Yesterday, I tipped you to an unadvertised steakhouse special that you have to know to ask about. It reminded me of a story my friend Mark Evanier once told me about a battle between two casinos in Las Vegas over a prime rib dinner. I don’t remember which properties they were, but let’s say they were the Desert Inn and The Frontier, both of which are long gone.

Each of them offered a $9.95 prime rib dinner, which included salad, a baked potato, dessert, and a drink. They had plenty of business, because many of their clientele were getting it for free. One day, The Frontier decided to raise the price of its prime rib dinner to $11.95. They didn’t change a thing about the actual food you got, just the price on the menu.

When gamblers at the Desert Inn heard that there was a “better” prime rib dinner available across the street, they either took their action to the Frontier, or they demanded that their hosts at the Desert Inn give them a better prime rib dinner, too. So the Desert Inn raised the price of its meal to $14.95. Same steak, same salad, same potato, same dessert, same beverage, but now a bigger price.

Naturally, the gamblers at the Frontier were outraged that their prime rib dinner was now the inferior one. So they went back across the street and lost at the Desert Inn instead. Not it was the Frontier’s turn to lure those gamblers back with a better deal, so re-printed their menus with a higher price. It went head-to-head like that until both places ended up charging $24.95 for that ten-buck prime rib dinner.

What’s most amusing about this is that it didn’t really matter to the gamblers, because they were getting the meal for free — or it seemed like it was free because they didn’t think about the hundreds or thousands of dollars they were losing at slot machines and table games, which is where any casino makes its money in the first place.