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Back during the birth of Las Vegas as a casino city in the 1950s, it would’ve been fair to joke that one method of payment was blood. The casinos often had mob or big crime ties, and it wasn’t uncommon for people who tried to cheat the system to end up paying with their lives. Luckily, today’s casino payment methods are . . . a little less brutal.
The most common method of paying at casinos is with cash, of course. Cash in hand is good to literally any casino—it’ll get you poker chips, it’ll get you slot tokens, it’ll get you booze and food . . . Cash is good. Casinos like cash because it’s promised money right in front of them.
Some casinos will take credit cards as payment for chips as well, but remember, if you’re buying chips with a credit card and then you lose that money playing . . . you still have to pay off the credit card, plus interest, so you’ll be paying interest on something for which you’ve gained nothing. There are some casinos that will not take credit cards.
Debit cards have a little more leeway, since they pull money directly out of your account, with no holding fee or interest charged.
The one thing casinos have stopped taking across the board is personal checks. While checks have gone out of fashion thanks to the abundance of credit and debit card technology, the inherent risk businesses could face by still accepting them has driven many to put a ban on them altogether—including casinos.
If a check bounces, it’s then the casino’s problem to hunt down the person who wrote it, and it’s not impossible for someone to write a bogus check while they’re on vacation and then simply vanish, never to be seen again. Because checks pose a danger to casinos for the potential loss of money, they’re refused.
Taking cash includes coins—you can use quarters in most, if not all coin slots. Casinos may offer tokens, but they are generally the value of quarters anyway, and machines are geared to take both.
For high rollers or tournaments that have high buy-in prices, direct wire transfers from banks may be accepted, but chances are the casino will have to make special arrangements for this to happen, so don’t expect to walk into a brand new casino or walk into a casino on vacation and simply have your proposed wire transfer accepted.
One of the newest and most tentative forms of payment at casinos is Bitcoin. As CBS reported in January of 2014, the Golden Gate and the D casino began accepting bitcoins as payment for hotel rooms, food, and drinks. The D also accepts Bitcoin as payment in its souvenir shop.
Neither of the two casinos have begun accepting Bitcoin as payment for chips, but as the cryptocurrency becomes more popular and because the casinos are already starting to integrate it as payment for other services, it’s a safe bet to assume that casinos may soon start taking it as payment for chips.
Bottom line: cash is always best. Also, don’t bet your car. Seriously.
Casinos want your money, but more than that—they want your time, because time is money.
People walk away with casino winnings all the time, but the thing is, for every person who walks out with $1000 in their pocket, another twenty people lose $100 . . . so the casino is always profiting enough to cushion its winners, as long as people keep coming. That’s why casinos are designed to make people want to be in them. Most offer free drinks, and if you join the players club, you can work up to free merchandise, free meals, free hotel rooms, and even free trips to sister casinos.
Next time you visit a casino, look at the walls. Not only will they probably be painted a dark color—likely a dark red—you’ll notice they won’t have something: clocks. Time literally is money where casinos are concerned. The walls are dark and there are no clocks in order to keep the place feeling the same inside no matter what time it is.
As for the walls? Red makes people hungry—so those dark red walls might be having more of a psychological effect on you than you think. The same goes for those “royal” red velvet floors and red-seated tables and booths.
In order to keep players happy, fed, and appropriately hydrated and/or boozed up, casinos usually offer free drinks and sometimes free food. If they don’t offer free food, there will be a restaurant. It’s much easier to get players to come back if they only have to walk a few feet to the restaurant rather than leave and come back.
Casinos tend to play pepped-up music, keeping players’ hearts pounding and their hands moving. Slower music lulls people, and casinos want players to have as much energy as possible. The longer they stay awake, the less likely they are to want to leave.
Even things you would probably consider downers are part of the casino trance, like “almost” winning. Getting two cherries on a slot machine. Putting a quarter in those construction machines and watching it almost knock the next level down. Being one card from winning a hand. Those “almosts” entice players to keep going and are proven to energize people.
More than having people just in the casino, though, casinos have to convince players to play. Some card tables will advertise for new players only, or will advertise low betting rates and low risk in order to convince shy, possibly inexperienced players to join in. Machine games are much easier—slot machines often rely on familiar TV shows, movies, franchises, and designs in order to bring players in. The Wheel of Fortune game is common and popular because it’s a well-known TV show. Slot machines in every casino tend to be made the same way, with the same stakes, and they’re familiar to players.
The layout of casinos can also be part of their overall psychology. When you’re on a gaming floor, it often devolves into a twisting labyrinth of machines. Tables will be toward the back, and you have to walk between slots to get there. Slots and other machine games will be scattered, sometimes seemingly at random—the trick is to get you to walk past more when you’re trying to leave or trying to find another machine.
Bars will be situated well in view, and so will the restaurant. Often the cash office will be well in view, too, and is often the brightest-lit part of the casino—so you can see how everyone else is getting winnings counted out to them.
Never fear, though! Simply knowing some of a casino’s tricks can lessen their effect on you. Other ways to keep your wits about you: wear a watch or keep an eye on your phone. Set a time you want to leave, and, more importantly, set an amount to spend.
Casinos aim to keep their players satisfied (if not exactly rich). In order to keep people playing for longer, nearly all casinos have some sort of restaurant, whether it’s small-fare dining that serves bags of popcorn and bowls of pretzels or high-end cuisine.
Some casinos have partnered with well-known chefs to provide a gourmet dining experience to their customers, while others stick with the standard buffet. If you want to eat fine and play at the same time, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best casinos to do both to your heart’s content.
José Andrés’s China Poblano is one of several high-end restaurants in Las Vegas’s The Cosmopolitan. His Chinese-Mexican fusion offers tapas (small) dishes, served warm and hearty over a wood-fire grill. The Cosmo also houses David Myers’s Comme Ça.
Atlantic City’s Borgata offers just what you’d expect: gourmet seafood. Michael Mina’s Seablue restaurant has an enormous menu chock full of fresh seafood along with entrees like the Springer Mountain Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich and duck sausage ravioli.
While most of the larger casinos in the United States over three to five restaurants, usually on different floors of the casino, there are some casinos around the world that are veritable shopping malls . . . made entirely of high-class restaurants. Macau’s Casino Lisboa offers 18 different restaurants, adding Michelin stars to its already impressive pedigree.
Also in Macau is the Starworld Hotel and Casino, which, while not as impressive as Lisboa, still has 10 bars and restaurants, including another Michelin star earner.
The U.S. has its share of multi-restaurant beauty casinos, too. Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut boasts a huge selection of restaurants—check out their website and you’ll have the choice of “gourmet,” “casual,” “quick service,” “festival buffet,” and an entirely different section for drinks.
Like most other casinos already mentioned on this list, Foxwoods’ gourmet restaurants are owned by well-known chefs and add an extra element to the casino as a whole.
Though everything mentioned so far has been gourmet, it’s hard to blame people for not wanting to spent $30-$60 per person on a meal, or to blame them for not wanting to have a sit-down that may last more than an hour. That’s where Vegas’s famous crowd-pleaser comes in.
Buffets. Casinos—and strip clubs—around the world are known for having buffets for patrons to snack on. It’s simpler for casinos, whose goal is ultimately to keep players there as long as possible. One-price, all-day buffets are the cheapest and easiest way to do so. But buffets aren’t always full of greasy “Chinese” food and day-old, grease-dripping pizza.
In fact, Las Vegas has some pretty nice ones.
Making the list for a second time, the Cosmopolitan hosts the Wicked Spoon, which is Chinese food, but served with stylish takeout boxes alongside premier wine selections and cuts of steak.
Main Street Station offers a slightly less pricey option. Their Garden Court Buffet features a wide range of cuisine, including Mexican, Southwestern, straight-up pizza, and rotisserie chickens. They offer champagne brunches for overnighters and hotel guests as well as prime cuts of meat that vary day to day—all for an average of $11 per person.
In the end, though, keep in mind that it may be cheaper to eat outside the casino. High-end restaurants are nice, but prices in all casino restaurants are likely to be higher simply because people will choose it for the convenience. Stopping somewhere else before coming in will stave off the cravings that would make you turn to casino fare, and setting a time to leave to get food will get you out the door with (hopefully) some money left in your pocket.