There’s this little activity that many visitors to Las Vegas (and plenty of locals too) like to do: It’s called gambling. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Since the momentous legalization of the Las Vegas casino almost 85 years ago, wagering money on machines, table games and, later on, sports has been the backbone of this city. Which, of course, explains all the casinos in Las Vegas. Return visitors often find a particular casino they like and come back time after time. But for the first-time guest, choosing a casino in Las Vegas can be daunting when there are so many options available.
For a segway tour of all the great casinos in Las Vegas and more, click here.
The best casinos in Las Vegas
Aria contains the only gambling space within the CityCenter complex, and its casino is a contemporary beauty, with 150,000sq ft of space. The expected table games and slots are surrounded at the fringes by restaurants, shops and cafés—and natural light makes its way on to the floor via windows and skylights, an unheard-of development in Vegas.
Few casinos offer the limits or the atmosphere of Caesars; when there’s a big fight in town, limits on the main floor can go through the roof. The sports book is one of the liveliest spots to watch the action, and accepts some of the biggest bets. You get a good view of the baccarat pit, an intimate nook where huge wagers are common. And for the boldest of slot players, the $500 machine, with a $1 million jackpot, uses gold-plated tokens.
Boasting slots "41%" looser than the Strip, El Cortez is the place to go if you’re short on cash and high on hope. Here you can also still find coin-operated slots, an all-but-extinct animal everywhere else in Las Vegas. Craps minimums go as low as $3, but 10x odds are continuous. Test your luck at roulette for a measly 25 cents. The poker room also has one of the last seven-card stud games you’ll find in Vegas outside tournaments.
The Nugget’s elegant marble lobby may seem out of place on Fremont Street, and the high minimums (mostly $10 for craps and blackjack) in the nicely renovated casino are unusual for Downtown. There’s a segregated pit for players with larger bankrolls who want to play baccarat and blackjack without the hoi polloi; it’s the only high-limit pit Downtown. However, there are also good selections of slot and video-poker machines from low to high denominations. The sports book was relocated to where the buffet used to be; it’s now full-scale.
Boyd Gaming took hold of Coast Casinos in 2004, and for years it has relied on its proven formula for success. Locals love the GC’s machines and the players’ club, both of which often take top honors in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s "Best of Vegas" survey. There’s plenty of $5 blackjack, $5 pai gow and $1 roulette for low rollers, one of the city’s bigger bingo rooms (eight sessions daily) plus a 70-lane bowling alley. The 711 rooms have been upgraded with the seemingly mandatory 32in LCD TVs.
A mid 1990s beast it may be, but this is still a hip and extremely popular gambling den. The casino remains small by Vegas standards: only some 800 slots and video-poker machines, and 76 tables. The main floor is one big circle, with an outer hardwood walkway and an elevated bar in the center. Dealers are encouraged to be friendly and enthusiastic; some will even give you a high-five if you hit a natural blackjack, a stunt that would give the pit boss a heart attack anywhere else.
The massive casino, decorated with hieroglyphics and "ancient" artifacts, is filled with the latest high-tech slot and video-poker machines. Expect $10 minimums at blackjack and craps, higher on weekends. For poker players, the card room offers weekend action so lively that Cleopatra herself would have been impressed. Take a few minutes to walk the perimeter of the circular casino and get your bearings; if you can’t identify landmarks, you’ll wind up going in circles.
The 135,000sq ft casino is airier than many, with 2,400 machines (including nickel video slots that take up to 45 or 90 coins), but you have to hunt for good video-poker machines. Table games—122 of them—include blackjack, roulette, craps, Let it Ride, Caribbean stud, pai gow poker and mini baccarat. You’ll also find a poker room where you can get your fix of seven-card stud and Texas or Omaha hold ’em. The race and sports book has 17 large screens, enough seating for some 300 sports fans, a bar and a good deli.
There are plenty of $5 blackjack tables, many 5¢ opportunities among the 2,200 slots, and a bright, casual atmosphere. Players appreciate the details: stools with backs at every machine, wide walkways throughout the casino and even single-zero roulette. The Monte Carlo attracts brisk traffic from neighboring casinos, but the tables never seem crowded. Players stand a better chance of landing a one-on-one blackjack game with the dealer than at most Strip resorts.
The theme at the Orleans is more Disneyland than French Quarter. Still, the locals don’t seem to mind, mostly because the Vegas-style action is very real. Located very close to the Strip (and within a five-minute walk of the Palms), the Orleans is one of the few casinos at which locals and tourists happily mix in every part of the operation. The rooms aren’t especially exciting, but they’re kept in good condition and by no means offensively designed. In any case, it’s hard to grumble at these prices.
The casino is huge, sprawling for two blocks, and the predominant colors are green ($25) and black ($100): at weekends, it’s hard to find $10-minimum blackjack. Smaller-stakes gamblers should aim for the lower-limit tables in the outlying areas of the casino or, better yet, walk across the street to the Gold Coast. Poker is plentiful, but it’s a tough room filled with locals.
Its location, just off I-15 several miles south of the Strip, doesn’t flatter the Silverton. However, this is a surprisingly attractive property that, while by no means offering the Cosmopolitan or Aria much competition in the coolness or extravagance departments, is nonetheless smarter and more stylish than you might expect. The rooms are decent if somewhat expensive for the location, and the casino offers the usual array of table games and slots.
As you might expect, the action at Wynn is both sophisticated and decidedly pricey. Blackjack minimums start at $15, with a few single-deck games that pay the reduced 6:5 for naturals; hotel guests can also play 21 poolside at the Cabana Bar. Craps minimums are similar to blackjack. A single-zero roulette wheel is usually open in the high-limit room, though the minimums are high. The slots run the gamut from pennies to a $5,000 machine.