with you and knock $10 or more off the final bill.

Complain During Checkout

You can knock the price down by complaining about various aspects of your stay during checkout time.

For example, you might point out that the pool was closed when you wanted to use it. Or maybe the in-room coffee packets are completely out.

Book Hotel Rooms With Loyalty Points

If you’ve racked up loyalty points through casino games and other expenditures, then you’ll really want to consider using them on a hotel stay.

Casinos treat such bookings as “awards stays.” They’re likely to waive the resort fees because your stay is essentially a VIP perk.

Look for the Lowest Resort Fees

Assuming you don’t have any loyalty points, you can simply research which casino resorts have the lowest fees. It’s a lot like line shopping.

Referring to Vegas again, the average resort fees are $45. You can usually find lower charges in Downtown Las Vegas or on the Boulder Strip. Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, El Cortez, and Main Street, for example, all offer around $20 fees.

Conclusion

Nobody is a fan of seeing extra charges show up on their bill at checkout time. However, casino resorts, and hotels in general, have gotten away with resort fees for a long time.

Travelers United has taken a step towards remedying the problem, though. This traveler advocacy group is waging legal war against MGM Resorts International—one of the world’s biggest casino companies.

Whether this suit results in anything remains to be seen. Nevertheless, people who are just trying to go gamble in a casino are tired of covering lofty resort fees will no doubt be rooting for Travelers United to prevail.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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