You don’t have to enjoy gambling to reap benefits from a gaming destination, especially one that’s a small to mid-size city. That’s because gaming is just one slice of a bigger pizza pie at these well-rounded places.
Casino resorts bring larger-than-usual hotels with comparable meeting space, oodles of dining options, spas, shopping and other amenities to cities and regions that have distinct personalities and memorable settings along beaches and riverfronts, in the mountains or desert valleys. It’s no wonder these gaming destinations are a winning choice.
Longtime beach resort rolls on
Tourism representatives in Atlantic City, New Jersey, like to remind people that their longtime beach resort is not a gaming destination but, instead, a destination with gaming.
Still, its nine large and sparkly casino resorts are hard to miss, and they account for a good percentage of the city’s 17,000 hotel rooms. All but three of the casino resort hotels face the beach, separated from it by Atlantic City’s seven-and-a-half-mile-long boardwalk.
When modern casino properties began popping up in the 1970s, Atlantic City became a go-to for conventions, given its proximity to Northeast population centers. It sees hundreds of meetings and conventions each year. Entertainment is built in, with shopping, shows and local restaurants of every stripe — many of them longstanding and local — right out the hotel door along the boardwalk. Longtime traditions live on, like saltwater taffy, a take-home treat and two-person wicker chairs, pushed along the boardwalk by sturdy attendants.
Casinos glitter on this stretch of sand
Along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, the neon lights of a dozen casinos are reflected in blue seas and white sand in a destination that’s actually 12 communities presented as one surfside space. Along the 62-mile stretch of sand are big-name casino resort brands including Harrah’s and Hard Rock, the 1,740-room Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, and the coast’s only smoke-free casino property, the 236-room Palace Casino Resort. Most of the casinos not only have sizeable meeting space but also water views — the sea, the back bay or sometimes both. That’s all the better for those who want to catch a glimpse of the bottlenose dolphins that are so abundant in the area or watch the sun rise or set. All the water makes it easy to plan boat rides or paddling adventures. Evenings of gaming can be balanced with afternoons of golf.
Explore outdoors in Nevada’s other casino town
No question, Las Vegas is bigger, but Reno, a casino destination well before its neighbor to the southeast, is more geographically diverse. The desert town is a short drive from Lake Tahoe, the world’s largest alpine lake; tons of ski resorts and mountain hiking trails; and the Old West town of Virginia City. A good chunk of its more than 15,000 hotel rooms are at casino hotels, some downtown, others on the city’s outskirts. Three large casino hotels now under the same ownership — Circus, Circus, Eldorado and Silver Legacy — are linked by enclosed walkways along six city blocks and are served by two dozen restaurants, two dozen bars, 11 entertainment venues and a spa. Taking breaks from meetings or the casino can be almost as fun as winning a jackpot, with options like walking downtown streets to see murals and public art, some inspired by Burning Man; scaling the world’s tallest artificial rock-climbing wall; or scoring a strike during a game of black-light bowling.
The Mississippi rules in the Quad Cities
This cluster of cities on two sides of the Mississippi — some in Illinois, some in Iowa — has long had a hand in gaming, originally in the 19th century with riverboat gambling. The Quad Cities revived riverboat gaming in the 1990s, but before long, casinos moved off the water and onto the river banks. Today, the Quad Cities has three casino resorts: the Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf, the largest hotel in Iowa with 500 hotel rooms and 40,000 square feet of meeting space; Rhythm City Casino Hotel in Davenport, Iowa; and Bally’s Quad Cities in Rock Island, Illinois. The river continues to play a mighty role in the region’s economy and culture, from the grains transported on barges to music of every genre that flows down to Memphis and New Orleans. Plenty of authentic replica riverboats ply the waters still, giving visitors a feel for the waterway’s magnitude. New businesses, like Mississippi River Distilling Company and Cody Road Cocktail House, perch along the river, adding to the ambiance.
A great deal in the desert
There’s a lot vying for visitors’ attention in Palm Springs, California. Golfers are distracted by 110 courses. A proliferation of mid-century modern structures excites architecture and design enthusiasts and experts. Tours take in wind farms or wildlife at the Living Desert. Some want to hear about the city’s history as a getaway for Hollywood stars, while others are more than happy to sit by a cool pool and stare at bronze mountains and desert sand.
But there are also several notable casino resorts within striking distance of town, including the Agua Caliente Resort Casino and Spa, where Wayne Gretsky and other notables are part of a speaker series; the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, equipped with a 100,000-square-foot event center; and the Morongo Casino Resort, where a highlight is a 27th-floor event space with panoramic views of surrounding canyons.