Find Out What Reno, Nevada, Has to Offer Gamblers in the US

Reno Nevada Sign With Long Distance View of the Cityscape

Reno, Nevada, once enjoyed life as one of the most happening gambling destinations in the world. The town’s glitzy casinos and entertainment drew casino visitors from all over.

However, Reno has seen a significant decline in popularity and is nothing more than an afterthought for many casino gamblers. What happened to Reno?

It’s still a vibrant city with tons of rich culture and plenty of casino action to keep guests entertained. So, how did Reno fall behind the times?

Let’s dive into the complete picture Reno offers us and look at the good and the bad of this delightful little town in Northern Nevada. We’ll most of all discover why Reno plays second fiddle to Las Vegas and many other gambling destinations.

The Biggest Little City in the World

Reno calls itself the “Biggest Little City in the World,” For years, it has drawn large crowds. Reno has excellent casinos, fun attractions, and vibrant culture, including a beautiful art community.

Several hit movies and television shows have used the fabulous backdrop of Reno as the setting. Still, all the small city charm of Reno can’t compare to the over-the-top excess of Las Vegas.

You may discover that Reno is a bit too small and that hurts the allure for many would-be guests. Casino gamblers that prefer smaller crowds and better odds will love Reno.

Guests looking for a 24/7 party with beautiful and like-minded people may find better options. Reno isn’t a lousy gambling destination, but it’s not in the top 5 for many casino gamblers, a privilege it once enjoyed with impunity.

Location, Location, Location

I’m willing to bet that if we polled 100 Americans, most would be able to tell you Reno is in Nevada. However, if we handed them a map of Nevada, the most correct guesses would be pure luck.

I was one of these 100 before I ever made my first trip to Reno. Many guesses would probably put its relatively close proximity to Las Vegas.

Harrah's Reno Casino, Reno Biggest Little City in the World

However, Reno is a seven-hour drive northwest towards the border with California. It’s far enough that you can fly from one to the other in a little over an hour.

Many gamblers mistakenly believe they can simply catch a shuttle to Reno while they’re in Las Vegas to check out the sights. Clearly, that won’t be the case unless you’re down to spend a considerable chunk of your trip traveling between the two cities.

Considered the Little Brother of Las Vegas

I grew up thinking that Reno was a smaller version of Vegas on the outskirts of town. I was somehow under the impression that Reno was literally the little brother of Las Vegas.

While the two cities sit hundreds of miles apart, there’s no doubt that Reno has been playing the little brother to Vegas for decades.

Many first-time Las Vegas travelers will head for Sin City, believing that they can enjoy the all-encompassing experience of Las Vegas and Reno, but Reno is uniquely its own.

Each city offers a very different vibe and overall aesthetic.

Unfortunately, they’ll never take the time to visit both. Reno is much more than little Las Vegas, and well-informed travelers can enjoy a part of Nevada that the Vegas crowd misses.

Reno Is Seen as Old School

Reno was once the gambling mecca of the United States. However, through a series of unfortunate setbacks and other outside issues, Reno began to lose ground to Las Vegas.

Suddenly, all of the new money was being poured into Las Vegas. Before Reno could effectively counter, the Las Vegas model was born.

From there, it was a battle for marketing supremacy. Once Vegas stole the celebrity clientele and famous acts, she never looked back. Many of the casinos in Reno have had their updates over the years. Still, they often pale in comparison to the posh Las Vegas gambling establishments.

That has left many gamblers with the impression that Reno is more of a has-been than a true contender. Reno indeed has a more old-school feel than Las Vegas. Still, it’s far from being archaic ruins of casino civilizations past.

Reno Sign

The influx of shiny new casinos across the US has not done Reno any favors in shaking that image. In many areas of the US, casino gamblers have casinos that rival those on the Strip in their own backyard.

Reno isn’t alone in feeling the sting of this trend. Las Vegas has noted drops in their business as a result of growing casino industries elsewhere.

Climate Plays a Factor

Weather should always be considered when choosing a vacation destination. I can assure you that any wintertime vacations for me will be spent in a warm climate.

In the summer months, I prefer somewhere I can escape the oppressive Texas heat and humidity. Las Vegas only checks one of those boxes.

On the other hand, Reno sits over a mile above sea level, and its position in the mountains provides fantastic summertime temperatures. You’d better pack a light jacket if you visit Reno any time of year.

Unfortunately, the 20-something crowd can’t cruise from party to party in their cocktail dresses when the temperature is in the 40s. So, the more heat, the better, and Vegas has heat in spades.

Reno Desperately Needs a Facelift

Reno is a town that has seen a decline in economic activity. With the economic downturn comes specific undesirable side effects.

That’s not a shot at Reno; many American cities have experienced similar impacts in their area. So, you’ll see more of a homeless population in Reno.

I don’t believe Reno has more homeless than Las Vegas or any other casino gambling destination. However, you’ll likely notice more in the areas you visit as a tourist.

You’re also going to see several vacant buildings and shuttered storefronts than you’re going to in many other casino destinations in the United States.


Most often, if I see the empty building on a casino trip, it’s due to brand new construction. Psychologically, these empty buildings have a negative impact on how we view an area.

Reno could use a good cleaning up and revamp in many areas. Until that happens, many travelers will continue to make their way to more desirable locales.

The Mafia Helped Build Vegas

Earlier, I briefly mentioned how the new money went to Las Vegas and hurt Reno. This impact is still very much being felt to this day.

The mafia sent money and resources to Las Vegas and got in on the ground floor. In many ways, the mafia helped build Las Vegas.

Had the gangsters decided to make their home in Reno, the entire dynamic of the US casino industry may be vastly different.

Las Vegas is now owned and managed by massive casino corporations. The brilliant marketing department has created a family-friendly image and destination. Still, Las Vegas never turned its back on its history of organized crime.

Far More Choices Than Ever Before

One of the biggest obstacles facing Reno is the absolutely insane amount of options gamblers have to choose from today. Reno enjoyed little to no real competition for years, and any competition beyond Nevada’s borders was all but nonexistent.

Today, Reno must battle not only Las Vegas but a large number of tribal casinos in northern California. These tribal casinos are in areas that previously provided Reno with a significant portion of its customers.

View of the City of Reno and Surrounding Mountains

The thriving casino industry in places like Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Florida, and Michigan have also detracted from the annual visitors heading to Reno for their casino fun.

Gamblers in the US have a ton of beautiful choices when it comes to gambling destinations, and Reno is left holding onto the diminishing prestige of its title as the biggest little city in the world.

Reno Remains a Charming Place to Spend a Gambling Holiday

Don’t mistake this as a hit piece on Reno. The city has a ton to offer guests a cultural hub, an entertainment spot, and a gambling destination.

Unfortunately, there’s a clear gap between the experience you’ll have in Reno and that of Las Vegas. Hardcore gamblers will appreciate the better odds found on many games in Reno.

Those looking to avoid the ridiculous crowds of Las Vegas will take solace in the less crowded streets. Even travelers that want to stay out of the scorching heat can find several excellent reasons to choose Reno over Las Vegas.

Our Thoughts on Gambling in Reno

The factors contributing to why Reno plays second fiddle to Las Vegas and many other gambling destinations are primarily subjective. Reno can be one of the most exciting little trips you’ll ever take.

Don’t let the fact that the masses aren’t pouring into Reno like they do Vegas dissuade you from having one heck of a casino adventure. In addition to the fantastic attractions and casinos, Reno is also significantly cheaper to visit than Las Vegas. So, you’ll get way more bang for your buck.