7 Types of Gambling Venues You’ll Find Across the US

American Flag Overlaying an Image of Laughlin, NV

There are several types of gambling venues across the US. Due to different gambling laws, players in some states may not have access to some or all the venues on this list. Some venues such as riverboat casinos require particular geography. Others, like Native American casinos, can only be found in certain jurisdictions.

Everyone knows what a casino resort or a racetrack is, but what makes a cardroom different from a regular casino? Why are Native American casinos found in almost every US state? What exactly is a “racino” or a “gasino?” Read on to explore what makes these gambling venues different and where you can find examples to visit.

1 – Casino Resort

The definition of a casino can be pretty broad. Technically, most of the entries on this list (racetracks aside) are casinos of different types. When most people think of a casino, they picture a Vegas-style resort with bright flashing lights, the sound of coins against metal, and rows of green felt gaming tables.

The modern image of the casino has its roots in European gambling houses. The first casino that would be recognizable today was the Ridotto created by the Venetian government in the 17th century. The word casino comes from the Italian “casa” meaning house. It could refer to any building where public or private civil functions took place.

Casino Table Games Pit

The American tradition of gambling saloons eventually grew into the first modern casino resort. The El Rancho Vegas in Las Vegas was the first modern casino resort and many subsequent casinos were based on its image. The venue opened in 1941 and was the first of its kind on the Las Vegas Strip. The first “mega-resort” casino was the Steve Wynn-owned Mirage Hotel and Casino opened in 1989.

A casino resort is described as an entertainment destination. Aside from a gaming floor; casino resorts most often (but not always) have an attached hotel, dining options, swimming pools, and live entertainment. There has been a shift over the years from resorts as adult vacation destinations to more family-friendly environments. Many resorts offer a range of activities for non-gamblers and minors to enjoy.

2 – Cardroom

A cardroom refers to a venue that contains only table games played with cards. This is not to be confused with a “poker room,” which is a term used to describe a room usually on the casino floor in which poker is exclusively played. Cardrooms do not contain slot machines, craps, or roulette tables.

Montana is home to more cardrooms than any other state, followed by California. You’ll find cardrooms in both states that have been in continuous operation since the early 20th century. The modern cardroom is a product of state gambling laws.

California does not allow slot machines or any game where balls and dice decide an outcome. This leaves card games as the only legal game of chance outside the state’s Native American casinos.

Most cardrooms are player-vs-player. This means gamblers do not play against the house. The cardroom collects a fee called a ‘rake’ from each pot to generate revenue for the cardroom. Less often, a venue will charge players a fee at predetermined intervals instead of a rake.

3 – Racino

Racino is a portmanteau of casino and racetrack. It’s essentially a racetrack that has casino-style games. Racinos commonly have slot machines and video poker, but more racinos are beginning to offer table games to compete with casinos.

As racetrack attendance and revenue declined over the decades, tracks discovered that slot machines offered the opportunity to recoup lost business.

Casinos inside racetracks began providing enough revenue to allow tracks to offer bigger purses, attracting more racers and fans. Over time, more prestigious tracks that didn’t offer slot machines found themselves competing more and more with newer tracks that did.

At least 10 states legally operate casino games inside racetracks. These states are subject to individual state laws regarding gaming and may not contain slot machines. Alternatively, some states may only have slot machines and video poker in their racinos.

Casino games can be found at Thoroughbred, harness, and greyhound tracks in states that have approved racinos.  Most racinos also offer parimutuel betting on alternate games and some offer simulcasts of other racetracks.

4 – Riverboat Casino

A riverboat casino is another type of venue that is the product of particular state gambling laws. Riverboat casinos can be actual boats containing a casino floor or raised gaming floors over bodies of water. The classic shape of a riverboat casino is the paddleboat, familiar to fans of 19th century American culture.

Most riverboat casinos in the US are found along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In the early 20th century railroads began replacing riverboats for transportation and freight. Riverboats were converted to leisure ships that offered dining and entertainment to guests. As state laws changed these boats began to offer gambling.

Various states have different laws regarding the definition of a riverboat casino and when gambling games can be played. Some states only allow gambling to take place when the boat is in motion. Most states with riverboat casinos allow for gambling as long as the casino floor is over water. Players can walk from casino lobby to gaming floor without noticing that part of the casino is a floating barge.

5 – Racetracks

Racetracks, like casino resorts, are familiar to most gamblers. There are two types of tracks, those that offer pari-mutuel betting and those that don’t. All racinos are racetracks but not all racetracks are racinos. Although a particular track may not offer on-site pari-mutuel betting, it is possible that betting on the game is legal at a different location.

Because sports betting is legal in many states some races such as NASCAR, velodrome cycling, and running may not have pari-mutuel betting on site but other racetracks may offer wagering on the event. The most common types of sports that offer pari-mutuel betting are Thoroughbred, harness, and greyhound racing. Camel racing is popular in parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

The idea of racetracks and wagering on outcomes goes back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks created hippodromes for horse and chariot racing. The ancient Romans famously held animal and human races in various coliseums across the empire. Betting has accompanied races since the beginning of the competitions.

6 – Bingo Hall

Bingo halls are venues where the modern game of bingo is played generally for cash or prizes. Like most forms of gambling, bingo is governed by state laws. Bingo parlors that do not offer cash jackpots will offer non-monetary prizes instead.

Because bingo is easy to understand and approachable to players of all skill levels, it can be found across many venues. Churches and charities will have bingo nights as fundraisers. Retirement homes and veteran associations will have bingo for the elderly. Schools and youth clubs may also have bingo as an activity.

Wide View of a Bingo Hall

Many Las Vegas casinos offer bingo. Players can find bingo at Native American casinos. Some bingo halls will offer jackpots that grow progressively and some link all players across different venues to play together. State lotteries are based on the bingo-model of gaming and there are many variations on the standard game of bingo.

7 – Native American Casino

The Indian Regulatory Gaming Act of 1988 created the framework for Native American casinos. The law allows Native tribes to generate revenue through gambling and encourages the economic development of tribal lands.

Many Native-operated casinos employ a large populace of the tribe that controls them. They are often located on reservations or other tribal properties. The industry generates billions of dollars in revenue each year with gaming being the main source of income for many tribes.

Under the Indian Regulatory Act, the federal government has the right to regulate native casinos. Tribes must enter a Tribal-State compact to clarify gaming regulation and levee special taxes. Some classes of gaming may not be allowed by certain states, and these games are the subject of unique arrangements between state governments and local tribes. There are currently 240 federally recognized tribes operating over 460 gaming establishments throughout the country.

Conclusion

In the US, you can find gambling in unexpected places. One common venue for video poker and slot machines across the country is the gas station. These are known humorously as “gasinos.” Players can enter a station and play gambling machines in a separate room attached to the business. This illustrates just how common gambling is in the US.

If you’ve never visited a casino resort it is a recommended vacation destination. Many racinos offer the same amenities and entertainment. If you’re in a state with cardrooms or riverboat casinos, these venues offer a piece of culture and history beyond your standard gambling experience.

No matter what games you’re into, your state may offer venues with fulfilling and unique experiences. Explore your area and see what gambling recreation and amenities are available to you.