Formerly quarantined to select areas, today’s casinos are nearly everywhere, making gambling possible in almost every state. Only two states (Hawaii and Utah) have no legalized gambling. The main reason for this explosion is that the stigma of gambling has mostly been removed from our society. Although the previous generation generally viewed gambling with moral indignation, today’s attitudes are more relaxed, and many people consider casinos fun entertainment rather than one of the seven deadly sins.
This section looks more closely at the different types of gambling locations. Although Las Vegas and Atlantic City are still popular destinations for casino gambling, hundreds of other options are also waiting for you.
For decades, Nevada was famous for being the only U.S. state where casino gambling was legal. That limitation changed when the state of New Jersey legalized gambling in the late 1970s (although only in one town, Atlantic City). And, despite the growth of on-the-water and Indian casinos throughout the
United States (primarily in the 1990s), the Silver State remains the king of casino gambling.
Las Vegas is the jewel in the crown and far and away the biggest gambling destination in the world. Also known as Sin City or Lost Wages, Vegas is a unique agglomeration of palm trees, fountains, neon lights, and 100,000-plus hotel rooms among a wild mishmash of must-see architecture.
From its forbidden-fruit beginnings to its mobster adolescence, to its starring role in a few hit TV shows, Vegas exudes a frenetic energy that makes the city a unique place in American pop culture. And Vegas takes full advantage of its iconic position. New hotel/casino complexes continue to rise from the desert floor at an astounding pace. As of 2006, nine of the ten biggest hotels in the world were located within a few miles of each other on the Las Vegas Strip. The city is still primarily known for its gambling – after all, where else can you expect to find slots in grocery stores and in airports? But that image is changing. At some point in the late 1990s – for the first time in its history gambling money amounted to less than half of the total revenue brought in by the Vegas casino industry. And that change means people from around the world are seeing the city as a resort (or convention) destination first and a place to gamble second.
Tahoe and Reno: Quieter cousins
Before Las Vegas rose to prominence, Reno was the epicenter of gambling in the United States, and casinos around Lake Tahoe frequently hosted celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra and his buddies. Now, their southern Nevada competitor easily eclipses both Tahoe and Reno, but these two intriguing cities remain good alternatives for visitors that don’t care for the Vegas speed-of-light pace.
As “the biggest little city in the world,” Reno’s Wild West frontier spirit and gambling accessibility appeal to many travelers. Tahoe also boasts gambling opportunities on the Nevada side of the border while promising superb skiing in winter, a wealth of lake activities in summer, and spectacular mountain
In the late 1970s, New Jersey took the bold step of legalizing gambling as a way to revitalize Atlantic City. The transformation hasn’t always gone smoothly, but today Atlantic City’s casino industry is healthy. As one of the biggest gambling spots in the United States, it sees billions of dollars in wagers every year.
Although the Atlantic City Boardwalk can’t rival the Vegas Strip, it does offer a unique blend of glitz and glamour in a carnival atmosphere and a seaside setting. More importantly, the location means convenience for people on the East Coast – they no longer have to fly cross-country just to play blackjack.
Diving into on-the-water Gambling
Some people may not understand why gambling can be legal on the water but illegal on land. Nevertheless, if your state has a river running through it or you live on the coast, you’re likely to find a casino within driving distance. (Of course, take your motion-sickness pills and be prepared to walk the plank.)
Riverboat casinos: A piece of the past
New laws and regulations have revived an icon from America’s colorful past – river boat casinos. Although these contemporary vessels bear little resemblance to the fabled paddleboats that plied the Mississippi, gambling fun is still rollin’ on the river.
Most casino voyages are “cruises to nowhere” that last one to three hours. Some floating casinos don’t even leave the dock, but they’re in compliance with state gambling laws because they’re on water. These casinos are typically smaller than the big boys in Vegas and aren’t always open 24 hours, but they usually offer most of the same games.
What could be finer than cruising off the coast of Carolina? Okay, maybe cruise ships don’t hit those waters often, but they do sail nearly everywhere in the world, including hot spots (like the Caribbean and the Panama Canal) and scenic destinations (like Alaska and Mexico).
Nearly every cruise line takes advantage of international waters (where gambling is legal) by offering casinos on board their ships (open only certain hours and only when the ship is in international waters). These casinos have most of the same games and similar odds as regular land-based casinos (with a few differences), so if you don’t mind your dice rolling funny when a big wave hits, cruising may be just the ticket for you.
Although reservation gaming came on the scene late, it has dramatically changed the landscape of casino gambling across the country over the last two decades. The biggest and best-known Indian gaming area is in Connecticut (outside Hartford), providing an appealing alternative to Atlantic City for New York gamblers.
Today Indian gaming generates billions of dollars in revenues every year and provides significant competition for more traditional gambling destinations. In fact, the combined gaming revenue of all tribal casinos is greater than all the revenue of Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Reno together.
Native American casinos typically offer the same machines and table games that other gambling capitals have. However, many Indian casinos don’t allow alcohol consumption, and few of them can compete with the glitz of Vegas. Nevertheless, the success of tribal gaming speaks volumes about the quality of the casinos. So if you can live without exploding volcanoes or fancy Mountains, you’re bound to enjoy the friendly, less spectacular tribal casinos.
Beyond the borders: Gambling abroad
If you feel stuck in a gambling rut, traveling abroad for gaming may just be the adrenalin shot you need. Most foreign casinos offer the same or similar games as casinos in the United States, but the experience is often more refined and memorable, especially in high-class locations such as Monte Carlo.
But customs differ around the world, so you may be surprised at the rules across the pond. Many European casinos charge an entry fee, and many of them require more-formal attire. (Pack a coat and tie or evening dress if you plan on playing on the Continent.) Travelers should also be aware that the American traditions of megacasinos and multithousand room resorts are rare overseas.
The Caribbean is also a popular getaway for gamblers, and several islands offer casinos to complement their sun and sand attractions. The biggest casino in the tropical region is the Atlantis Casino in the Bahamas, which is truly a world-class resort.
Betting on the Internet
Gambling and cyberspace seem to be made for each other. Through the conduit of the Internet, casinos and gaming companies can invite themselves directly into the homes of gamblers. Now people can play anonymously and comfortably, without ever leaving the house. Considered the last frontier for gaming, cyberspace has now been settled – if not fully tamed. Online gaming represents a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide that continues to grow exponentially every year.