Armed with a couple of promotions I wanted to take advantage of, I recently took a quick weekend trip to Tunica, Mississippi. This post is a breakdown of my costs. The idea is to show people how much it can cost to go on a quick gambling trip through Tunica to help them plan for a future visit.
For a weekend gambling trip in Tunica, I spent over $2,000. But that amount includes airfare, a rental car, hotel stay, my gambling budget, and food and drinks. My trip started on Friday afternoon and ended on Sunday afternoon when I made it home.
Airfare to Memphis
Why did I fly into Memphis? It’s the closest major airport to Tunica. Tunica has a tiny municipal airport about five miles outside of town. But outside of a casino charter service, I don’t see any available flights. It’s not like you can get on the internet and buy a ticket straight to Tunica.
You’d have to book through Total Rewards Air, which looks to be affiliated with Caesars Entertainment. To get a ticket, you have to buy a whole package. I’m not interested in that.
I got lucky and found a Southwest Airlines fare from my home city straight to Memphis and back for $150. I saw a few other flights available in the $155 to $180 range on other carries.
Rental Car and Expenses
Being that the Memphis airport is a little bit north of Tunica, I knew I’d have to rent a car and drive down to Mississippi. I’d use the car to get around Tunica, saving me on any Uber or cab fares.
The big carriers don’t care when you go across state lines. They care way more about your total mileage. As long as you pick up and drop off your car at the expected location, and don’t go over your total or daily miles, you can go from border to border for all they care.
I got a decent little compact SUV for $114 a day. But I when I got to the place to pick the car up, I learned that they’d applied a Weekend Special and shaved $8 a day off the cost. Final cost of the car for three days of rental? $345 with taxes and fees and such.
I suppose I could’ve skipped renting the car and used a shuttle or other service to ferry me back and forth to the airport. In that case, I would’ve also had to use ridesharing or cab services throughout the weekend. I’m not sure how much I would’ve spent on all those rides, but I’d guess it’s pretty much an even split.
Plus, this way, I’m in charge of my transportation and I don’t have to depend on (or wait for) anyone else.
I had a free night’s stay at the Gold Strike Casino Resort thanks to a player promotion I’d earned playing slots last year some time. Obviously, I chose to stay at the Gold Strike to take advantage of a free night. The cool thing was that they didn’t care if I used the free night on a Friday, though the fine print clearly restricted Saturday night stays.
The room—a single king bed near the pool on the ground floor—was $225 a night. Thanks to my one free night, my total cost for lodging was $498 after local and state taxes and all the rest.
Tunica Gambling Budget
I’m not a huge spender, so my gambling bankroll is generally humble. I’ve had my times of making bets that were a bit too big, and I’ve definitely had some big losses. Along the way, I figured out that I just don’t like playing that way. Find me at the low-limit tables taking my sweet time making bets. It also helps me manage my gambling bankroll well.
How am I going to make that $1,000 last for three days of play? Common sense bankroll tactics. If I play live dealer roulette, I’m going to find a slow table with a low bet minimum and play at $5 or $10 per spin. If I play slots, I’m going to find the lowest max-bet I can find and play at a leisurely pace, taking breaks as I need to, and concentrating on enjoying myself.
I started at the Gold Strike, obviously, since I was staying there. I played real money video poker and slots until pretty late Friday night, and all told I lost $300. I wasn’t playing video poker very seriously, and they didn’t have any of my favorite variants available, so I was just having fun. I was up, I was down, I was all around. But I had fund.
My second spot was daytime Saturday. I wanted to play some table games, so I checked out the Horseshoe, because I had a tip about a single-zero roulette wheel there, and some low-limit blackjack.
It was a good choice, because no sooner did I find that European roulette game than I ran into an old gambling buddy and his wife. We made plans to have dinner. I dropped another $250 playing roulette and blackjack all morning.
I didn’t gamble Saturday night. I was carousing with an old buddy at Twain’s Steakhouse at Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall, but I did lose the rest of my stack (about $500) playing slots basically all morning at Sam’s Town the next day. I got a little nuts towards the end of my stack, as I sometimes do, and found myself placing $10 per spin bets. It was wild.
Food and Beverage Costs
I’m a little bit of a nutcase about spending money on food. I would much rather make all my own meals and eat them than spend cash at restaurants or gas stations or wherever for pre-made snacks and hot meals.
Having said that, when I’m on vacation, I tend to relax that attitude and focus more on finding good affordable food wherever I am. Usually, I look for food truck reviews and Google things like “best cheap food in Tunica” or whatever and I do pretty well by following that advice.
Another great place for cheap food in Tunica is Mexico Grill, which is easy to spot as its right on Highway 61 next to the Tunica Museum and Expo Center. I got a full order of nachos, which are the perfect Tex-Mex combo of melty cheese and spicy jalapenos, for $8. Plus, the bartender gave me half-price on a cold bottle of beer while I waited because he liked that I ordered double jalapenos. I walked out after a beer with a perfect Tex-Mex dinner in my hands, including tip, for about $14.
On this trip, I held myself to a limit for each meal. I would spend no more than $10 on breakfast, no more than $15 on lunch, and no more than $25 on dinner. Following that budget, I’d spend no more than $100 between Friday lunch and Sunday lunch.
I blew that budget a little bit when I met a couple of friends for dinner on Saturday night. But I still only spent $155 on food and drink for the entire weekend, even after that celebratory dinner, with a few too many empty bottles of wine at the end.
I saved the most money in this category. I spent exactly $0 on entertainment. You could say that the $1,000 I lost to the casino is technically my entertainment budget. But since I’ve already factored that into my expense report, it doesn’t make sense to count it twice.
Look, casinos are entertaining and exciting places, especially the casino resorts in Tunica that I visited. You don’t really need to spend money going to movies or renting expensive content in your hotel room. If you can’t spend an hour or two enjoying people-watching while nursing a club soda or whatever, you probably won’t enjoy gambling in Tunica.
Overall Cost of Tunica Gambling Trip
On this trip, I spent $2,148 on airfare, rental car, food and drink, entertainment, and gambling.
I saved money a few ways, so my trip could’ve been a few hundred dollars more expensive.
Was it worth it? I had a great weekend, ran into a couple of old buddies, tried out some new slot games, and find myself truly relaxing on more than one occasion.
My Fianl Thoughts on Gambling in Tunica Mississippi
Overall, I love gambling in Tunica, and I really enjoyed my trip, so I think I got good value for my expenses. In the future, I’d like to try staying at a couple of other hotels in the area, just to see what my options are.
Besides that, I’m happy to report that I only spent a little over two grand for a great three-day weekend of gambling in Mississippi.