The best Chicago casinos

Our guide to the greatest gambling hits within 75 miles.

Illustration: Morgan Schweitzer

BEST FOR: THE ENTRY-LEVEL GAMBLER
Horseshoe Casino Hammond This casino’s not short on serious dice rollers. But on weekends, it draws a crowd of twentysomethings there for the scene as much as the slot machines, thanks to the proximity to downtown (a 17-mile shot over the Chicago Skyway) and free shuttles roaming Chicago. Grab a cocktail (they run as cheap as $4) at Push, the sleek bar in the center of the gaming floor, and flirt with the penny slots or $1–$2 no-limit Hold’Em. Or just flirt your way through the inevitable bachelor and bachelorette parties—you’ll probably have better odds. 777 Casino Center Dr, Hammond, IN (219-473-7000)

BEST FOR: HIGH ROLLERS
Rivers Casino A 44,000-square-foot gaming floor ups the ante with the highest table limits in Illinois, including a $100,000 maximum bet on mini baccarat. A swank, private high-limit room is home to a solitary blackjack table, which we presume is reserved for James Bond. 3000 S River Rd, Des Plaines (888-307-0777)

BEST FOR: POKER
Horseshoe Casino Hammond Pros should watch for World Series of Poker–qualifying tourneys here (the last one, in October 2010, had buy-ins up to $10,000). But all are welcome in the 34-table poker room, the largest in the Midwest, offering almost any popular style of the game at any limit. With chandeliers, leather chairs and photos of poker legends, it feels like a stately parlor—packed with men in baseball caps and mirrored sunglasses. Call ahead to secure a spot on weekend nights. 777 Casino Center Dr, Hammond, IN (219-473-7000)

Harrah’s Joliet Get your feet wet with more than 200 video poker machines. The live poker “room” (it’s more of a corner, with only eight tables) is home to dealers and regulars who know how to throw down. Try Mississippi stud, a riff on seven-card stud that allows for higher betting—Harrah’s was the first in Illinois to offer it. 151 N Joliet St, Joliet (815-740-7800)

BEST FOR: CHOWING DOWN
Rivers Casino Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House, an offshoot of Gibsons, is the main dining draw here, with buttery frog legs and potent Manhattans served to high rollers holding court in cushy leather booths. But there’s also Canopy Buffet, burger-and-fries outpost FLIPT and casual Asian spot Mian, all worth the cash. 3000 S River Rd, Des Plaines (888-307-0777)

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin Gourmet? No. But pizza, pasta, stir-fry, fried chicken and carving stations of beef, ham, turkey and prime rib constitute about two percent of the offerings in one of the biggest buffets you’ve laid eyes on…even by casino standards. 250 S Grove Ave, Elgin (888-508-1900)

BEST FOR: BACCARAT
Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago
Most areas of this casino feature low ceilings and the stench of stale smoke, but the baccarat room is a different world. The 12 tables are nearly always full, sometimes with an audience, and you’re next to a small observation deck where you can gaze at Lake Michigan while getting a much-needed breath of fresh air. 777 Ameristar Blvd, East Chicago, IN (866-711-4263)

BEST FOR: SPOTTING CHAKA KHAN LOOK-ALIKES
Majestic Star Casino & Hotel
This riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana, is like a time machine to the 1970s, down to the disco funk music and mirrored ceilings with track lighting. Tell me something good? 1 Buffington Harbor Dr, Gary, IN (219-977-7777)

BEST FOR: ROAD TRIPS
Potawatomi Bingo Casino
This stately casino in downtown Milwaukee snags some good acts at its 500-seat theater. It’s also home to a room with 115 TVs for off-track betting, not to mention a booming bingo hall. The wonders of sitting next to a 70-year-old woman who has her Troll doll collection lined up on the table are worth a visit, even if you don’t get to scream “Bingo!” for a $200 (or greater) prize. 1721 W Canal St, Milwaukee, WI (800-729-7244)

Four Winds Casino Resort Set on Native American sovereign land, this Michigan casino/resort is a serene escape, from its skylit lobby to the low-lit Copper Rock Steakhouse. But the gambling is serious, with 3,000 slots, live poker daily and some unusual picks, like keno. Showseekers can head to nearby Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa in Michigan City, Indiana, where recent headliners at the 15,000-square-foot Stardust Event Center have included Joan Rivers. 11111 Wilson Rd, New Buffalo, MI (866-494-6371)

BEST FOR: ASIAN GAMING
Horseshoe Casino Hammond A cascading waterfall welcomes gamblers to Le Cheng, a room that offers Asian games. Try your hand at Pai Gow Tiles, a matching game using Chinese dominoes—Horseshoe is one of the few casinos in the country to have these tables. 777 Casino Center Dr, Hammond, IN (219-473-7000)

BEST FOR: TABLE GAMES
Hollywood Casino Joliet Props to the celebrity-impersonating dealers (Thursday–Saturday 7pm–3am; Sunday 4pm–2am), even if we can’t figure out who the woman in the low-cut police officer uniform is supposed to be. Madonna, Elvis and Clark Kent are more recognizable, adding character to games like blackjack and three-card poker. 777 Hollywood Blvd, Joliet (888-436-7737)

Rivers Casino There are 48 table games here, nearly double the number most local casinos offer. Standards like blackjack, craps and roulette mingle with Pai Gow poker, baccarat and more. 3000 S River Rd, Des Plaines (888-307-0777)

BEST FOR: TAKING A BREATHER
Hollywood Casino Joliet
In December, the completion of a $65 million postfire renovation brought Hollywood Stadium, a bar and grill with a 1,600-square-foot video wall that can show nine different sports games at once. 777 Hollywood Blvd, Joliet (888-436-7737)

BEST FOR: ENTERTAINMENT
Horseshoe Casino Hammond
The Venue, a 3,400-seat auditorium within Horseshoe, books big-name acts, such as Erykah Badu, ZZ Top and Stone Temple Pilots. 777 Casino Center Dr, Hammond, IN (219-473-7000)


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