"Free" Rooms aren't just for high rollers. People hear about it all the time – this friend or that jets off to Las Vegas or visits any other of a number of U.S. locations that offer legalized gambling these days. And their accommodations don’t cost them a dime.

How do they manage this? Do casino hotels really give rooms away for free? Yes… sometimes. Guests still have to spend money, but in some cases it won’t be for the beds they spend the night in. As with all “deals,” there are a few catches, and not all “free room” offers are created equal.

Package Deals

Casino hotels typically give free rooms – and a host of other freebies like restaurant meals – to favored gamblers. These freebies are referred to as “comps.” Casinos have systems in place to identify the players who warrant receiving them, and they reward them accordingly so they keep coming back to wager their dollars. Gambling is, after all, where casinos make most of their money.

But not everyone is a dedicated gambler. Not everyone’s idea of a really good time is pulling on a one-armed bandit for hours on end. Are these guests left out in the cold? Not quite. Many casino hotels offer some nice package deals.

Resorts International in Atlantic City offers some remarkably inexpensive rooms in the neighborhood of $60 or so a night. This package also offers free parking which would normally cost about $10, as well as credits toward meals and cocktails and free slot machine play up to a certain dollar amount. When all these extras are added together, their value easily equals the room rate and sometimes even exceeds it…thus, a “free” room and a good time, too.

The Four Seasons in Las Vegas offers a “third night free” package. Guests pay for the first two nights and the third one is gratis. Again, it's a free room even if it's not for the guest's entire stay.

Guests should always ask about available packages when they're making reservations at a casino hotel, or visit the casino’s website in advance to find out what’s available. These deals typically aren’t offered on weekends or holidays, and other rules may apply.

Gambling Comps

Earning comps comes down to how much a player wagers and how he does it. If he plays at a dollar slot machine, his odds of getting comped – at least a little – are better than if he plays at a nickel machine.

The best comps are associated with games in which the casino has a more significant edge and likewise stands to make more money: Those dollar slots, 3- and 4- card poker and Caribbean Stud are good examples. Contrary to common belief, games like blackjack, roulette and craps aren’t actually the biggest moneymakers for casinos, so it’s unlikely they'll will give free rooms to anyone who plays moderately at these tables. Unfortunately, the average gambler is much more likely to earn a free cocktail than a free room.

How to Get Comped 

Guests are comped in advance. They can’t just call and make a reservation, asking that they not be charged for their rooms because they intend to wager next week’s paychecks at the poker tables. So reserve a room, check in and head for the casino. Locate the proper authority who might – just might - pick up the tab for a room, if not on this visit, than on the next.

Players who prefer the slot machines should look for some version of a “slot club.” Someone there can usually explain how to go about earning comps for play and exactly what freebies can be earned in exchange for how many points. Some casinos offer brochures instructing how to go about the process. Signing up with the club is often required, but this is typically free.

Otherwise, sign up for a player’s reward card. Virtually every casino offers a version of this card, a way of keeping track of a player’s wagers – including slot machine play – and his wins, losses and even other spending. Get comfortable at a gaming table and keep an eye out for the pit boss. He’s the one in a really spiffy suit, wandering among the tables, maintaining a seemingly casual but watchful eye on all that goes on. Catch his attention. Give him the rewards card.

If possible, bet more when he’s watching. While the card is tracking a gambler’s actual play, the pit boss is taking in a lot of information, too, such as how long a particular player remains at the table. He'll often approach high rollers with offers to make their stays more comfortable. Other players will probably have to ask for comps with no guarantee of an affirmative response. They can also go over the pit boss’s head to the casino host, but this approach is usually best suited to heavy gamblers who have never visited this particular casino before.

What Not to Expect

Free rooms are usually just that – accommodations are not charged, but what a guest does in that room can tally up a bill upon checkout and he's still responsible for paying that. Things like room service, dipping into that in-room liquor cabinet, or ordering in-room movies are not usually comped or included in package deals.