7 Reasons Why Circus Circus Is the Worst Casino on the Las Vegas Strip

Circus Circus Sign and Trapeze Acrobat

Las Vegas is known worldwide as the cradle of the casino industry, and its famous Strip routinely draws nearly 50 million visitors annually. People come from far and wide to stroll along Las Vegas Boulevard and gamble in the coolest casinos on the planet. Unfortunately, one casino sticks out like a sore thumb on The Strip – Circus Circus.

This hotel and casino combines everything that makes for a terrible Vegas experience, from the ever-present cigarette smoke, bad customer service, and substandard odds on the gaming floor. The lower than average rates at Circus Circus might seem appealing, but here’s seven reasons to avoid staying here.

1 – The Casino Reeks of Smoke

In all my life, I’ve rarely encountered a casino with a smoky atmosphere quite like Circus Circus.

I knew better of course, having covered the local casino industry for a long while now. But after getting dragged along by a buddy who wanted to take his children to the “Adventuredome”, I could barely stand it. Even though smoking is only permitted in the casino proper, the Circus Circus management must skimp on its air purification system.

That’s the only explanation I can think of for the lingering haze of smoke that hovered overhead as we walked around. And I’m not talking simply about the smell either. You can actually see the smoke wafting around in every room.

Cigarettes, cigars, and thanks to Nevada’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana use, all contribute to the smoky surroundings.

And here’s the thing… I enjoy smoking the occasional stogie myself every once in a while. I’m far from a prude about smoking, especially in a casino where adults should be free to indulge their vices in comfort. Normally, I have no problem hanging out in a gambling hall where folks are smoking, but Circus Circus is far from normal.

Circus Circus Las Vegas Interior

Most of the other casinos on The Strip seems to have figured out how to harness technology to keep both smokers and non-smokers happy. The smokers have their select sections to do their thing, while air filtration systems remove their emissions so non-smokers never even notice.

At the Circus Circus, however, the filters – which I question if they even function – don’t do much. That allows the smoke to accumulate day by day, week by week, until the cumulative haze has crept into every nook and cranny.

To make matters worse, Circus Circus is a casino that bills itself as the “place to play” for parents who want their kids to have a fun time too. Knowing that the venue eagerly encourages people like my pal to bring their little ones around, only to expose them to secondhand smoke, makes my blood boil.

Seriously, just pull up any travel review site online and search for the Circus Circus. I’d bet the house that you’ll find disappointed guests mentioning the smoke in most of the reviews.

Because this problem is so easily preventable, and because the staff doesn’t seem to care, Circus Circus’ smoke problem takes the top spot on my list.

2 – The Criminal Element Can’t Be Ignored

In 2018, a pair of tourists visiting Circus Circus from Vietnam were found stabbed to death in their hotel room.

In 2019, a maintenance worker at Circus Circus sexually assaulted a patron while he was on the clock. That same year, a 34 year-old man lured an underage girl away from Circus Circus and committed the same heinous crime.

In 2020, a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) was ambushed and shot in the head just outside of Circus Circus.

I could go on and on with stories like this, but I think you get the idea by now…

Police Car at Circus Circus Las Vegas

Reviewers online often point out how they felt uncomfortable or uneasy while staying at Circus Circus. And for good reason too, as cases like the stories listed above aren’t isolated incidents by any means. Directly next door to the north, you’ll see a Travelodge hotel that looks like it doubles as a den of drug use and prostitution day and night.

Again, I’m not one to judge what consenting adults do behind close doors. After all, this town didn’t get the nickname “Sin City” for no reason. But with such low-rent lodging directly next door, Circus Circus seems to serve as a clubhouse of sorts for all variety of undesirables.

3 – Crowds of Kids in a Casino Is a Bad Look

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to dodge the sketchy clientele at Circus Circus.

Congratulations to you, that’s no small feat, but now you have another aspect of the casino to contend with – young kids as far as the eye can see.

Don’t get me wrong now, I love my children and I’m proud to be the favorite uncle to my siblings’ young ones. I don’t even have an issue with children coming to casinos either, as I totally understand the plight of parents visiting Las Vegas for a little rest and relaxation. I’d love for a casino to integrate kid-friendly entertainment that allows the entire family to have fun.

And that’s why I take my family to the New York-New York…

You can find the same assortment of roller coasters and rides, arcade games, and carnival attractions at the New York-New York. And all without the smoke and questionable surroundings that defines Circus Circus.

In such a dingy and dim place, encountering so many children here is emotionally draining. Every instinct you have tells you that these kids should be anywhere but Circus Circus, and yet here they are, blissfully unaware of what a mistake their parents have made.

To make matters worse, Circus Circus actively courts the parent demographic while neglecting to maintain an appropriate environment for young people to enjoy themselves.

4 – The Casino Doesn’t Have Jacks or Better Video Poker

Now that we’ve got the worst aspects of Circus Circus out of the way, let’s move on to more nitpicky grievances that should bother any gambler worth their salt.

As an avid enthusiast of playing video poker, I spend the bulk of my gambling buck playing Jacks or Better machines. The foundational game from which all other video poker variants stem, Jacks or Better is a bona fide casino classic.

Casino Floor of Circus Circus

It’s a skill game, players can turn $1.25 into $4,000 in the blink of an eye, and when you play the 9/6 pay table – you should never play anything else on a Jacks or Better machine – the house’s edge shrinks to a scant 0.46 percent.

I’ve been to plenty of Podunk casinos in my day, and they all had at least a few Jacks or Better games on hand. Shoot, even the tiny mini-casinos found in Las Vegas convenience stores offer it – but not Circus Circus.

According to the vpFREE2 video poker database, Circus Circus only has two variants available in Bonus Poker and Double Bonus. Those are fun games, sure, but a major casino in Vegas failing to provide Jacks or Better is unacceptable.

5 – Few Tables Offering 3 to 2 Payouts on Blackjack

Most gamblers are willing to accept a casino that’s rough around the edges, so long as the odds are attractive and the games are juicy.

Nearby at the STRAT (formerly the Stratosphere), for example, blackjack fans will find 21 tables which all pay out the premium 3 to 2 odds when you make a natural 21. These tables aren’t even reserved for high-rollers either, what with 14 six-deck games calling for a minimum bet of just $5.

The STRAT isn’t exactly a beautiful place to play blackjack for real money, and it suffers from several of the same mismanagement maladies as Circus Circus, but offering a cheap game with 3 to 2 odds more than makes up for any deficiencies.

Circus Circus, on the other hand, compounds its many mistakes by running 27 tables where landing a blackjack only pays out at 6 to 5 odds. You will find a pair of 3 to 2 tables onsite, but they’re single-deck games that use $10 and $15 minimum bets.

Failing to make up for its many flaws by at least catering to sharp customers is yet another hurdle Circus Circus trips up on.

6 – Lack of Customer Service

If any of the issues listed here get your goat, don’t bother informing the front desk staff or management about your complaints.

I tried that on my last trip and the clerk at the desk literally laughed, explaining that “I got what I paid for” as if low room rates justified such a terrible product. Casinos are supposed to cater to their valued guests, not cut them down and ignore their issues out of hand.

That’s not the case at Circus Circus though, where the customer is apparently always wrong.

7 – Tragedy at The Adventuredome

Circus Circus’ “Adventuredome” area is known for operating an indoor roller coaster that debuted back in 1993.

Circus Circus Adventuredome Rides

And in 2008, a young child was found dead in her seat after the ride concluded. That tragedy wasn’t a one-off event either, as a 2019 incident in which a rider fell out of their seat caused the coaster to temporarily close pending safety inspections.

Incidents like these are known to have happened throughout the history of amusement parks, but it’s never a good look for a place of business that caters to families.

Conclusion

I love almost everything about the casino industry and life in Las Vegas, so I really don’t enjoy penning negative reviews like this one. Nonetheless, I have an obligation to give readers the hard truth, and the truth about Circus Circus couldn’t be clearer.

The place simply isn’t worth the valuable space it takes up on the world-famous Strip. Visitors suffer from managerial apathy at every turn, forced to choke on smoke, and play inferior versions of standard casino offerings. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, keeping far away from Circus Circus is the best bet you can make on your next trip to Sin City.