December 30, 2003

My always fun and interesting webmaster Michael Bluejay asked if he could plug his own newsletter Car-Free World, which as you can gather from the name is critical of the car culture.  I told him he would have to write a gambling related newsletter in exchange for the free plug.  Michael is an authority on staying in Vegas on a very limited budget and does a great job giving us the scoop on the ultra-economy lodging options downtown.   As someone who always bikes short distances and only drives about 3000 miles a year I am sympathetic to Michael's crusade for the rights of people who don't use cars.  If the topic interests you I'd suggest giving his newsletter a try.  We share the same no-spam policy and no-hassle opting out.  Thanks Michael for another funny and informative newsletter (you may recall he wrote another one while I was in Hawaii).  Also, best wishes to all my newsletter readers in 2004 and may the odds be with you.

 -- The Wizard

Cheapest stays in Vegas

by Michael Bluejay, Professional Cheapskate

I asked the Wizard if he'd mention my hot, hot newsletter, Car-Free World, in his own newsletter. He said sure, except that I'd have to mention it myself, and that I'd have to write an article about Vegas or gambling. Grrr.... Okay, Wizard wins, I'm writing the article. But I win too, because I get the link to my newsletter. And you, the reader, win too, because you're getting a super-exciting article that you won't find anywhere else. Everyone wins! And isn't Vegas all about winning? Win win win win!

Okay, you can see why the Wizard doesn't let me out in public very often. So anyway, my article is about the absolute cheapest places to stay when you're in Vegas. I'm the expert on this one. Jean Scott (author of The Frugal Gambler) has nothing on me, I can frugal circles around her.

Of course the cheapest thing is to just stay with the Wizard when I'm in Vegas. But he lives out by the mountains which is an hour from downtown (by bicycle anyway, which is how I get around), and I'm not down with his crappy 1980's Clavinova electronic piano or the dead chickens or the kids calling me "Mr. Bluejay!" So that's out. Fortunately, there are cheap alternatives.

Hostels are usually supposed to be just for international travelers, but LVBH sometimes takes Yanks — especially in the slower seasons, like winter. Last time I was there the rate was $13/night. The catch is that you share your room with up to three other people. But if you can deal with that, you won't find cheaper.

If you're going to be in Vegas for at least a couple of weeks, you might be able to get a gig at the hostel cleaning rooms or doing other jobs — and then you get to stay for FREE. I did this, but it was about 3 hours a day, 7 days a week — or 21 hours for a $91 bed, not the greatest deal in the world. But it was an interesting experience. Plus one of my co-workers was an interesting Belgian guy named Ronald, another cool roommate was Todd (a waiter at the Venetian), and there were a bunch of strippers who stayed there because even though they could afford to stay in a hotel, they preferred to stay somewhere where there was some semblance of community. An Australian girl also offered me money or sex if I would marry her so she could remain in the country. Unfortunately because of her accent I think she was offering me "six" and I thought I should hold out for seven.

The Western, $22
899 Fremont St., 800-634-6703

The Western is my favorite casino in the whole world. Why? Because it's CHEAP! And it's DANGEROUS! You can't have one without the other. And you've got to expect that when you have $1 blackjack and $0.25 roulette in an unclean, stinky building with blazing fluorescent lighting in the middle of a crack neighborhood that it's not gonna be Utopia. Two guys tailed me out of there when I left one night, probably trying to nab the $67 they saw me win. Fortunately I noticed them and got back into a public area before anything bad happened.

So let's talk rooms: The Western used to offer rooms for $16 a night, any night, even weekends! I took advantage of this in 2001. No place can be so dangerous that I wouldn't take advantage of its $16 rooms. Unfortunately the rate recently went up to $22. The bastards! But I guess I can't blame them.

So what kind of a room do you get for $22? Better than you might expect. My room was fairly clean and functional. It was a nice quite place to sleep, which was all I wanted. Now, the safety of getting to your room and leaving it, that's another story.

The Gold Spike, $25-30
400 E. Ogden, 800-634-6703

If dangerous thrills aren't your idea of a good time, then you might like the Western's sister casino, the Gold Spike. The rooms there are pricier — $25 week nights and $30 on the weekends — but what do you expect in exchange for not having to politely decline the opportunity to buy large quantities of narcotics as you walk to your hotel? I don't like this place as much because the casino is a lot smaller, it's dimly lit (compared to the Western's blazing fluorescents), and it's not as dangerous.

A friend has a funny story about the Western. He doesn't want to be identified so let's just say his initials are W.I.Z. He had a coupon for a free breakfast at the Gold Spike which he wasn't planning on using. As he was walking out the door a homeless guy asked him for money to get something to eat, so W. offered him the coupon. The homeless guy looked at it and said, "Forget it, I ain't *that* hungry.

And finally, don't forget, I entertained and informed you in the hopes that you'd sign up for my own newsletter, Car-Free World. The Wizard gets my newsletter, and I think I heard him say that it's not nearly as bad as you would suspect.