Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 | 2 a.m.
If you’re looking for a free drink while gambling in a casino, the best places in Nevada are in Elko County and in Laughlin in Clark County.
But don’t expect too much from the big casinos along the Las Vegas Strip.
The newly released Nevada Gaming Abstract shows that statewide 45 percent of liquor sales were complimentary, with casinos picking up the bar tab.
But there’s a wide divergence in casinos’ free drink policies.
In Elko County, for example, 74 percent of the bar sales are picked up by the casino. But in the 23 biggest casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, complimentary liquor accounts for only 36.9 percent of the bar sales.
Frank Streshley, senior research specialist for the state Gaming Control Board, said more free drinks are served in places with slot machine bars, prevalent in Northern Nevada casinos.
In contrast, the big casinos on the Strip feature cocktail lounges or piano bars off the casino floor. And complimentary drinks for gamblers are not as widespread, he said.
The clubs in Laughlin and on the Boulder Strip in Clark County are among the most generous in the state in comping rooms, food and liquor.
The gaming report, released last week, shows that total bar revenue in the 31 clubs on the Boulder Strip for fiscal 2006 was $54.7 million. And 62.9 percent of that was comped by the casinos’ gaming division.
It reports that 37.4 percent of the total food sales of $152.7 million was free — compliments of the Boulder Strip casinos. Complimentary rooms in the hotels accounted for 27.4 percent of total room revenue.
In Laughlin, casinos picked up 70.4 percent of the $48.9 million in bar sales. More than 37 percent of the food sales in fiscal 2006 was paid by the gaming end of the business, with complimentary rooms accounting for 36 percent of the hotels’ sales.
The abstract showed that 17.3 percent of the $2 billion in food sales in the large resorts on the Strip was complimentary. And 15.4 percent of the hotel room revenue was paid for by casinos.
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Construction has been halted on a 100-bed transitional center in North Las Vegas for female prison inmates nearing their release from custody.
The dormitory-type structure was part of a 400-bed expansion of the state women’s prison, but now is not needed, officials said.
Gus Nunez, manager of the state Public Works Board, said the contract with Apco Construction Co. had to be changed. “Unfortunately it (construction) had started and we had to have a change order.
“This is not a good thing to do,” Nunez told the board.
Shelving this part of the project, which was to be built outside the regular prison’s fence, will save the state more than $4.5 million, he said.
Nunez predicts that Howard Skolnik, director of the state Corrections Department, will be bombarded with questions about the decision by the Legislative Interim Finance Committee, which meets Thursday in Carson City.
Skolnik said the changing makeup of the prison population prompted scrapping the transitional beds. The prison system now needs more medium- and high-security beds and fewer transitional beds.
He has already announced that the Southern Nevada Correctional Center at Jean in Clark County will be closed, saving $11.5 million.
There is a 400-bed Casa Grande center in Las Vegas for low-risk inmates within 18 months of their release. Fifty beds have been set aside for women but Skolnik said even those usually are not filled. He currently has only 30 female prisoners who qualify.
Casa Grande is in an industrial area, close to jobs and public transportation. Many of the inmates housed there work during the day and are confined at night.
“We don’t need to spend that money,” Skolnik said, referring to the construction costs for the 100-bed transitional center.
The public works board awarded a $39.9 million contract to Apco Construction for the full 400 beds, 300 of which will be inside the North Las Vegas prison.