I spend a lot of time online, sometimes it is for research, sometimes it is to be entertained, oftentimes in the form of games. Some of those games give real world rewards, like gift cards, Redbox codes, t-shirts, and more, all without paying out of pocket (unless you count time spent, which I don’t). 2 months ago, I was able to redeem points for a complimentary dinner for 2 with the executive chef or manager at 630 Park Steakhouse at the Graton Resort & Casino via MyVegas Rewards (a Facebook game). Last night, I was finally able to make the drive for my first visit to the almost 2-year old casino.
I read a report of another who had redeemed the same prize before me. By my calculations, it looks like there were at least (perhaps only) four total dinners offered as prizes, one at a time, such that you had to be looking at the prize page at the right time to claim it (plus have enough points to buy it).
I started out by signing up for the rewards card (necessary to redeem prize vouchers) and you get some free play money (mine ended up being $5, probably the minimum). Taking a lap around the floor, I found four abandoned vouchers worth a total of 45 cents. As usual when I find money (which is actually quite common), I leave it for several minutes for the owner to search and rescue. Came back, they were still there, I took them. I’ve found such vouchers worth less than a dime before, assuming the gambler thought it wasn’t worth the time and effort to cash them out.
I had 3 hours until my dinner reservation, so I had a slice of oily pepperoni pizza from the food court and checked out the gift shop (I also redeemed points for a $20 gift shop credit), but didn’t buy right away so I didn’t have to carry it around for hours. Fortunately, there are plenty of dining and gift shop credits offered as prizes and this place isn’t too far from home, plus there are people I can visit up this way, so I would have reason to come back with prize redemptions. I have no plans to actually go to Las Vegas soon, where the points can be redeemed for hotel rooms, buffets/restaurant credit, or shows, so I may as well spend them where I can before the program goes away or prizes start to suck.
I don’t care to gamble, but I have played the minimum amount to be able to keep a $1 chip from various casinos around the world as a souvenir. Here, I had $5 of free play money, so why not. I had to seed it with $1 out of pocket to get it started, which wasn’t a huge sacrifice. If I can extend that $6 into about a hour at the penny slots and consider it an arcade game with no prizes, then that’s about the same as spending ~$10 for a 2 hour movie. If I win money, then bonus.
I won money. I had time to look at most of the machines during the walk-around. I chose Starry Night (you know me and astronomy) for my first game. $1.50 into the free play and I won free spins, combined with all the bonus multipliers and wild card distracty-stuff meant I immediately cashed out for over $130. When you win more than you expect, you walk away. More found/abandoned vouchers for tiny amounts and the rest of the free play went though a couple of other games and ended up cashing out at just under $6.
Dinner time is 5:30pm. The restaurant opens at 5pm on Sundays, and I made the reservation for a half hour after that. In hindsight, it would have been better to be there at opening, giving me an extra half hour to get home for lunar eclipse photography. As it happened, I left the casino during the totality phase and made it home as it was still emerging from Earth’s shadow, so at least I saw it. Also, indoor smoking is allowed on the casino floor, which I did not enjoy. The prize description was “Dinner for two with the Executive Chef or General Manager”. We got the dinner part, but no one joined us.
They also give you the bill to show you what the meal would have cost (drinks and gratuity not included in the prize). I tip well.
After dinner, I had planned to get some takeaway for tomorrow’s meal, the choices were an award-winning margherita pizza or celebrity chef dim sum. I opted for the dim sum because when reheated in a microwave, it is closer to its original, just-cooked state than pizza from a wood-fired oven. My gift shop credit is used for an incredibly over-priced, no-name brand iPhone lightning cable (with car charger and wall plug) for mom, as she can use a second cable for the car. The $20 voucher doesn’t cover the whole cost, but at least the two rounds of found money is enough to pay the balance. The clerk points out that the bottom of the receipt says “All electronics sales are final” – no returns or refunds. I ask what I can do if it is defective, as I am going right to the car to test it. She lets me test it in the corner of the store. The cable and wall plug work, so I guess we’re satisfied.
tl;dr: I had a free dinner in a fancy restaurant, essentially found money on the ground, and gambled other free money into more than a 2500% return.