You’ve seen Casino Royale with James Bond. You’ve always wanted to glide up to a swanky casino in a primo ride, stroll through the doors dressed to kill, and order your Martini ‘shaken, not stirred.’ The thrill of gambling is matched only by the number of thrilling casinos in the world in which to place your bets. Check out the best casino destinations for 2019, book your flights, and let the good times roll.
Macau: Monte Carlo of the East
Macau is a territory of China previously under Portuguese rule for 400 years. In 1999, Macau was reclaimed by China, under the condition of autonomy for Macau for the following 50 years. This ‘offshore’ status allowed gambling and casinos to prosper in Macau. And prosper they have. Macau is one of the largest gambling cities in the world, beating Las Vegas in sheer size and scale. The largest casino in the world, The Venetian Macao, is located in Macau. The 39-story, 10,500,00-square-foot luxury hotel casino is modeled after The Venetian Las Vegas. Modelled after Venice, this city/casino even contains a network of canals snaking through it, complete with gondolas pushed along by gondoliers.
Macau has its own currency and legal system apart from China. More than 50% of Macau’s revenue comes from gambling, and the largest casinos in the world make up the skyline. The largest types of gaming in Macau include casino games like Keno, lotteries, and sports betting. Since gambling is illegal in China, most of the gambling tourism comes from mainland China. In addition, many Western tourists flock to Macau for the special thrill of gambling in a tropical environment, in stark contrast to desert gambling in Las Vegas. Macau also boasts a unique fusion cuisine created from Portuguese and Chinese dishes.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Few gambling meccas surpass the Old World charm of Monte Carlo. Its elegant architecture and European flair is right at home on the French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur. Monaco is an independent microstate (with its own royal family) located on the prime stretch of French coastline which includes Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez. So combine your gambling with your beachcombing, and tour the region for a serious splash of opulent culture thrown into the mix.
The most splendid casino in Monte Carlo is the iconic and eponymous Casino de Monte-Carlo. This 1863 building has been featured in numerous James Bond movies, and it’s architecturally etched on the eyes of the world. Several other luxurious casinos await the visitor to Monaco, including the Sun Casino, Monte-Carlo Bay Casino, and the Casino Café de Paris. In addition to the gambling action, you can shop in exclusive restaurants, and dine in Michelin-starred restaurants. Afterward, take a stroll along the marina and watch million-dollar yachts bobbing in the harbor, for a glimpse of how the upper 10% live.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
If you dream of gambling on a beach in a Western tropical paradise, head to the Bahamas and hit the beaches on Paradise Island. Paradise Island is connected to Nassau by a bridge, and the entire island is dominated by the sprawling Atlantis Resort. When developers bought the island with the purpose of building a resort, the first thing they had to do was change the name from Hog Island to Paradise Island. This public image boost was the first phase of a mighty building project which would cover the entire island with a resort worthy of the image of the Bahamas as a playground for the uber-wealthy. Not to worry, though. While the uber-wealthy are paying $25,000 per night for the most expensive hotel room in the world (the Bridge Suite in the Royal Towers), the rest of us can find rooms for the more user-friendly price of $200 per night.
Over 700 slots and 85 gaming tables await you in the casino, and the resort offers a lush, tropical jungle filled with lagoons, beach bars, and enough attractions to keep the whole family entertained. Stroll through miles of lagoons and open-air aquariums to view over 250 marine species. Plunge down a six-story Mayan temple waterslide, or take a Leap of Faith plunge down into an underwater tunnel in the middle of a shark-filled lagoon. While the sharks are safely contained, guests can splash about with dolphins and sea lions in open-air aquariums.
There are several other resorts, beach bars, and a golf course on Paradise Island for a nice variety. You can also island hop to other islands in the Bahamas for more sea-and-sand play at the Baha Mar Hotel Casino, Island Luck, and Bimini Casino.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Visit the world’s famous playground, Atlantic City. A stroll through Atlantic City reveals very familiar street names like Baltic Avenue, Mediterranean Avenue, and Boardwalk. Only then do you realize that the classic Monopoly game board was named entirely after streets in Atlantic City. It’s no wonder that Boardwalk is the big prize in Monopoly, because the Atlantic City Beach Boardwalk (built in 1870) is currently home to the most luxurious casinos on the East Coast. It was also the first beach boardwalk in the United States.
Atlantic City is to New York what Las Vegas is to Los Angeles. When gambling in New York and California was completely illegal, neighboring states cashed in by opening casinos. Atlantic City was originally designed as a resort town and an escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life. Gambling was not commonplace until the Prohibition era, when underground ‘speakeasy’ bars, gambling, and prostitution were the big draw to Atlantic City. Under racketeer Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (portrayed by Steve Buscemi as “Nucky” Thompson in Boardwalk Empire), Atlantic City quickly earned its new name, “The World’s Playground.”
After the boom of the Roaring Twenties came the bust. In an effort to revitalize Atlantic City, gambling became officially legal in 1976, and Atlantic City casinos sprung up all along the Boardwalk, giving the place a huge boost in revenues and economic reputation. Naturally, Las Vegas casino empires expanded to Atlantic City, so you can visit East Coast versions of Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s, and the Tropicana. Failed Trump casinos were re-opened as the Golden Nugget and Hard Rock Hotel Casino in recent years.
The Roaring Twenties lavishly portrayed in Boardwalk Empire marked a second revival of sorts. Since the airing of the HBO series, several hotels and casinos have adopted the 20s theme, complete with art deco design, 1920s-style staff uniforms, and music from that era. So for a blast from the past with all the mod-cons of this age, head to Atlantic City.
The Heavyweight Champion Casino City: Las Vegas
Nothing beats the legend of Las Vegas. Located in the middle of the Mojave Desert in Nevada, this scintillating sin city has seen casino cruising and crooning action from such legends as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. (The Rat Pack), and Elvis. A gazillion lights flash and fling you into the action of the famous Las Vegas Strip. Vegas is famous for being flamboyant, outlandish, and luxurious, all at the same time. Where else in the world can you ride a roller coaster past the arms of the ‘Statue of Liberty?’ Famous singers warble on glitzy stages, magicians baffle crowds, live tigers roar, and Elvis impersonators marry giddy couples in drive-thru wedding chapel windows.
The world-famous Las Vegas Strip lights up days and nights filled with no-holds-barred gambling action, boozing, schmoozing, and non-stop entertainment. Stay in The Flamingo, opened by mobster Bugsy Siegel in 1946, or Bellagio, the famous casino ‘robbed’ by George Clooney and his cohorts in the film Ocean’s Eleven (a remake of the 1960s film starring The Rat Pack). The Strip is also home to the largest hotel in the U.S., the MGM Grand. So suck down some free booze, gorge on sumptuous casino buffet, take in a show, and immerse yourself in the most famous gambling venue in the world.
So as we roll into the New Year, exciting new gambling adventures—and some legendary mainstays—await you in 2019. Happy trails and good luck!