AP NEWS

Titus: Congress bill on hotel resort fees faces uphill path

October 5, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal legislation requiring transparency in hotel room rate advertising faces an uphill battle in the current Congress, according to Nevada U.S. Rep. Dina Titus.

Titus, a Democrat whose home district includes the resort-packed Las Vegas Strip, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that two colleagues introduced a bipartisan bill focusing on resort fees, or mandatory daily charges on a guest’s hotel bill to pay for things like fitness center access, in-room safes and Wi-Fi — whether they’re used or not.

“It’s just been introduced, and there’s an awful lot happening in Congress right now, so I’m not sure it’s going to move,” Titus said of the measure sponsored by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska.

In Las Vegas, resort fees can range from about $15 to $50 a night at some properties.

Casino industry analyst Carlo Santarelli said in a report to investors the bill introduced Sept. 25 calls into question the fairness of not disclosing the fees in advertising about room rates.

“The bill, if successful, will have an impact on the larger scale Las Vegas Strip operators, namely MGM and Caesars,” he said.

Rich Broome, spokesman for Caesars Entertainment, said its hotels “provide pricing transparency already and, as such, the proposed federal legislation is unnecessary in our view.”

MGM Resorts spokesman Brian Ahern said the company has been among the most transparent in the industry when it comes to displaying resort fees during the room booking process.

Titus said she supports “prominent, early and clear disclosure of costs and fees,” and welcomed Federal Trade Commission guidance for transparency in the industry.

The commission has oversight authority to regulate unfair or deceptive acts or trade practices. In 2012 and 2013, it warned 35 hotel operators and 11 online travel agents that mandatory resort fees could confuse consumers.

In 2017, an FTC economist published a report that said requiring consumers to click through additional webpages to see a hotel’s resort fee increases the time spent searching for the hotel’s true price.

Santarelli said one benefit of the resort fee for hotel operators is that online travel agencies do not share in the proceeds, since they get their commissions from the posted rates.

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents 71 properties statewide, said its members have embraced transparency since the FTC first examined the issue seven years ago.

“Transparency and compliance are paramount to the success and longevity of Nevada’s largest industry,” the association said in a statement.

“As a matter of practice and in keeping with longstanding Federal Trade Commission guidance, our industry clearly and prominently discloses resort fees throughout the booking process, giving the consumer the necessary information to make an informed choice in a competitive environment,” the statement said.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com