Las Vegas is nicknamed "Sin City" for a reason. Whether you're in town for a bachelor party, convention, or a poker tournament, at some point one of your friends will blurt out, "Let's go to a strip club!".
When sports betting regulation was passed by Congress in 1951, the first wave of sports books called “turf clubs” opened their doors in Nevada. The Del Mar Turf Club was one of the more popular places to put down a bet on a football game or a horse race. The landscape in Las Vegas significantly changed in the last sixty years and gone are the days of the stand-alone betting shops. In the 70s and 80s, the Stardust housed the most famous sports book in the world until it was demolished in 2007.
These days, mostly every major casino has a sports and race book. I have spent my fair share of time in different sports book all over Las Vegas. Here are some of my favorites…
On my initial trips to Vegas, I spent all my time at the Mirage playing poker and betting on college basketball games. When Steve Wynn opened the Mirage in 1989, he added a state-of-the art race and sports book to his casino. Instead of tucking it away in a darkened corner you'll never be able to find, Wynn made sure that the sports book was located near the closest entrance to Las Vegas Blvd. What I love about the Mirage the most is that the poker room and sports book are next door to each other.
The Mirage isn't very large with only 300 seats, which is its only drawback. The sports and race book was originally geared to horse racing enthusiasts because there's more seats for the horse bettors than those wanting to sweat a game (nearly a three to one margin).
However, there's a cool sports bar and lounge located in between the sports book and the poker room, which is a decent place to watch a game with a couple of friends provided you're going to be drinking. The Mirage might be considered “old” compared to the new casinos, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for the intimacy of the sports book.
Lagasse's Stadium (Palazzo)
What can be better than eating delicious gourmet food while sweating a bet? Lagasse's Stadium, named after renowned celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, is inside the Palazzo but you can access it from Las Vegas Blvd.
Cantor Gaming runs the sports book, so you'll be getting their lines and be able to participate in in-running wagering. Lagasse's Stadium is located in a space that used to be a club that Jay-Z owned before it closed down.
Lagasse's Stadium exudes the atmosphere of a sporting event but in the confines of a modern, swanky Vegas club. There are multiple club lounge areas and comfortable couches to watch the game, so it feels like you're right at home. Lagasse's Stadium is not just a restaurant and sports bar because it also has private rooms. They're the perfect place to host parties and events. Friends of mine usually rent out a suite once a year, which includes multiple TV screens, a pool table, and even video arcade games.
The only downside is that a trip to Lagasse's Stadium can get expensive with all the gourmet food and drinks. Make sure you bet a little extra to cover your tab.
Cantor Gaming is one of the largest race and sports book operators in Nevada. Cantor recently took over the sports book and poker room at the Palms. The old Palms catered to its horse racing clientele, but those elderly bettors are dying off as horse racing loses its popularity. Since Cantor took over, they reduced the horse betting area, added a few more seats for sports bettors, but also renovated the area to include a poker room up front, close to the casino floor. As a sports gambler and poker player, I love having them in close proximity to each other.
The sports book is designed so it can show more than 30 different games at once, which makes it a popular choice during football season and the March Madness basketball tournament. The newly refurbished sports book is located near one of the parking lot entrances, which makes it a friendly place for Las Vegas locals to run in and out to place a bet.
Cantor prides itself on taking action from both small-time bettors and professional betting syndicates. Cantor also offers in-game wagering, which is the hottest and most addictive trend to hit the sports betting world. They will also provide you with a mobile device so you can make wagers from anywhere on their property including your hotel room.
The Las Vegas Hilton is one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas. It's totally old school and it used to have a shoddy-looking sports book. However, the LVH recently underwent a brand new makeover. The Superbook is billed as the “largest sports book in the world” and is located in a 30,000 square foot space with a ginormous screen that is almost 20 feet by 20 feet! They have a 1,500-seat “theatre” that rivals the facilities at NASA or at the Pentagon.
The LVH embraced the 21st Century with state-of-the-art betting kiosks, so you no longer have to wait in long lines to place bets. The LVH is best known for its annual NFL Super Contest, which attracts the biggest sharks in Vegas along with casual football fans.
Some sports books are cramped and crowded, but Mandalay Bay might have one of the largest spaces on the Strip with over 300 seats. The sports book is next to the poker room, which is why I loved frequenting Mandalay Bay. I could easily keep an eye on the massive screen (almost 30 foot by 30 foot!) while playing cards.
The cocktail waitresses wear skimpy outfits and have plenty of attitude from dealing with degenerate gamblers all day long. The Mandalay Bay used to be the place to gamble on sports a decade ago, but since then it has lost its luster, which is fine by me because it means it's not as crowded anymore.
Although, Mandalay Bay hosts many boxing matches and UFC fights, so on those nights the sports book is jam packed and you can't move.
I get asked about poker rooms all the time. It's really hard to give someone a specific answer, because much like playing poker, it all “depends” on the situation. What constitutes a good poker room? I'm looking for terrible players with deep pockets, comfortable seats, good and quick dealers, and a knowledgeable floor staff to adjudicate disputes in a swift, fair manner.
Buffets and Las Vegas go hand-in-hand. Buffets represent the best and worst aspects of our self-indulgent culture of overconsumption. If you like to people watch, then a trip to the buffet is like a National Geographic special – spending time in the wildlife watching lions in the Serengeti feast on gazelles.
You're in downtown Las Vegas and either got really drunk and a taxi dropped you off there, or you opted to let your friend book a cheap vacation and ended up at one of the many seedy no-tell motels on East Fremont. Well do not fear, I have a couple of things you can do while you're slumming in Downtown Vegas…
When I was a kid, my parents told me they saw Elvis Presley perform in Las Vegas, so from a very young age I associated Las Vegas with musical spectacles and over-the-top performances. The King has been dead for several decades, but the modern-day headliners in Sin City are still heavyweights like Celine Dion and Elton John.
An entire culture in Las Vegas exists around pool parties. There's been a big push to capitalize on "day clubs" or massive gatherings poolside with lots of booze, lots of skin, and lots of loud music.
Las Vegas is one of the few places in America in which you can legally place a sports bet. You don't have to worry about getting scammed by an offshore book or dealing with shady local bookies. If you're a fan of any major sport or horse racing, you'll be able to wager on the outcome at different sports books in Las Vegas.
If you're visiting Las Vegas for an extended period of time, you might want to break up your holiday by scheduling a side trip. Las Vegas is a pretty crazy place and excessive indulgence has ruined too many people, which is why you sometimes need a vacation away from your Las Vegas vacation.
We've all hit the low point at some point in Las Vegas when you ran bad and lost all your money, whether it was the bad end of variance at the poker table or an annoying dealer cold-decked you at blackjack.