Caesars Palace

Both as a brand and a landmark, Caesars Palace is one of the most recognizable attractions, not only in Las Vegas, but anywhere in the world. Nicely situated, on the western side of the Las Vegas Strip, between Bellagio and the The Mirage, Caesars Palace was established by hotel developer Jay Sarno in 1966. Apparently, Sarno deliberately omitted the apostrophe from the name so that every one of his patrons could feel like ‘a Caesar’.

Inspired by the unrestrained self-indulgence often associated with Ancient Rome, Caesars Palace effectively ‘raised the bar’ for gambling establishments in Las Vegas. Innovations such as imported Italian sculpture, including a 20 foot high statue of the founder of the Roman Empire, Augustus Caesar, near the main entrance, gilded columns and cocktail waitresses clad in white, off-the-shoulder togas were just a few of those unveiled during the grand opening party in the summer of 1966.

Fast forward five decades or so and Caesars Palace now offers 4,610 rooms, suites and villas – compared with 680 when it first opened – arranged into six, appropriately-named, major towers. The modern casino facility occupies roughly 125,000 square feet and offers table games, such as baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette and many more, slots, video poker machines and 4,500 square feet poker room, open 24 hours a day. A dedicated horse racing and sports area provides comfortable, private booths and flat-screen monitors on which to view the action.

The Bellagio

Built on the site formerly occupied by the iconic Dunes hotel and casino, which was demolished in 1993, on the Las Vegas Strip, the Bellagio is one of the most famous casinos in the world. Nowadays owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, the Bellagio opened, to no little fanfare and at no little cost – the opening ceremony alone reputedly cost $88 million – in October, 1998.

Inspired by the town of the same name, which overlooks Lake Como, in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy, the Bellagio is renowned for its elegance. Externally, the Bellagio is best known for the ‘Fountains of Bellagio’, which are set in an artificial lake, covering 8 acres, or 3.2 hectares, between the hotel building and the Strip. At regular intervals throughout the afternoon and evening, anyone nearby can witness a choreographed water ‘ballet’, complete with illumination and musical accompaniment.

Internally, notwithstanding its central role in the Hollywood movie ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, which was released in 2001, the Bellagio is probably best known for its poker room, which plays host to high-profile World Poker Tour events, including the ‘Five Diamond World Poker Classic’in December each year. That said, the gaming floor as a whole is impressive enough, covering 116,000 square feet and offering 2,300 slots with jackpots of up to $2 million. Accommodation-wise, the Bellagio offers a total of 3,950 lavish rooms, of various shapes and sizes, most of which are located in the original, main tower.

MGM Grand Las Vegas

At the time of its opening in 1993, the MGM Grand Las Vegas, on the Las Vegas Strip, had the distinction of being the largest hotel in the world. Even today, the MGM Grand is the largest single hotel. Nowadays owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, the MGM Grand was built in 1991, as an extension to the existing Marina Hotel, which closed the previous year. Indeed, the original rooms of the Marina Hotel, subsequently renovated, were opened as the ‘West Wing’ of the MGM Grand in 2005.

The main building of the MGM Grand is 30 storeys, or 293 feet, high and boasts 6,852 rooms. The casino gaming floor, which is the largest in Clark County, covers 171,500 square feet and offers a wide selection of table games, notably including single-zero roulette, among many others and 2,300 gaming machines. A further 380,000 square feet are devoted to a convention centre and the building also houses numerous night clubs, restaurants and retail outlets.

Originally, the casino entrance featured a giant fibreglass lion’s head, based loosely on ‘Leo the Lion’, the mascot of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studio. However, some superstitious visitors considered it unlucky to enter the casino through the lion’s mouth, as was originally the case. Consequently, MGM Grand opted to replace the original entrance with a huge bronze statue – 45 feet tall and weighing 100,000lb, or 50 tons – of a complete, seated lion.

Casino de Monte Carlo

Not to be confused with the former Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, now Park MGM, on the Las Vegas Strip, Casino de Monte Carlo, or Monte Carlo Casino, is located in the tiny, independent city-state of Monaco on the French Riviera. The Principality of Monaco is actually the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican City State, but Monte Carlo Casino is one of four gambling establishments owned and operated by the state-controlled Société des Bains de Mer (SBM).

Founded in 1863 by businessman François Blanc, Monte Carlo Casino is magnificent, richly decorated building in the Belle Époque style. It was celebrated in the popular British music hall song, ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’, made famous by Charles Coborn, in the late nineteenth century and, more recently, has become synonymous with the image of James Bond, the fictional British Secret Service agent created by Ian Fleming in the early Fifties.

Monaco is known as a ‘Billionaires’ Playground’ and almost one in three of its population are millionaires. Paradoxically, Monaco residents are forbidden, by law, from gambling, so the so-called salons privés at Monte Carlo Casino are the preserve of high-rolling tourists and foreign residents. Quite rightly, Monte Carlo Casino has a reputation for class, sophistication and, of course, lavish wealth. However, despite some more exotic offerings, including chemin de fer and punto banco, table games also include blackjack, craps, poker and roulette, while Monte Carlo Casino has nearly 1,000 slot machines, some of which have a minimum stake, per line, of just €0.01.

Foxwoods Resort Casino

Foxwoods Resort Casino falls into the category of ‘Native American’ or ‘tribal’ gaming insofar as it is located on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation in Ledyard, Connecticut and is owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Originally founded, as Mashantucket Pequot Bingo Hall, in 1986, Foxwoods has developed out of all recognition in the last three decades or so, but still retains its huge bingo hall, capable of accommodating up to 5,000 players at a time.

All in all, the Foxwoods complex covers 9,000,000 square feet, or nearly one-third of a square mile, 344,000 square feet of which is devoted to gaming floor space, in six individual casinos. Indeed, Foxwoods Resort Casino is the second largest casino in the United States, behind only the WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma, which covers 600,000 square feet. Collectively, the casinos include over 380 gaming tables, offering the usual selection of blackjack, craps, poker and roulette, plus over 6,300 slot machines.

Unsurprisingly, the Foxwoods Resort Casino has an authentic Native American theme, typified by bright colours in various patterns and geometric forms, although natural features, such as fully-grown, mature trees and waterfalls, also feature within its walls. Accommodation is provided in a total of 2,666 rooms, divided between two hotel towers; the original Grand Pequot Tower opened in 1997, followed by the MGM Grand, now known as the Fox Tower, 11 years later. The ‘wonder in the Connecticut woods’, as Foxwoods is known, also features a two-storey arcade for children and teenagers and several restaurants, including a Hard Rock Café.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa,

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, in Atlantic City, New Jersey has the distinction of being both the largest hotel in New Jersey, with just over 2,000 rooms, and the highest-grossing casino in Atlantic City. Opened in 2003, and designed as a gambling destination to rival those found in Las Vegas, Borgata was originally a joint venture between MGM Mirage and Boyd Gaming but, since 2016, has been owned outright, and operated by, MGM Resorts International. Borgata was, in fact, the first new property of its kind to open in Atlantic City for over a decade and has largely succeeded in its aim of rekindling interest in gambling in ‘America’s Favourite Playground’.

The casino floor, which occupies 161,000 square feet in total, offers 180 table games, including the usual selection of baccarat, craps, roulette and so on, and over 3,000 state-of-the-art slots, in various denominations. No pun intended, but poker is a big deal at Borgata, too; the poker room, which is the largest in Atlantic City, was installed as part of a $200 million expansion programme in late 2005 and early 2006, and features regular tournaments, including the World Poker Tour (WPT) Borgata Poker Open and Borgata Winter Poker Open. Sports bettors are also more than amply catered for at Borgata, with a sportsbook, aptly named the ‘Race & Sports Book’ – the only one of its kind in Atlantic City – providing access to thoroughbred harness racing and other sports via individual, flat-screen monitors.