There are two major Las Vegas casino markets. One is the Las Vegas Strip. It includes major resort properties like Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and Venetian. The other is downtown Las Vegas, which includes the Fremont Street Experience. Major downtown casinos include Circa, Golden Nugget, and Fremont.
Downtown Las Vegas Had Casinos Before the Strip
Downtown Las Vegas casinos first opened in 1931. That is the only part of the Las Vegas Valley that was developed at that point. It was home to the train station that started Las Vegas, which was on the property now known as Plaza.
Organized crime was heavily involved in Las Vegas at the time. Over the years, the mobsters grew tired of dealing with the taxes and regulations of the city of Las Vegas. In the 1940s, casino operators started eyeing areas outside the city limits to the south. This is how the Las Vegas Strip started. To this day, the Las Vegas Strip remains in unincorporated Clark County, except for The Strat, which is on the far south point of the city limits.
Differences Between the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown
The Las Vegas Strip is much larger than downtown. There are 30 casinos on the Strip. There are only 12 in downtown Las Vegas.
The casinos on the Las Vegas Strip are mostly full-service resorts. Amenities include high-end hotel rooms, upscale restaurants, multiple pools with day clubs, nightclubs, shows, and luxury casino floors.
There is a huge variance between Las Vegas Strip properties. There are five-star resorts down to accommodations that are just above a motel.
Downtown Las Vegas is completely walkable for most people. The casinos are small and mostly close together. The distance between one end of Fremont Street to the last casino on the other side is only seven city blocks. No casino is more than two blocks north of the Fremont Street Experience.
The Las Vegas Strip is largely not walkable. The sidewalks are mostly narrow for the amount of pedestrian traffic and attractions it has. The resorts are massive and cover multiple blocks. Some casinos are several city blocks from Las Vegas Blvd. The north end of the Strip has several large empty parcels of land that cause the existing casinos to be spread out.
The food prices on the Strip are exceptionally high. Even food courts are double or triple what you would find in a mall. Downtown Las Vegas has affordable dining options at all levels. Pricing around Fremont Street is comparable to other major cities.
The Strip has features like the Bellagio Fountains and Mirage volcanos. The main attraction is downtown Las Vegas is the Viva Vision screen above the Fremont Street Experience.
Gambling on the Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is the largest casino market in the United States. It generates $8 billion a year.
The quality of gambling on the Las Vegas Strip varies greatly. It is mostly poor for low-limit players. Blackjack typically pays 6/5 at tables under $25. In some Las Vegas Strip casinos, it takes $100 to find a 3/2 game. There are a couple of $10 and $15 3/2 blackjack games on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.
Triple zero roulette is another example of poor low-limit gambling. The $10 and $15 roulette tables on the Strip usually have three zeros. It often takes $25 to get a double zero roulette game. Single zero tables typically start at $100.
Video poker at lower denominations is also of poor quality. Quarter and half-dollar machines usually return 96% or so.
On the other hand, high-limit players find the best gambling in the world on the Las Vegas Strip. High-limit video poker often returns over 99%. The best high-limit video poker game is at Caesars Palace. It is 9/7 Triple Double Bonus (99.58%). Many Las Vegas Strip casinos have 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54%) at $5 and higher denominations.
High-limit roulette only has one zero. It also has the la partage rule if the table is European Roulette, meaning players get half their wager back on even money bets when the pill lands in the zero pocket. Blackjack often stands on soft 17 in Las Vegas Strip salons. Some have this game at double-deck tables.
Las Vegas Strip casino list
- Caesars Palace
- Casino Royale (slots-only)
- Encore (connected to Wynn)
- Excalibur (connected to Luxor)
- Horseshoe (formerly Bally’s, connected to Paris)
- Luxor (connected to Excalibur and Mandalay Bay)
- Mandalay Bay (connected to Luxor)
- MGM Grand
- Mirage (soon to be Hard Rock)
- New York-New York
- Palazzo (connected to Venetian)
- Paris (connected to Horseshoe)
- Park MGM (only nonsmoking casino in Las Vegas)
- Planet Hollywood
- Resorts World
- Slots A Fun (connected to Circus Circus, slots-only)
- Treasure Island
- Venetian (connected to Palazzo)
- Wynn (connected to Encore)
Gambling in Downtown Las Vegas
The gambling in downtown Las Vegas is aimed more toward low rollers than the Strip is. In general, the further you get from the intersection of Fremont Street Experience and Casino Center Blvd, the better the games are.
The four casinos at that intersection are Binion’s, Four Queens, Fremont, and Golden Nugget. Each deals at least one blackjack game that requires a $1 or $2 side bet. No Las Vegas Strip casino has tried that gimmick. The video poker at Golden Nugget is as bad or worse than the Strip.
On the other hand, Downtown Grand deals $1 even money and $5 3/2 blackjack. It also has $5 10 times craps and double zero roulette.
Plaza has the best video poker game in all of Las Vegas. That is quarter full-pay Joker Wild. It returns 100.65% with five coins wagered and perfect play. It also has a large library of 99% video poker games, including at two bars, one of which is nonsmoking.
California and El Cortez still have coin video poker games. El Cortez also has coin slots. The D is home to Sigma Derby, a classic horse racing game that operates on quarters. El Cortez is home to the only 3/2 single-deck blackjack game in Las Vegas.
The best craps odds in Las Vegas are found downtown. Main Street Station offers up to 20 times odds. Downtown Grand, El Cortez, Golden Gate, Plaza, and The D have up to 10 times odds. Every casino except one on the Las Vegas Strip has 3-4-5 times max craps odds. The Strat is the only exception, where it is 10 times odds.
Downtown Las Vegas casinos
- California (connected to Main Street Station)
- Downtown Grand
- El Cortez
- Four Queens
- Golden Gate
- Golden Nugget
- Main Street Station (connected to California)
- The D