If you’re looking for the perfect game to introduce casino novices to the world of gambling, roulette is probably your best bet. The wheel-spinning classic may not be the best bet for your bottom line, but as a way to show rookies why gambling can be so entertaining, roulette is always a winner.
First off, new players don’t have to learn complicated rules. Players guess where the ball will land, and while there are some nuances, there’s not much more to it than that.
Unfortunately for millions of Las Vegas visitors, the corporatization of casinos on the Strip provides fewer options. Along with the removal of nearly every single-zero wheel, which carries a lower house edge of 2.70%, a few joints along Las Vegas Boulevard rolled out Triple Zero Roulette to skin the tourists.
Adding a third zero space on the wheel increased the house edge even further to over 7%. That’s why I prefer to play my roulette sessions in Downtown Las Vegas, where casino operators look to keep the old-school Las Vegas vibe alive and well.
Check out the list below for my four favorite places to play roulette in Downtown Las Vegas.
1 – Golden Gate Casino Hotel
This venerable venue is the longest continuously running casino operation in the world, having opened its doors way back in 1906.
Much has changed in more than a century since then, but Golden Gate’s commitment to serving roulette players isn’t one of them.
This place first caught my attention in late 2010, when the cast and crew of MTV’s short-lived reality show “The Buried Life” paid a visit. I was staying down the way at Golden Nugget, but the cameras and buzz brought me to Golden Gate to see what was going on.
As it turned out, The Buried Life was on hand to film its cast members, as they attempted to make Las Vegas gambling history. Starting out with an even money wager of $125,000, the lads hoped to win three straight spins to earn $1 million.
Initially, the biggest casino operators in town refused to book the action, which is when Derek Stevens—owner of the Golden Gate and The D stepped in.
In an interview with the Golden Gate’s property blog, Stevens explained that he was happy to let MTV’s stars take their shot at a seven-figure payday at his casino.
He had already figured that one of the larger properties would have signed on to do it, but they hadn’t. Having the MTV crew present certainly provided the Golden Gate with a good opportunity for some publicity.
Stevens also figured it was the perfect way to talk about the casino’s renovation.
As for the rest of us mere mortals, six-figure wagers probably won’t be in the cards, but you’ll find five tables at Golden Gate offering limits of $5 through $200 per spin.
2 – El Cortez Hotel and Casino
If that $5 minimum wager for outside bets is too rich for your roulette bankroll, and there’s no shame in that, head to the historic El Cortez for some low-stakes action.
When it first opened in 1941, the hotel and casino was considered a bit too far from the rest of the other attractions. But it wasn’t long before the El Cortez became profitable enough for organized crime mobster Bugsy Siegel to buy it in 1945.
Today, El Cortez opts for the decidedly old-school minimum wager of just $1 on its four double-zero roulette wheels. You can always up the ante to $100 per spin, but most players at El Cortez come to test their luck for the cheapest price around.
3 – Binion’s Gambling Hall
This place is so firmly placed in Las Vegas’ glory days that the Binion’s website looks like something out of an AOL nightmare.
But don’t hold that against the old gal, as Binion’s has long been renowned as a gambler’s casino. Under its old “Horseshoe” brand, this is the place where Benny Binion and family made their name by booking action at the highest stakes from the best gamblers in the world.
In fact, Benny Binion’s penchant for hob-knobbing with elite gamblers wound up setting the stage for the first ever World Series of Poker (WSOP) back in 1976.
Much has changed since then, but the low stakes $2 roulette tables at Binion’s certainly haven’t. It makes for an excellent stop to enjoy a few roulette games and some good whiskey.
4 – Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino
I still consider the Golden Nugget to be my home away from home while visiting Downtown Las Vegas. It’s a place that sits right in the middle of the historic establishments in the area but still keeps up with the growing landscape of downtown.
Standing in stark contrast to the modern décor and amenities that make you feel like you’re on the Strip, roulette at Golden Nugget is still played the old-fashioned way.
The limits here are higher at $10 through $200, but you’ll have a whopping eight tables on hand, so there’s never a wait to start your wagering.
Roulette is a gambling purist’s game, and while it may lack the strategic considerations afforded by skill-based cousins like blackjack and video poker, there’s just something special about that spinning wheel.
Every wager offered on America’s standard double-zero roulette wheel offers an identical house edge of 5.2%. And this element is underrated in my opinion.
Go and visit the craps table if parsing through dozens of wagers and their associated house edge rates do it for you. In my book, a flat house edge is the best way to avoid scaring newbies away before they’ve gotten comfortable.
And to cap it all off, roulette offers both even money payouts for backing a near coin-flip chance (red or black, odd or even, low or high), plus “jackpot” scores of up to 35 to 1 when you tempt fate by backing single numbers.
The shine has been taken off somewhat by double-zero wheels, but as they’ve become the standard all over Sin City, roulette enthusiasts have had to adjust their expectations.
Downtown Las Vegas sticks with double-zero roulette, too. But between the ultra-low $1 limits at El Cortez, the willingness to book heavy action at Golden Gate, and Fremont Street’s genuinely gritty, old-school ambiance, I wouldn’t play my favorite game anywhere else.