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Free parking coming to Wynn, Encore on Las Vegas Strip — VIDEO

Free parking will return to Wynn Resorts Ltd. properties on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean other resorts will follow the company’s lead in ending those fees.

On Monday, the company announced that its Wynn Las Vegas and Encore garages will offer free self-parking for all guests. The change takes place less than two years after the company implemented its paid parking program.

Locals looking to save money on Strip parking shouldn’t get their hopes up. During MGM Resorts International’s first quarter earnings call on Monday, president and Chief Operating Officer Bill Hornbuckle said Wynn’s “independent decision won’t change ours going forward.”

No choice

Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said the parking policy change was made to align the company’s policies with its “position as a provider of luxury experiences for guests.”

Wynn originally announced its paid self-parking program in August 2017, following on the heels of MGM’s announcement to charge for parking in the summer of 2016.

“I think everyone was in a monkey-see-monkey-do with MGM,” said Ted Newkirk, founder of gaming and tourism tips website Access Vegas.

Wynn hasn’t yet contemplated raising fees in other areas to cover the cost of free parking, according to Weaver, but Newkirk said he wouldn’t be surprised if it inflates prices in other areas.

“Other people feel the benevolence of free parking, but if everything inside is a bit more expensive, that may not be an issue,” he said.

Newkirk said Wynn’s neighboring resorts pressured the company into changing its policy; The Venetian, Palazzo and TI offer free parking.

“(Wynn) didn’t have a choice,” he said. “Someone’s going to (plan on going to) Wynn, park at a Wynn-adjacent (property) and they may get sidetracked and never make it.”

Unlike Wynn, MGM properties aren’t surrounded by competitors that offer free parking, Newkirk said, and the company is too “entrenched” in its decisions to make any changes.

Hornbuckle said MGM spends a lot of “time, energy and money” on its paid parking program.

MGM will hold fast to paid parking because the company is “really under the gun with their quarterly report and stock price,” Newkirk said.

In an earnings call Monday, MGM reported a 75.1 percent decrease in net income compared to the first quarter of 2018, and an 86.8 percent drop in earnings per share.

Easy access for locals

Weaver said the policy change will be a benefit for both local guests and those driving in from Southern California.

A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 37 percent of survey respondents — all of whom work in Clark County — avoid parking at Strip casinos with paid parking. Twenty-nine percent avoid using any services from Strip casinos that charge guests for parking.

Wynn’s move comes as other casinos switch up their parking policies. Tropicana announced that it would start charging for event parking in October last year, and the Cosmopolitan started incorporating its parking fee into the resort fee in January.

Newkirk said Wynn’s decision could lead to changes at other Strip properties down the road.

He believes free parking could help Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s customer loyalty, and it could be a move executives “seriously consider” as they decide if and how much of the company to sell, as billionaire hedge fund activist Carl Icahn, the largest shareholder in Caesars, has encouraged the company be sold.

Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish told the Review-Journal the company “is not currently reviewing” its parking policies.

But Wynn is in “a better position to do this and look at the books in three months and see if they’re taking a hit off of it,” Newkirk said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo.

Contact bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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