Everyone talks about going to Vegas for their gambling vacations. Having been to Vegas, I can say it’s worth the money to go at least once in your lifetime. But there are other great places across America where you can gamble.
If you’re traveling for business or pleasure, your chances of finding a great gaming experience close to your destination are very good. More states allow land-based gambling than don’t. In most cases, you only need to drive a few hours to reach the nearest casino.
So, don’t despair because you’re not going to Las Vegas or Atlantic City on your next trip. Instead, now is the time to look for interesting places where you’d never expect to find gaming opportunities.
Here are a few places where you’ll find nice, big casinos across America.
Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is located east of Los Angeles on Interstate 10. There are three national forests and several state parks close by.
Most people have only heard the name Palm Springs, but they’ll rightly guess that many big celebrities from Frank Sinatra to Liberace lived there. And people often play golf there, too.
There are at least 10 casinos in the valley in and around Palm Springs. You may not be able to live there, but if you drop by on vacation and want to gamble a little, you won’t have to drive far.
Palm Springs is not Las Vegas. On average, people report mediocre experiences at these casinos. Agua Caliente is the biggest casino and you may love it.
Situated on the Gulf Coast along I-10, Biloxi is most famous for being wiped out by a hurricane in the early 2000s. But Biloxi was known for gambling before Las Vegas was known for gambling.
Somehow, despite all the setbacks the town has experienced, you can still find great casinos in Biloxi. They rebuilt and expanded the gaming industry.
You’ll find a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in town and the historic Golden Nugget. But everyone who gambles in Biloxi stops at the Beau Rivage. Its tradition bordering on law.
Biloxi is about a 90-minute drive east from New Orleans and about two hours west of Pensacola, FL. If you’re flying into either city, it’s a little out of your way.
New Orleans, LA
If you’re flying into New Orleans, you’ll be glad to know there are casinos right there in town. No need to drive anywhere else.
In the South, Louisiana is famous for its Cajun food, its resilience against hurricanes, and gambling. You can easily find more casinos in New Orleans than you’ll be able to play at in a weekend.
Harrah’s New Orleans is the most popular casino in town.
Boomtown offers a more local flavor for gambling.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Located about an hour’s drive north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is known for its billionaires and scenic movie locations. And there are some pretty incredible beaches there, too.
The South Florida weather is almost always sunny and warm. It’s got a beautiful climate and is a great place to visit. Many cruise lines board in Fort Lauderdale. It’s an international city by all standards, but for some reason, most Americans just don’t think of this as a gambling town.
The biggest casino in Fort Lauderdale is the Seminole Hard Rock (actually located in Hollywood, right next to Fort Lauderdale).
One place I visited there was Gulfstream Park, where they race Thoroughbred horses. The park now houses a casino too with 20 poker tables, dozens of high limit slots, and over 700 slot machines.
If you’ve never watched Jai-alai, you can catch games in South Florida, too. Even though Fort Lauderdale can’t match Las Vegas for the casino experience, it has things to offer you won’t find in Vegas.
The city of Gary, located in Northern Indiana and close to Chicago, is famous for being the city that young Opie Taylor (Ron Howard) sang about in “The Music Man” and the original home of the Jackson 5.
Gary has had its ups and down like many industrial cities in the Midwest but it’s part of the third-most popular gambling areas in the USA after Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Knowing that, you should ask yourself how often people say, “I feel like gambling this weekend in Gary, Indiana.”
I personally don’t know anyone who has ever gambled there. The Chicago–Gary metropolitan area sprawls across the countryside on the south shore of Lake Michigan. Chicago is the heart of the metro area, but there are casinos from Des Plaines in the northwest to Gary in the southeast.
Players should find about 10 good choices, some larger than others. Travelers rate the Ameristar in East Chicago among the best casinos in the area.
Black Hawk, CO
When you’re tired of hunting for Bigfoot in the backwoods of Colorado, you’ll have better luck finding more than a dozen casinos in Black Hawk.
The town is west of Denver, located off State Highway 119 near Central City. Yeah, it’s a drive, but what a view! And there’s a small chance you’ll see Bigfoot.
The town’s population in the 2010 census was officially listed as 110 people. And yet, Black Hawk earns more money from gambling than Central City.
Black Hawk started out as a mining town. The city has long touted its history in the Old West, but the gambling industry has changed a lot of things. Although the town has dealt with a few controversies since Colorado legalized gambling in 1991, Black Hawk remains a popular destination.
The Isle Casino in Black Hawk may be the best known in town but several of them are in tight competition for customers’ loyalty and love.
Don’t be surprised at the quality of the accommodations these casino hotels have to offer. They are playing for big money. They can’t afford to be cheap.
The only state other than Nevada to boast more than 100 casinos is Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.
The WinStar World Casino and Resort is located in south central Oklahoma about a 30 minute drive from Dallas, TX. If you’re thinking about gambling in Oklahoma, you probably think about the WinStar in particular.
But there’s more to the state’s gambling experience than that fine world-class resort. You could spend a lifetime visiting all the casinos in Oklahoma.
I’ve played at more than a few Native American casinos. Many of them are classy, high-quality businesses. It helps to know they hire professional casino operators to manage or advise them in their operations.
If you’re looking for a Las Vegas experience but can’t get to the desert anytime soon, Oklahoma is the place to be. Oklahoma City has the largest concentration of casinos, including Remington Park Racing and Casino. Honestly, I sometimes wonder why people think New Jersey is a bigger gambling destination than Oklahoma.
It’s probably because Native American casinos don’t play up their strengths as well as Atlantic City did. The Oklahoma gaming industry hasn’t struggled as much as Atlantic City’s gaming industry.
There are, of course, many other great places to visit across America where you can gamble freely and openly. Real money gambling has quickly become one of the most popular forms of entertainment.
But the evolution of the casino from a place where people throw away their money to a rich, full-experience destination is worth noting. Even casinos that don’t offer their own theme attractions and in-house entertainment often locate as close to major attractions and entertainment venues as possible.
Whether you’re looking for concerts, nightlife, a new cultural experience, or just a place to stay in a nice hotel, there are hundreds of great casinos across America that deserve more attention than they receive.
America’s gambling industry is booming, but not just because everyone wants to gamble. Many casinos recognize the value in creating a great vacation experience for their customers. People are often surprised to find they can gamble in Vegas-style casinos outside of Nevada, but they shouldn’t be.