Every year sees 40 million visitors touch down in Las Vegas. When they arrive, the bulk will call The Strip their home away from home during their time in Sin City.
For most, that means a dizzying array of world-class entertainment running around the clock, casino gambling options more bountiful than anywhere on Earth, wining and dining and all the rest. With 28 different casino resorts operating on The Strip, it takes some truly bad luck to wind up staying somewhere that doesn’t live up to the hype.
The Wynn, the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, the Aria, and the Venetian are all bona fide must-see attractions for every Las Vegas visitor, which is why they made my list of the top seven casinos on The Strip. And while these venues might cost a little more than their more budget-friendly competitors, paying a premium to enjoy the very best Las Vegas has to offer is definitely worth it.
But during my most recent trip to The Strip, which afforded me enough time to visit all 28 casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard, I saw the other end of the spectrum up close and personal. You have the mid-tier casino contenders, or the seven casinos that provide a perfectly enjoyable experience while allowing guests to save a few bucks.
Then there’s The Strip’s disappointing duds, seven properties that seem to be stuck in the neutral, basking in their 90’s reputation while refusing to evolve with the times.
The 14 casinos which make up The Strip’s middle ground each have their selling points, along with clear and unmistakable drawbacks which can’t be ignored.
Unfortunately, that leaves seven casino resorts to round out the list. This bunch really represents the bottom of the barrel. While it pains me even to remember my time touring the seven dreadful dumps listed below, it’s my duty to warn readers about why they should stay away.
22 – Best Western Plus/Casino Royale
To be fair, the Best Western Plus/Casino Royale doesn’t pretend to be anything else but what it is – a low-rent option for thrifty visitors to The Strip.
With that in mind, if all you’re looking for in accommodations is a decent bed and the basic amenities, the price is right at Best Western Plus/Casino Royale.
On the other hand, this property sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the splendor and extravagance that defines The Strip in the minds of most. This is nothing more than a standard economy hotel that might be found anywhere in suburban America, but it somehow occupies valuable real estate along Las Vegas Boulevard.
I don’t know about you, but without spectacular views from a hotel tower, huge swimming pools that double as a place to party, and an abundance of restaurants, bars, retail outlets, and onsite entertainment, you might as well be staying in any random hotel chain found off The Strip.
The same feeling that something essential is missing permeates the tiny Casino Royale as well. This 17,000 square foot “mini-casino” has far less to offer than the tribal gambling halls scattered throughout the rest of the Southwest.
You’ll find only four table games spread at Casino Royale – blackjack, craps, roulette, and Three Card Poker. And while 300 slot machines are clustered closely around the cramped floor, Casino Royale only has video poker built into the bar.
The reason Best Western Plus/Casino Royale earned the top spot on this list is simple. With no resort fees and free parking, this place makes it possible for budget-focused guests to pinch pennies.
Knowing you won’t be stuck with surprise surcharges at every turn provides valuable peace of mind. It’s especially true given the bait and switch tactics employed by the corporate-owned casinos to come.
23 – Mandalay Bay
I really wanted to love the Mandalay Bay, one of the last casino resorts to open its doors in The Strip’s glory days of the ‘90s.
But even as one of MGM Resorts’ supposed crown jewels since 1999, the Mandalay Bay remains stuck in the past in all the worst ways. Immediately after arriving to check in, I realized I’d be in for a tough time in terms of customer service. It was a scene that multiple one-star Yelp reviews can confirm. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that my mobile check-in attempt using the app failed to go through.
Adopting new technologies to streamline the customer’s experience is an admirable goal, but only if the implementation is successful. In this case, it hasn’t been. So, I joined a group of fellow guests whose mobile check-ins were a miss and stood in line for an hour to do it the old-fashioned way.
Naturally, despite it being 30 minutes past the advertised check-in time of 3:00 p.m., the desk agent told me, my room—which I had reserved months before, mind you—wasn’t ready to enter.
The experience didn’t get any better from there. The room was still looking disheveled when I walked in, room service meals ran into the triple-digits for a basic two-person meal, and there was a hair-trigger sensor on the mini-bar fridge.
After spending a wholly uneventful two days at Mandalay Bay—the casino is nothing special, while the once amazing pool has been rendered unusable with “cabana fees”—I was hit hard with $124 in additional fees for using the mini-bar. The only thing is, I never touched a single packet of $7 cheese crisps or a tiny $10 shot of Hennessy.
What I did do, however, is gently place my backpack on top of the cabinet which houses the mini-bar fridge. That was enough to nudge the contents contained inside, triggering that overly sensitive sensor and marking me down for a litany of overpriced snacks and drinks.
Despite personally showing a member of Mandalay Bay’s staff that the bottlecaps were still intact, and the wrappers remained untorn, they stubbornly refused to remove the charges. I’ve flagged them as fraudulent with my bank, so here’s hoping on that front, but that ridiculous rip-off also forced me to flag Mandalay Bay as one of The Strip’s seven dreadful dumps.
24 – Paris
Another property to open in 1999, the Paris Hotel & Casino was at one point a top destination on The Strip.
The iconic Eiffel Tower recreation out front houses an elite fine dining restaurant, while also offering one of the best views anywhere on The Strip in the observation deck. The French theme allowed for an array of high-end European shopping outlets, and culinary delights from Michelin star chefs. And the Caesars Entertainment operated casino was known for its low limits, generous odds, and high payback percentages on the machines.
My how things have changed…
Today, beware booking a room boasting the famous Eiffel Tower view. This view costs a whole lot more. And while it’s fine by day, you’ll be blasted by techno rave music from the nearby nightclub all night long.
To cap off my misery, the staff here at Paris were just about as rude as any I’ve yet encountered in Sin City. Dismissive smirks when you ask simple questions, excessive hoops to jump through just to get a coffee maker delivered to the room, and the same mobile check-in failures found at the Mandalay Bay make Paris a pure disappointment.
25 – Bally’s
I won’t waste any more time than I need to discuss the disaster that is Bally’s.
After waiting around for 15 minutes just for a desk agent to show up—not to finish checking other guests in, simply to arrive and get to work—I received a room key that didn’t work. After hoofing it back downstairs to get one that did, I opened the door to find one of the worst odors I’ve ever smelled.
It took an hour or so of haggling just to get switched to a new room, which doesn’t make much sense given how empty this place was during what should’ve been a busy weekend. And when I found mold in the new room too, I firmly requested a refund and high-tailed it out of Bally’s, never to return.
26 – Mirage
The Mirage used to be a legitimate Las Vegas destination, with Siegfried and Roy wowing audiences with their tigers and magic, and an immaculate casino that set the standard upon opening in 1989.
But the tigers are long gone—save a few sad holdovers confined to the world’s sorriest zoo—and the casino doesn’t appear to have been updated in 30 years.
What I hated most about The Mirage, however, was the “surge pricing” used by bars and gift shops to shaft guests. Buy your booze or snacks during a set downtime, and they’ll only be overpriced to the usual tune. Purchase them during “peak hours” though, and you’ll suddenly see the exact same selection double or even triple in cost.
27 – Stratosphere
The Stratosphere does manage to evoke its outer space theme, but only because it’s so dark and empty.
Room rates here can drop into the teens ($13-$19 on weekdays, plus a resort fee), which should clue you in just to how awful the Stratosphere really is.
28 – Circus Circus
Picture a parody of a casino designed to be grotesque in every way, and you’ll know what Circus Circus is all about.
I realize kids come to Las Vegas along with their parents, and they need a source of entertainment too, but focusing your entire property on carnival games is a bad look.
Everywhere you turn, you’ll see young children standing in clouds of cigarette smoke, shameless salesman trying to hawk overpriced toys, and parents guzzling tall cans while their little ones look on – making for a truly depressing scene throughout.
Throw in carpets with stains that seem a century old and staff members who don’t have the slightest problem when it comes to ignoring guests. The Circus Circus earns every bit of its last-place ranking on this list.
Every so often, your pat 20 at the blackjack table will be beaten when the dealer flips over an Ace and a face. Now and then, you’ll spin the slots 20 times in a row and lose them all, burning through $100 before you can blink. And if you’re in town playing a poker tournament, pocket Aces can get cracked more often than you can count.
Losing is part and parcel of gambling at any Las Vegas casino, which is why visitors should always try their best to book accommodations at a resort that makes the guest feel like a winner, nonetheless.
When you stay at any of the seven casinos listed here, you’ll experience the opposite effect with the lack of amenities, exorbitant prices, and subpar service leaving you feeling like a loser even if you happen to hit the jackpot.