Westgate Las Vegas recently upgraded their players club. The new WOW Rewards is more of a traditional loyalty program than the slot club it used to be. The new tiered customer loyalty program will reward guests for playing their favorite slots, table games, and sports bets. The new loyalty club will also reward for retail purchases and dining at one of the many restaurants at Westgate Las Vegas.
Last summer I spent a week at Planet Hollywood on the Vegas Strip. This trip was the first time I noticed Lightning Link slot machines. There was a small bank of four machines near Earl of Sandwich. Almost every seat was occupied whenever I walked by the game. I finally found an open game and didn’t understand why the game was so popular. The unbranded themes aren’t spectacular like other slot machines.
Earning and using a complimentary or deeply discounted hotel room is always great. However, there’s no better feeling than using those freebies and discounts on hotel rooms when vacationing in Las Vegas. Back in the day, I used a national hotel chain reward to stay at Planet Hollywood when it was a Starwood property. That was before the casino-resort joined Caesars Entertainment Total Rewards loyalty program.
Station Casinos probably comes to mind when you think of Las Vegas locals casinos. However, they’re one of the more forward thinking and cutting edge casino operators in Las Vegas. With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, I thought I’d look at how they’re ahead of some of the competition.
There are casinos all over the country today and you can pretty much gamble in every state. Las Vegas is always trying to stay ahead of the curve to keep visitors returning. There are always new shows, restaurants, attractions, and other forms of entertainment that you can’t find in every casino around the country.
After the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) I tipped you off on what the casino of the future could look like. Recent announcements of new esports gambling and new skill based games at multiple casinos show that the operators are looking to the future. Unfortunately, they’ll be in separate casinos for the time being. That’s okay, we’re on the way to the future and we can catch a preview right now.
The casino floor is always changing in Las Vegas. If you don’t visit Las Vegas often the changes are noticeable with new games, machines, and other amenities. There’s a new advancement hitting Las Vegas casinos that you may not notice right away. However, this new tech it will offer more convenience to your visit.
You may not have noticed this but Las Vegas casinos have been changing over the past couple of years. After spending a week with gaming manufacturers and casino operators I can say that changes will continue with a similar but new vision for the casino floor. The future is always changing but I heard some interesting thoughts on casino floors may look like in the future.
The Global Gaming Expo (AKA G2E) was just in Las Vegas. This is an annual gathering for the casino business. There’s a lot happening throughout the week but the most interesting part of the conference takes place on the expo floor. This is where casino game manufacturers show off their newest products.
When I first started gambling I never thought that I’d play Bingo. It’s always been a game for the old people. I’m older but not quite as old as the avid Bingo player. Shortly after moving to Las Vegas I was invited to play Bingo on a random midweek night at Red Rock Casino. I was promised a couple of drinks and fun time hanging out. Ya know what? That first time playing Bingo was weird and delivered on the promise of fun.
Casino players clubs and slot clubs have changed a lot over the years. These clubs were originally designed to only reward gamblers. Spending has changed a lot for visitors in Las Vegas. The casino clubs have had to update their system to appropriately reward customers.
There’s no tomorrow without today. The building blocks for life happen one day at a time. The casino business is no different. Casinos don’t look the same today as they did 10 years ago. They certainly don’t look the same as they did 30 years ago. Casino operators are always looking to offer amenities for today’s customer with hopes that something will stick for the future.
Casinos and slot machine manufacturers are gearing up for a busy summer. The next time you walk into a casino you should expect to see a lot of new slot machines. The games feature new and unique themes and the most advanced technology we’ve ever seen in slot machines.
We are in a Generation X slot machine renaissance of sorts. This generation is comprised of people born in between 1965 to 1976. This is the generation between Millennials and Baby Boomers. We grew up in the 1980’s and hit our prime in the 1990’s before settling into adulthood in the 2000’s.
Not everyone who visits Las Vegas today comes for gambling. The lavish shows, massive nightclubs, five-star restaurants, different sights, golf courses, fantastic bars, shopping, spas and so much more can keep anyone occupied for a day and night.
Many still enjoy gambling in Las Vegas but it’s not the main reason why people visit Las Vegas today. This wasn’t always the case. Gambling used to be the main reason to visit Las Vegas. This was an activity special to Las Vegas and then it wasn’t. Not too long ago, casino gambling was only available to a few states in America. Now you can gamble in almost every state in the country. However, there’s still nothing like gambling in Las Vegas.
Just because you can do something everywhere, doesn’t mean you should do it everywhere. There will always be something special about the casinos in Las Vegas. The variety of casinos cannot be replicated. It’s not everywhere you can gamble with dancing girls and cross the street to gamble under a multi-million dollar chandelier.
Las Vegas isn’t the same kind of outlier it used to be. That doesn’t mean the casinos are square buildings that all look and feel the same. Here are some places to gamble in Las Vegas that are unlike gambling anywhere else in the United States.
Video Poker at The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan
There may not be a more beautiful setting in the world for video poker players. You won’t find the best odds at these video poker machines. Regardless, this is among the most fun places to play video poker in Las Vegas. Just about everything at the bar is available complimentary while you’re playing video poker at a pace deemed fast enough for the casino. Even their $16 signature cocktails can be comped. The video poker bar is located on the first of three levels under the fabulous chandelier with over 2 million crystals.
Blackjack at The D Las Vegas
There are party pits with loud music and dancers all over Las Vegas. Many of those party pits offer worse rules than other parts of the casino. The house edge in some games may be worse and the minimum bet may be than you might want to play. Almost the entire table game area at The D is a party pit. The music is loud, the drinks come quickly, the minimum bets are low, the gambling rules are fair, and the dealers dance in-between dealing shifts. Blackjack games often start at $10 when the dealers are dancing and pay 3-2 when you’re dealt blackjack, which is better most other party pits. This is one of the most fun environments to gamble in Las Vegas.
Sports Betting at Cosmopolitan
Sports betting is unique to Nevada casinos. This unique environment goes to another level when you visit the sports book at The Cosmopolitan. Once hidden on the second floor, the sports book was moved to the first floor. The sports book has a center bar with a sports ticker and video poker. There are multiple large viewing areas on either side of the bar which also offers free games like shuffleboard, billiards, and foosball. A few steps away is a small pit of blackjack tables. Of course, you can just sit back and watch the games with a wager as low as $5.
Craps at the Golden Gate
This small old school casino-hotel is operated by the same people that operate The D. The casino floor is a similarly fun with dancing dealers. However, the close quarters create a unique energy that isn’t found in any other casino. Forget the dancing dealers and play the most fun craps game in Las Vegas. The minimum bet is $5 and you can place 10x free odds on your bet. The game is so much fun that even the dealers are in on the party.
Gambling At A Pool – All Over Las Vegas
Being inside of a casino all day can get old for some people. The summer is the perfect time of year to head outside to do a little gambling. There are casinos all over the Las Vegas valley that offer some form of gambling outside. You can play $5 blackjack in the shaded bar area at Red Rock Resort where drink service is super fast since there aren’t many tables. You can play poolside craps at the Flamingo and Plaza for a minimum bet as low as $5. If you prefer being inside of a pool and gambling there’s swim-up blackjack at one the many pools at Caesars Palace and Hard Rock.
Casinos in Las Vegas look different today than they used to. You may have noticed some changes on your last visit to Las Vegas. Frankly, the casino floors all around Las Vegas have evolved a lot in the past five years. Casinos are no longer exclusively gigantic rooms of slot machines and table games that they used to be.
You may notice that casinos are broken up into smaller areas. Many traditional gaming floors have specific gambling spaces dedicated to certain games. Some casinos like The Linq create “pods” that make this somewhat obvious to the naked eye.
A casinos like MGM Grand simply segments their main gaming floor by different table games and slot machines. This makes it a bit easier to navigate around the property. Some casino floors like Encore break things up by adding gaming lounges outside of the main gaming floor.
The casino floor at MGM Grand is so large (170,000 square feet according to their fact sheet) that the casino operator has taken the gaming space to another level. They’re combining all strategies in order to make a unique casino.
In addition to breaking up the gaming floor, they’ve added gaming lounges. Whiskey Down was one of the very first gaming lounges with a mix of bartop video poker and blackjack tables. Last year MGM Grand opened The Level Up gaming lounge. The new bar and gambling area offers traditional bar games with new and old casino gambling.
Planet Hollywood recently took a more loungy concept right to the middle of the gaming floor. They recently installed social and skill-based games from Gamblit Gaming in between the traditional table games and slot machines. This is currently a planned field trial for the new games. If successful, we can expect these games to appear in more casinos.
These skill-based games aren’t traditional casino table games or slot machines. The small area of three tables includes Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure. Here’s a description of each game:
Gamblit Poker tests skill and speed while allowing players to win up to 240x their bet in a single hand. Each player starts with two cards, followed by a single deck of cards shown in rapid succession in the middle of the table. Players have to quickly virtually grab the cards they need in order to complete the best possible poker hand.
Cannonbeard’s Treasure engages players in a fast-paced game of cards, skill and naval warfare. This game is similar to blackjack but on a whole new level. Cannonbeard’s Treasure challenges players to fill their hand without winning or busting, initiating a burndown. During the burndown, a set of additional cards will be dealt. The player who gets closest to the objective, without going over, wins a chest of gold.
Between two and four players can compete against each other for a head-to-head gaming experience at these tables. Each gaming terminal offers a unique, multi-player – multi-game machine with access to a shared 42” touch screen, plus a USB charging port, purse hook and two cup holders for each player. I’ve played slot machines and bartop video poker simply because they have an outlet to charge my phone. This is a modern amenity that every game should have.
MGM Resorts has interactive tables which include some skill-based but non-gambling games at some of their casino bars and sports books. Almost every visit to The Mirage sports book takes me to these tables. I’ve wished that I could wager a few dollars on some of the games while relaxing with a drink and sports on TV. Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure seem more appropriate for this kind setting than the middle of the gaming floor.
While Caesars Entertainment touts the new games as the first skill-based games in Las Vegas, they’re actually second. Earlier this year MGM Grand introduced a skill-based gambling version of Frogger at their Level Up lounge. If the field trial is a success, these games will be placed at The Linq and Caesars Palace.
Casinos aren’t what they used to be. There are new places to gamble and new games to gamble on. These skill-based games are still new to casinos but could become a new way to gamble. Like most new technology, the games are targeted to a younger customer. That said, I know plenty of older casino visitors that enjoy a relax, have a drink and throw a few bucks on a game of skill.
Low rolling shouldn’t be thought of something to do when they you’re running low on money in Las Vegas. Regardless of your financial situation you should really consider a night of low rolling in Las Vegas. Beyond the financial savings a long session of low rolling can be the most fun time you have in a Las Vegas casino. For some reason, the loudest people in the casino tend to be the people wagering the least. That can be you!
A day or night of low rolling in Las Vegas begins with your location. It’s easiest to go low rolling in downtown Las Vegas because there are a plethora of inexpensive restaurants and casinos in a walkable area. Options can always make an experience better. In addition to the Vegas Strip there is one other area where you can go visit multiple casinos if you want. The trio of casinos (Rio, Gold Coast, Palms) just off the Vegas Strip on Flamingo.
If you’re not in the mood to bounce around casinos, you can keep to the same location. Casinos like South Point, The Orleans, and the aforementioned Gold Coast each offer cheap gambling and a variety of inexpensive dining options.
I started low rolling days and nights in Las Vegas before I even realized it. There was a visit to Las Vegas that began with day drinking and gambling at the El Cortez. Between the $3 blackjack (now $5) and 25 cent roulette (still $0.25) we gambled for hours. I don’t remember much else after the El Cortez but there was probably a steak involved.
Another night of low rolling madness happened at the Gold Coast when I learned how to play Pai Gow. I knew I was onto something special. Here are some examples of where to enjoy a day or night of low rolling in Las Vegas.
Downtown Vegas Low Rolling
As I mentioned this is the best location for a day, night, weekend or week of low rolling in Las Vegas. There are so many options to choose from, but I’ll share my current favorite. The evening begins at Pizza Rock Happy Hour. You can enjoy personal pizza with a craft beer for about $10. You can add more drinks and still remain under $20. After you’re done eating and drinking you can head to The D for $5 blackjack. The rules are player friendly so your money should last awhile. If you want a break, just head back to Pizza Rock for their late night Happy Hour.
Off Strip Low Rolling
I’ve mentioned the Gold Coast is one of the birthplaces of low rolling in Las Vegas for me. Dining is only a part of the night. I typically eat before reaching the Gold Coast for low rolling. However, there are some good and inexpensive options. The $5 Pai Gow table is the game of choice here. The game is slow, there are a lot of hands that push (nobody wins or loses) and the cocktail service is super fast. After a few hours of gambling you may tip the cocktail waitress more money than you play in the game. That’s what I’m talking about!
Vegas Strip Low Rolling
You can find cheap gambling at a few locations on the Vegas Strip but there’s only one casino devoted to the low roller. Casino Royale has cheap gambling, drinks, and food. What more could a low roller want than a casino that’s like a dive bar? Call this a dive casino if you wish. You can play any table game for $5 here and enjoy a variety of inexpensive places to eat. This is a small casino and if you feel claustrophobic after a while you may be able to find some good low rolling games across the street at Treasure Island.
Las Vegas is changing every day. Sometimes we all have a desire to hold onto the past. Most casino operators don’t make that very easy as they try to keep up with current customer preferences. The hotel and resort sections of most Las Vegas properties have been renovated over the years to become more modern. Even if there’s a vintage feel to the property they’re probably (hopefully) working with modern amenities.
However, if you’re looking for a true vintage Las Vegas experience you can head into five casinos in downtown Las Vegas. There are still a handful of casinos who offer vintage coin-operated video poker or slot machines. The vast majority of casino machine games have been modernized with the TITO (Ticket In Ticket Out) system.
Coin-operated games are now so vintage that The D no longer offers them in their 2nd-floor vintage casino. Last year The D added vintage machines that were equipped with TITO systems. The ticket system is convenient so that you don’t have to deal with lugging coins around or dirty fingers when you cash out.
While most people gambling in Las Vegas enjoy the ease of the TITO system there are still some people that are nostalgic for the clanking of the drops dropping. Even the dirt from the coins can bring back some old Las Vegas memories. Part of the fun of Las Vegas is remembering the good times you had before. The noise and filth sometimes bring back some great memories.
You can still find coin-operated video poker and slot machines in the following downtown Las Vegas casinos:
- The California
- El Cortez
- Main Street Station
I’m always looking for a way to work Sigma Derby into my day and coin-operated slot machines are a good excuse. The old mechanical horse racing games still run on quarters. Both Sigma Derby games in Las Vegas still operate on actual money, unlike most video poker and slot machines. You can still find Sigma Derby at MGM Grand and The D. This is the only coin-operated game in either casino for the time being.
Downtown Las Vegas has been adding new businesses and renovating casinos a lot over the past five years or so. However, the operators know that keeping a vintage atmosphere is what separates the area from the Vegas Strip. The coin operated video poker and slot machines are just one way you’ll enjoy vintage Las Vegas downtown. Even with renovations over the years each of the casinos I’ve mentioned here has kept a very different old Vegas vibe without actually being old.
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the most popular poker tournament of the year. This is a great event for both poker players and fans of the game. Caesars Entertainment, the owner of WSOP, recently announced dates for the poker tournament(s) in 2017. Once again the WSOP returns to the Rio All-Suites hotel and casino. The majority of the events will take place from May 30 to July 17, 2017.
The WSOP schedule includes gold bracelet events, satellite tournaments, cash games and three times a day deep stack tournaments running for 49 consecutive days. The most popular tournament is the $10,000 buy-in Main Event which takes place between July 8-17. When play is completed on July 17, the WSOP will take a break and return later in the year with the final table of 9 players. This group has been known as the November 9.
The opening weekend event of the 2017 WSOP will feature the return of the world’s largest live poker tournament. Colossus (dubbed Colossus III this year) is a $565 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament. The tournament features two starting flights per day for three consecutive days from June 2-4. This tournament is particularly popular because of the affordable entry fee and because it allows players to enter again if they fail to advance initially. Oh yeah, the $1 million-plus prize for winning Colossus doesn’t hurt.
Colossus has drawn 43,987 entries during its first two years in the WSOP. These have easily been the largest live poker tournaments ever. While the Main Event is popular because of the huge multi-million prize, Colossus may be the most attractive poker tournament. In a sense, this is the tournament that’s accessible to the most people because of the low buy-in. It’s also a spectacle to watch so many people participating in a tournament.
Here are some fun facts from WSOP 2016 for the poker players:
- The average WSOP gold bracelet event in 2016 featured a $3,205,961 prize pool with $555,475 going to the event’s winner.
- The 2016 WSOP featured the Top 5 field sizes of the year in all of poker with the Main Event (6,737), Millionaire Maker (7,190), Monster Stack (6,927), Crazy Eights (6,761) and Colossus (21,613) entries combining to attract a staggering 49,228 entries.
- The 107,833 entries at the 2016 WSOP were the most in the event’s 47-year history.
- A record 15,767 entrants walked away with prize money, with the WSOP’s new 15% target payout structure utilized for the first time.
The World Series of Poker isn’t only for participants. If you’re a fan of poker, you can watch the events at Rio for free throughout the tournament. This is one of those unique “only in Vegas” experiences you’ll find every now and again. Watching other people play poker might not be a reason to visit Las Vegas, but it’s a fun activity if you’re already planning to be in town.
Visit WSOP.com for more information.
Station Casinos is having a banner year. This year the casino company added a new property to their roster, announced a potential major renovation, took the company public and most recently upgraded their players club.
Red Rock Casino is my local casino and it’s always fun to observe how the parent company is doing. Since moving to Las Vegas, Red Rock Casino has undergone a slew of upgrades without changing the essence of what makes it one of the best casinos of the Vegas Strip.
While all the changes with the parent company this year should be good on a business level, they should also be good for the customers. That’s not always the case but it appears Station Casinos is on the right path.
Welcome Palms To The Station Casinos Family
Earlier this year Station Casinos purchased the Palms. While they’re mostly considered a casino chain for Las Vegas locals and this acquisition might help change that perception. The addition of the Palms gives Station Casinos two casinos within a 2-3 minute drive of the Vegas Strip. The other casino near the Vegas Strip is Palace Station…
Palace Station Renovations Coming Soon
Palace Station was the first property for Station Casinos 40 years ago. The former Bingo Hall will be renovated in three phases depending on need over the next couple of years. Plans call for a new hotel tower, bingo hall, movie theater and more over time. Like the Palms, Palace Station is located just off the Vegas Strip a few minutes west of the I-15. Together, these properties will bring Station Casinos closer to the Vegas Strip. When Palace Station is renovated, along side of the Palms, the proximity to the Vegas Strip, friendly gaming and players club will only make Station Casinos more attractive to tourists.
Boarding Pass Players Club Expansion
Station Casinos’ Boarding Pass players club expanded on Nov. 1 into “My Rewards.” You can now earn points and status credits on nearly every way you spend money at any of Station Casinos’ 20 locations including the Palms. Like the bigger players clubs, you can now earn points and credits with non-gaming spend on things like restaurants, bars, bowling, ice skating, spa, hotel stays, pools/cabana visits, catering, and concerts. This is a fantastic addition for Station Casinos. You can find more information on My Rewards here.
If you’re not a Boarding Pass member, you can sign up for the players club using Facebook. Check it out here.
Station Casinos Goes Public
Earlier this year Station Casinos began publicly trading on the Nasdaq stock market under the name Red Rock Resorts. The IPO raised more than $530 million for the company. While financial matters like this might not interest customers all that much, this offering helped Station Casinos cut debt by more than $400 million and accumulate money to make improvements to their properties (see Palace Station). I look forward to seeing more upgrades across all 20 of their casinos in the future.
A day in a Las Vegas casino can be strange. You’ll meet all kinds of people from all over the world. In the city of sin, many inhibitions can go out the door. Common sense may also go out the door. Catching Vegas fever is usually a good thing. However catching an actual fever in Vegas isn’t good.
When visiting Las Vegas you’re usually here “for a good time and not a long time.” Sometimes, good habits are thrown to the side in order to have a better time. Someone might normally spend 30 seconds washing hands thoroughly after using the restroom but there’s a strong desire to get back to the action on the casino floor when in Las Vegas. That 30 seconds may be the difference of hitting the random number generator of the slot machine at the right time to hit a jackpot. It could mean a couple fewer wins at the tables. Whatever the game, nobody wants to miss out.
While seeking those good times and not washing up, you’re also bringing germs back to the table. Those germs and bacteria touch every card, chip, dollar, surface and person nearby. Germs can similarly be passed by sneezing or coughing directly into your hands. Germs are easily passed on with so much happening in a casino.
Shortly after I first started visiting casinos, I became a part-time germaphobe. It’s not possible to control the people around me, but I can do the best time stay as clean as possible. Washing hands thoroughly became a goal. I carried hand sanitizer too in case there wasn’t a need to use the restroom. Keeping germs away is a positive value play for a Vegas vacation.
To this day I keep my hands as clean as possible in the casino and the thought of germs while at the tables and machines has vanished. However, Casinoroom.com recently tested casinos for bacteria germs and it has me thinking about this topic. The report didn’t really surprise me but it reminded me what we’re dealing with.
Casinos have more bacteria than just about everything we come across in our everyday lives. No matter which denomination of casino chip you touch, it’s germier than a toilet seat, toilet handle or bathroom door at home. The research also shows that slot machine handles hold onto just about every germ that is in the air of a casino.
Surprisingly, the slot machine spin button is among the least germy surfaces you’ll come across in the casino. On the other side, slot machine handles are the dirtiest. This is something you might want to keep in mind the next time you play old school reel slot machines. The only time I touch slot machine handles today is when I’m on a bad streak and need to change my luck.
The casino chip germ counts aren’t much of a surprise. Since most minimum wagers are in denominations of $5 ($5, $10, $15 minimum wagers are normal) those are the chips used the most in a casino. Not coincidentally, they have the most germs. Meanwhile, the highest denomination of chip surveyed had the least. I’d imagine the number decreases as you reach $100 and $500 chips.
The most surprising information found in this study is which casinos have the highest bacteria counts. The study used TripAdvisor ratings as a guide to choosing a low-rated, mid-rated, and high-rated casino to perform their germ testing.
Surprisingly, the highest-rated casino tested contained the most bacteria. The casino tested had over 20 times more than the mid-rated casino and more than double the low-rated casino. The study doesn’t point to poor upkeep, but rather high traffic as the culprit with the high-rated casino. The more people visiting a casino the more germs they bring into the property.
Studies about cleanliness in casinos freak me out for a minute. I remember the time when a friend walked into a casino without gambling and left after 10 minutes with pinkeye. It didn’t ruin the trip, but it certainly didn’t help.
This study and that story are good reminders to wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth between spins on the slots, and steer clear of people who appear sick. The worst time in Las Vegas are when you’re sick.
Image Credit:Casino Room/
This summer the free concert
Last year, Golden Entertainment purchased
Multi-platinum recording artist Gwen Stefani
Hotel resort fees have been
When The Linq promenade first