Las Vegas has been building itself up as an entertainment capital for several decades, and a surprisingly small percentage of people travel to the city specifically for gambling. Nonetheless, Las Vegas casinos are alive and kicking with classic table games, advanced sports books and new slot machines filling tens of thousands of square feet of space in the city.
So out of all the gaming spaces in Las Vegas, which are the best? Though it depends what, exactly, you’re looking for, we think we’ve found seven of the top casinos in Las Vegas regardless of your gaming needs.
Casino: Mandalay Bay
Why we chose it: Largest individual property casino floor
Though The Venetian and The Palazzo together have a gaming floor that far exceeds any others on the Las Vegas Strip, it is Mandalay Bay that wins for having the largest casino of any single property. With more than 135,000 whopping square feet of space, there is no excuse not to find the perfect spot to place a bet.
The casino at Mandalay Bay is a sprawling jungle of slot machines and table games, but it doesn’t feel particularly overwhelming or intrusive. Expect to find the usual suspects here, including baccarat, blackjack, craps, pai gow, roulette and several types of poker. There are more than 2,000 slot and video poker machines of the casino floor ranging from $.01 to $100 per bet. Several progressive slot machines offer big payouts when they hit.
Casino: Rio Las Vegas
Why we chose it: Site of the World Series of Poker
Though the average person probably isn’t going to hit it big at the World Series of Poker, the gaming floor at Rio Las Vegas has definitely seen a few million dollars in poker chips change hands. This gaming event started in 1970 with only six people, but the tournament now draws thousands of people to Las Vegas every year.
The main draw for the World Series of Poker is the final showdown, but there are more than 50 other tournaments ranging from Hold ‘Em and H.O.R.S.E. to Seven Card Stud that are open to the average poker player. If you’re interested in participating in one of the many games that takes place during the World Series of Poker, make your Las Vegas hotel reservations far in advance—especially if you want to stay at Rio. If you’re just interested in watching, book a room on the Strip and catch a taxi to the hotel.
Casino: Paris Las Vegas
Why we chose it: Best themed casino
Many Las Vegas hotels sport some sort of theme, but few manage to carry through with that chosen theme in all aspects of the property. This is where Paris Las Vegas truly exceeds all expectations. Even as you play the slots or get carried away in a lucky streak at roulette, you won’t forget that you’re just steps from the cobblestones that frame the base of the Eiffel Tower.
The ambiance of Paris Las Vegas’ casino floor is an integral part of the property as a whole. Though you’ll find all your favorite slot and table games on site, you’ll also find a few new ones as well. Mini baccarat, for example, is fast paced with lower wagers, which makes it particularly friendly for people new to the game. High rollers will find a private gaming area inside Le Salon des Tables.
Casino: Wynn and Encore Las Vegas
Why we chose them: Best gambling clientele
Though the gaming floors at Wynn Las Vegas and its little sister, Encore, don’t necessarily offer anything different than other casinos in Las Vegas, the upscale nature of the properties results in both better service and classier clientele that aren’t just sloshing fruity drinks across the tables. Gamblers at both properties are generally a bit older and a little more laid back than at some of the hipper, edgier resorts on the street. As a result, most people know how to play the games and aren’t coming to the table without background knowledge on gambling.
Of course both the Wynn and Encore welcome anyone onto the gaming floor, but for those looking simply to gamble with knowledgeable people at tables run by friendly staff, these two resorts win hands down.
Casino: Palazzo Las Vegas
Why we chose it: Best sports book
You can place bets on football, basketball and baseball games—and just about any other activity with a point spread—at dozens of race and sports books in the Las Vegas Valley, but few are as welcoming and nice as the one at the Palazzo. Located in Lagasse’s Stadium, the sports book for the Palazzo and Venetian is more than just a place to gamble … it is an experience in and of itself.
On the gaming side, visitors are treated to 100 top-of-the-line, flat screen televisions, which broadcast just about everything imaginable. There is a comprehensive spread of wagering including sporting events, pari-mutuel race wagering and future wagering, but it really is Lagasse’s Stadium that seals the deal. This venue combines gaming with Emeril Lagasse’s famous cuisine, stadium-style plush seating, billiard tables and an outdoor patio.
Casino: El Cortez
Why we chose it: The history
It can’t necessarily compete with the glitz and the glam that accompany many of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, but what it lacks in edginess, El Cortez makes up for in vintage Vegas. El Cortez is one of the oldest casino-hotels in Las Vegas and has been continuously operating in the same Fremont Street location since 1941.
The casino is certainly accessible with some of the cheapest gambling in the city. There are hundreds of slot, video poker and keno machines, and just about all of them are affordable for the average person walking through the casino. Perhaps most notable, however, is the fact that El Cortez is one of the few places left in Las Vegas where people can still play on classic coin-operated machines.
Casino: Palms Las Vegas
Why we chose it: Loosest slots in Las Vegas
Rumor has it that, if you want to hit it big on the slot machines, you should head to the Palms. Supposedly the resort’s 1,650 slot machines are the loosest in Las Vegas, which means they are the best paying slots. This is based on an independent study conducted in the early 2000s on the Austin Powers, Fortune cookie, Reel ’em In and Wheel of Fortune nickel slots at Las Vegas’ major casinos.
Whether you find that Palms’ slots prove to be the best in town or not, the resort really does have a wide variety of machines, which can be found in the Slot Emporium. This dedicated gaming area offers not only cash payouts but other bonus prizes as well such as cars, motorcycles, electronics and gift cards.
Photo credit: wootam!