Gambling is a lot like being mugged by a large, friendly man covered in neon lights that gives you a 25% chance of getting your money back with interest. Unlike a good ol’ fashioned back alley mugging though, gambling is a choice; a choice that balanced, rational and emotionally stable people avoid like the plague. After all, no normal, productive member of society wants to be stuck in a casino at 4am surrounded by a grisly cast of addicts – and do you know why? Because rational people with emotionally stable lives are boring and only have stories that revolve around their work, their children, or their pets.
Walk into any casino in the world after midnight. Seriously, bookmark this and only continue reading once you’re inside. Look around. You’ve entered the melting pot for all of society’s diverse quirks, outcasts, eccentrics and misfits. These people are your new friends for the next few hours. It’s like The Breakfast Club, just with infinitely more sadness. Take that guy playing blackjack in a smoky haze. He doesn’t speak to anyone except the dealer, and even then – like a sleepy sadomasochist – he mumbles ‘hit me’ under his breath to signify he wants another card. Homeboy doesn’t even look up from the table, nor does he glance at his chips. He knows exactly how much he has at all times, a blackjack artist.
Grandma over there by the slot machine is fixated solely on feeding the screen in front of her tokens. She’s transfixed, her gaze uninterrupted by the mortal impulse to blink. She ascended past that long ago. She will, of course, blink occasionally, and we have reason to believe her blinks synch up with the passing of Halley’s Comet every 75-76 years.
The point being made here is that casinos are full to the brim with delightfully dysfunctional people, and they’re worth a visit even if you don’t plan on gambling that much. However, not all casinos are created equal, so if you’re going to do this, you better come prepared. We can help you choose the right destination. Let’s profile the top 10 gambling cities in the world, in one of which you might get lucky enough to hit the jackpot.
10. San Jose, Costa Rica
Costa Rica isn’t even on most people’s radar when they think of gambling, but the capital city of San José can definitely hold its own. With more than 30 casinos in the capital city alone – and an exchange rate that’s very attractive for tourists coming in with American, Canadian, or European currency – you’re sure to get the best value for your dollar. There’s also the added bonus of staying in a tropical paradise, which isn’t too shabby.
9. Reno, U.S.A
If you make it all the way to Nevada and, for whatever reason, get freaked out by Las Vegas and don’t want to go, Reno has got you covered. ‘The Biggest Little Town in the World’ is home to over 20 casinos, and was the traditional heart of gambling in the United States before being taken over by Vegas in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Its proximity to California means that residents of Cali can drive on over to Reno to throw down at the craps table before driving right on back home with a little more debt than when they rode in.
8. Paris, France
The best gambling action isn’t always found in cities that were built or are known for their casinos. Sometimes a major city can build a few good casinos and attract high rollers of its own. Paris is one of those cities. Online gambling is still illegal in France, which means that anytime the French get antsy and want to try and win some money, they have no choice but to go to a real world casino – which is definitely a boon to the gambling industry in Paris. What could be better than an afternoon at the Eiffel Tower and an evening at the blackjack table?
7. Los Angeles, U.S.A
The city of Angels may not be the name that springs to mind when thinking about gambling cities; especially given its relative proximity to Nevada, home of Reno and Las Vegas. Don’t be fooled though, Los Angeles has lots to offer any prospective gambling tourists who may be contemplating a trip out to the West Coast. The Commerce Casino and Bicycle Casino are two of the most well known establishments in the city, but there are other smaller ones that are worth a visit. Los Angeles also has the south Californian weather and beaches going for it, which should make it an easy sell to any partners or friends who are hesitant about going on a gambling themed vacation.
The gaming industry in Singapore is still very much its infant stage, as it was only legalized on the island nation a scant few years ago. Fortunately, the industry came out swinging with the opening of the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World casinos with 2,500 rooms, a Universal theme park, and a 3-acre piece of land containing nightclubs, gardens, swimming pools and other leisure activities named the ‘SkyPark’. Singapore’s proximity to China offers an attractive option for the nouveau riche Chinese to spend a weekend away at a luxurious destination. The only problem Singapore’s gaming industry seems to have encountered is when Chinese wealth skips town to avoid paying back their million dollar bills, returning to China where they are effectively untouchable. Millionaire hijinks aside, Singapore is an attractive option for any prospective tourist who wants to gamble while also exploring one of the most unique and technologically advanced cities on Earth.
5. London, England
Although the stereotypical image of London conjured up in the minds of most North Americans involves fresh pots of tea and Big Ben looming over the city, London is one of the most important cities on the planet, for both economic and cultural reasons. While there are a plethora of casinos open to the public that are well worth your time, London is also noteworthy for the casinos that aren’t open to the public. Exclusive establishments like the Ritz and the Crockfords Club have a stricter policy about who’s allowed inside to gamble, but the average person probably wouldn’t want to sit down at a poker game with a £10,000 buy in anyhow.
4. Monte Carlo, Monaco
The most famed and legendary gaming destination in Europe is without a doubt Monte Carlo, situated in the tiny principality of Monaco. Monte Carlo’s wealth and history are a direct result from the establishment of casinos in the 19th century – and the newly laid railway system – that brought in the wealthy from all across Europe. The gaming culture in Monte Carlo is second to none, and the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea certainly don’t hurt. This place isn’t for chump change, though. If you’re going to gamble in Monte Carlo you should come prepared. It’ll only make it more fun when you’re ordering drinks at the bar feeling like James Bond in Casino Royale, which was set and shot in Monte Carlo.
3. Atlantic City, U.S.A
Like Reno, Las Vegas sometimes overshadows Atlantic City in the discussion of where to go for good gaming in the United States. Atlantic City should never be looked over though, because even though the city has struggled to attract as many visitors as it did in its heyday, it’s still a sight to behold. The city is built around the gaming industry, and nearly every tourist is there for one reason – gambling. Atlantic City is the premier gambling destination in the northeastern United States and attracts tourists from all over the country. It was hit particularly hard by the recession – which decimated the disposable income of the area’s middle class – but is still a must visit for gambling fans.
2. Las Vegas, U.S.A
Viva Las Vegas! When discussing gambling, the big city that springs to mind, one that’s almost synonymous with the word casino in the United States, is without a doubt Las Vegas. Vegas was built in the middle of the desert and founded with tourism in mind. The city built casinos, hotels, amusement parks, and most importantly, a reputation as the premier tourism destination for fans of gambling and nightlife – earning the moniker ‘Sin City’ in the process. Although Vegas has been another victim of the recession, the gambling capital of the U.S.A. can still coast on its reputation as a popular destination both for fans of gaming and regular people. Las Vegas was the world’s premier gaming destination for much of the 20th century (and still is in the eyes of many), but in terms of the amount of money running through its gambling industry, it’s been replaced by another city.
1. Macau, China
There are two special administrative regions in China – regions that don’t fall under the legal framework of the rest of the mainland. One is Hong Kong, as it was a British territory well into the late 20th century that established a capitalist culture within communist China, and the other is Macau. Macau has its own monetary system, immigration policy, and legal system that makes it distinct from the laws of China, and will have these autonomous powers until the year 2049. This is because Macau was a Portuguese colony for hundreds of years until 1999 when it was transferred back to China – on the condition that it retain its autonomy for 50 years after the transfer. Macau is a wealthy region with an extremely high quality of life that attracts wealthy tourists from all across Asia. More money flows through Macau’s casinos than anywhere else in the world – which is why Las Vegas based gaming companies like MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts have all entered Macau’s gaming market. If you want to experience gambling and excess on an unprecedented level, Macau should be #1 on your list.