Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | 4:02 p.m.
Getting free drinks at the blackjack table is nothing new. Surprisingly, neither is having the casino fly you to Vegas so you can sip that White Russian while you hit 16.
The practice of transporting everyday gamblers to the Strip began in the 1950s with the Hacienda Hotel’s chartered “champagne flights,” which brought folks from LA on planes equipped with pianos and plenty of bubbly to get them in the spending mood. Package deals are now favored over straight junket flights (giving the house better odds), though free or mostly free airfare is still being dangled in front of far-flung gamblers—like the 7 million souls living in Northeast Ohio.Their Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is competing hard with Pittsburgh International Airport for a new junket flight through Caesars Entertainment. It isn’t some random grab for an infusion of Midwest cash. Caesars Entertainment says its junkets, which range from chartered flights to commercial air deals, are intended for Total Rewards members (i.e. frequent players) nationwide and some international guests. Independent casino rep Casinos International says first-time junketeers get a freebie, but after that the piper needs his digitally tracked minimum play. Sounds fair. Last time I checked, airfare didn’t come with a chance to double your money.