Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010 | 7:10 p.m.
Struggling under a mammoth debt burden in penny-pinching times, Strip casino giant Harrah's Entertainment is taking the offensive with a press release informing consumers that none of the company's Las Vegas hotels charge so-called mandatory resort fees.
The release also takes a broad swipe at the competition, including the many Las Vegas hotels that charge such fees.
"These resorts offer competitive promotional rates; however, in many instances, an additional resort fee is assessed when booking the reservation online (that) may be in excess of 40 percent of the base room rate," the release states.
A competitive advantage is all for naught if consumers don't know about it, which is why the company is trumpeting its no-resort-fee policy, a little-known practice that the company says has existed for several years in Las Vegas.
Resort fees are automatically tacked onto the final cost of a room and can include such services as high-speed Internet access, newspapers, gym access and telephone service. The fees have been widely criticized by consumers.
"Resort fees aren't always obvious to the customer," especially if the charge doesn't show up until checkout, said Marilyn Winn, regional president overseeing the company's Bally's and Paris casinos. "You may be paying for things you didn't want."
Instead of charging a fee for bundled services, Harrah's-owned properties in Las Vegas individually charge guests for products and services they use during their stay, Winn said. That's what consumers prefer, she said.
"Maybe you didn't bring your computer for Internet access because you came to (gamble)," she said.
Many Las Vegas hotels charge resort fees ranging from a few dollars to about $25. There's nothing illegal about charging such fees, so long as they are properly disclosed.
Major hotel chains have settled lawsuits in recent years by consumers alleging that such fees weren't disclosed to guests until it was too late for them to alter their purchase.
Some customers have complained that they weren't aware of the fee until they were charged for the purchase of a room. Resort fees may not show up in the initial price of a room booked online but are included in the final cost.