If you’re broke, a gambling vacation might not be the right option.
But if you’re on a budget, gambling vacations are available at all kinds of price ranges.
Just keep in mind that expenses add up any time you’re traveling, even when you’re attentive to the costs involved. If you’re a generous tipper, that can add up fast. Eating out isn’t cheap most of the time, either–and you don’t have too many opportunities to cook something frugal when you’re on a casino vacation.
Also, in recent years, some formerly luxury, high-end casino hotels have adjusted their price models and target customers. This means you can get cheaper lodging, more affordable buffet meals, and even bigger rebates from your slots club card.
Below I’ve listed some of the best options for someone who’s looking for budget gambling vacations:
1 – New Orleans, Louisiana
My pick for a budget gambling vacation in New Orleans, Louisiana is a getaway to Harrahs New Orleans.
You’ll find Harrahs in downtown New Orleans–on Canal Street–which is near the French Quarter but not in it. You can get rooms at Harrahs for $120/night, and some of the rooms have views of the Mississippi River.
It’s hard to imagine going to New Orleans without partying pretty hard. Harrahs has that covered. The Masquerade is their on-site bar. It’s one of the best night clubs in the country, in fact. And if you want to go bar hopping, you can find multiple bars just outside the hotel up and down Fulton Street.
New Orleans is one of the best dining destinations in the United States, too. At Harrahs, you can eat at Grand Isle Seafood Restaurant or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, among other choices.
Harrahs is also notable for being a landbased casino. Most of the casino gambling available in Louisiana is done on riverboats. It’s a huge casino, too–115,000 square feet and over 100 table games. The property also boasts of almost 4000 gambling machines.
The poker scene is also lively at Harrahs, with almost 2 dozen tables spreading Texas holdem, Omaha, and stud.
2- Niagara Falls, Ontario
Most of what I know about Niagara Falls I remember from the movie Superman II. I was delighted to learn that it’s not a popular and affordable gambling destination.
The place to gamble (and stay) in Niagara Falls is the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. It’s built right into the bedrock near the Fallas themselves. It’s a huge resort with over 20 acres of land. If you live anywhere near Buffalo, New York, you’re just on the other side of the River from this property.
The Niagara Fallsview Casino Resorts has over 300 rooms, all of which have a view of the Falls. The room rate here is just $125.
Of course, most gamblers look for entertainment to round out their vacations. Shopping is one of the major attractions at this resort. You’ll find dozens of stores at the Galleria Shops here.
You can also find plenty of shows at the resort, a spa, and dozens of wineries a short drive from the property.
Not only is this one of the most affordable casino gambling destinations you’ll ever find, but it’ also the largest casino in the entire country. (It’s in Canada.)
The casino floor has over 200,000 square feet of gaming action. They offer over 100 different table games and 3000+ gambling machines.
Poker players won’t be disappointed, either. They have almost 2 dozen tables with multiple games at multiple limits.
3- Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada
Most modern travelers going to Vegas stay on or near The Strip, but the real budget gems can be found in Downtown, which is also known as Glitter Gulch. My pick for this location is the Golden Nugget Casino, which offers luxury accommodations and gambling at a budget price point.
The best thing about staying at the Golden Nugget is that you can get a luxury room there for as little as $49 per night, depending on your travel dates. The Golden Nugget also has a lot of historical significance, as it’s one of the oldest still-standing casinos in the entire city.
The Golden Nugget isn’t as big as the other resorts on the list so far, but they still have over 50,000 square feet of space in their gaming area. They have over 50 table games available and over 1400 gambling machines on the floor. They also have a poker room with a dozen tables.
Best of all, they have a sports book on site where you can bet on the games. That’s something you won’t find at just any gambling destination.
My favorite thing about the Golden Nugget, though, is Fremont Street itself. You can walk outside at night and see (for free) the most entertaining show in Las Vegas–the Fremont Street Experience.
4- Mashantucket, Connecticut
My pick here is simple–Foxwoods. It used to be the biggest casino in the United States, but the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma has taken its place. Still, it’s huge.
The Foxwoods Reports takes up over 9 million square feet of space. But it’s not one large ranch-style property. The casino is made up of several towers that are all connected. And unlike some of the other casino resorts on this list, Foxwoods has more of a country-style atmosphere. It is, after all, located in the middle of the forest area of the state.
Foxwoods also has a huge shopping mall, Tanger Outlet Mall. You’ll find stuff to buy at all price ranges here. You’ll also find all the resort-style amenities you can imagine–salons, spas, swimming pools, restaurants, movie theaters, and arcades. It’s a great destination for families with children.
The gaming floor is sprawled over 345,000 square feet. You’ll find almost 400 tables games and almost 5000 gambling machines to choose from at Foxwoods. They’re most famous for their slot machine selection and their high payback percentages.
Foxwoods has a huge poker room, too–almost 150 tables. You’ll often find major tournaments going on here.
If you can’t get a room at Foxwoods, or if you just want to shop the competition’s prices, try the Mohegan Sun, too. Same location, similar quality property, but they sometimes have better room rates available.
5- The Las Vegas Strip
You’ll find no shortage of luxury hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. But when it comes to traveling on a budget, none of them compare to Circus Circus. It’s on the North End of the Strip, and they have the cheapest room rates in that area.
Don’t be surprised, though. This is strictly budget accommodations. You can probably get a room here for $50/night, but it’s not going to be like the room you would have gotten for that price at the Golden Nugget in Downtown.
What you do get is a premium location and an unusual (if somewhat tired) resort at which to stay.
My favorite thing about Circus Circus is that they put their money where their mouth is. It’s called Circus Circus because they actually have a circus their on site. I love that kind of entertainment. I wish it were still more widely available. My heart broke a little when I heard that Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey were shutting down.
They also have the Circus Buffet, which is one of the best low-priced buffets on the Strip.
The casino gaming area is also huge–over 126,000 square feet with almost 50 table games and over 1200 gambling machines. These are available at lower stakes than most of the gaming on the Las Vegas Strip, making it that much more appropriate for the budget gambler.
6- Thackerville, Oklahoma
When you think of casino gambling destinations, Thackerville, Oklahoma is probably not the first city to come to mind. In fact, many of my readers have probably never heard of the town. That’s okay, because there’s not much there–except for the nation’s largest casino, the Winstar.
In fact, when gamblers from Dallas and Fort Worth want to get a little action, they only have to take a short road trip of an hour or less to get to the Winstar. The prices are great, and getting a free room is easier at this casino than at any other property in the country. All you have to do is play in the casino for a while.
The buffet is excellent and a great value for your money. Several other restaurants (20+) can be found throughout the casino, too. Many of these are fast food style restaurants where you can eat cheap.
And when I say the casino is huge, I mean HUGE. You’ll find over 600,000 square feet of gaming space, over 7000 gambling machines, and close to 150 table games.
I have one caveat about the Winstar:
Be careful of the blackjack games there. They charge a 50 cent ante per hand of blackjack, which changes the math behind the game dramatically. The house edge for blackjack skyrockets when you add in an ante.
They poker room at the Winstar is great, too–clean, comfortable, and well-lit. Plenty of loose action, too.
7- The Internet
If all you’re after is action, I suggest you consider playing at one of the many online casinos now available. It doesn’t matter what kind of game you’re interested in, you can find a version of it on the Internet.
There are pros and cons to gambling on the internet.
One of the biggest drawbacks is that online casinos don’t offer the same kinds of amenities you’ll see at a land-based casino. You won’t be getting free concert tickets. There’s no buffet to hand out at.
Another drawback is that in most of the United States, online casinos are quasi-legal at best–illegal at worst. This means you’ll be dealing with offshore companies which aren’t known for their respect for the rule of law.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be cheated, though. Many reputable online casinos take action from United States citizens and would never dream of stealing your money.
In fact, the online casinos you need to worry about are the ones which aren’t going to pay you quickly when you cash out your winnings. You don’t have to worry (much) about the games being unfair. Casino games offer the house a mathematical edge that you can’t overcome in the long run anyway–so you don’t have to worry about the games being unfair.
But there are perks to playing online, too. For one thing, you can wear whatever you want to while you play. If you’re a smoker, you can puff away to your heart’s content.
But the biggest perk to playing at an online casino is the bonus money you’ll get when you sign up. Most online casinos offer a 200% or 300% bonus when you make your first deposit. They usually have an upper limit to that bonus amount, though.
Here’s an example of how that works:
You might find a casino that offers a 200% bonus of up to $2000 on your first deposit. So you’d deposit $1000 and get a $2000 bonus, and you’d have $3000 to play with.
Internet casinos aren’t in the business of giving away money, though. They require you to wager your deposit plus bonus a certain number of times before being able to cash out your winnings. Usually when you combine this wagering requirement with the game’s house edge, you’ll wind up with no profit at all.
With the above hypothetical offer, let’s assume the casino has a 35X wagering requirement. This means you have to play $105,000 in wagers before cashing out.
The online casinos also usually require you to gamble that money on slot machines. Let’s assume the casino has a 95% payback percentage, which means they expect to win 5% of the money you run through their slot machines.
You started with $3000. The casino expects you to lose 5% of that $105,000, which amounts to $5250. You’ll run out of money before you hit the wagering requirement–most of the time.
But winning at casino gambling is all about taking advantage of short term fluctuations in expected value. You could get lucky and walk away with a lot of money.
So the best budget casino gambling vacation for you might easily be right in your own living room.
The best budget gambling vacations on the list above can be a great starting point for any frugal gambler who wants to have some fun without raiding his savings account for everything. The trick is exercising enough self control in the casino to avoid losing all your money.
In fact, if you have impulse control problems, you don’t need to even worry about the top frugal casino destinations.
Just hand your money clip to someone in the casino and let them take all your money. You can save yourself some time before rebuilding your life.