The Beginner’s Guide to American Casinos


Credit: Dover Downs Casino

Las Vegas is home to America’s most famous casinos, from Wynn and Caesars to Bellagio and the Venetian Resort. That said, Sin City isn’t the only place in the country with top-rated betting establishments.

In fact, some of the best casinos in America are located on land owned by Native Americas. Others operate through cruise ships or the Internet. Here’s a beginner’s guide to popular types of casinos in the US, how they work, and what they provide.

Commercial Casinos

In some states, local and international investors can establish land-based casinos with the permission of state officials. Many jurisdictions permit gambling businesses to collect tax revenue, create jobs, and stimulate the economy of different cities. Here are some of the most successful casinos in different states:

  1. Caesars Casino—Atlantic City
  2. Bellagio Casino—Las Vegas
  3. MGM Grand—Michigan
  4. Horseshoe Casino—Louisiana

Nevada was the first state to permit gambling in the US with a law passed in 1931 to help avert the economic downturn of the Great Depression. Delaware made a similar law much later in 1974, then New Jersey in 1976, and Pennsylvania in 2004.

For clarity, many states have had one or more forms of legal gambling for many years. For example, West Virginia authorized its first horse racing track in 1931. But it didn’t permit casinos until much later on.

Commercial casinos are conventionally huge in size and provide thousands of slots and card games. As mentioned, they are operated by wealthy business people and companies that spare now expenses in providing 5-star services.

Native American Casinos

One of the many rights of Native Americans is to operate casinos on reserved land. Nearly every state respects this right, which is why there are Indian casinos throughout the country. Usually, these establishments are located in small towns. But they compete and edge out Las Vegas casinos in many ways.

For starters, Native American casinos collect more money in annual revenues–$32.4 billion against Vegas’ $17.8 billion in 2017. They are generally bigger in size and have more games on their floors.

Interestingly, not every casino on Native American land is operated by Indians. Like regular businesses, Indians are allowed to partner or sell their businesses to non-Native Americans. For example, the Cherokee casino in North Carolina is managed by Caesars Entertainment.

There’s a detailed page at which breaks down USA casinos by state and city. It also shows you a map of each resort in the country, games provided, and amenities you can expect. What’s more, it compares the best-rated casinos to help you make the right decisions.

Casino Resorts/Hotels

All around the US, casinos are changing. They no longer depend on their gaming floors for revenues. Instead, the primary way Las Vegas casinos make money these days is through their hotel services.

Casino resorts have been around for many years. But they’ve been mushrooming since the financial crisis of 2007/2008. According to experts, opening hotel rooms and other resort services has been a vital way for casinos to diversify their incomes.

Some casinos resorts provide little more than lodging rooms, restaurants, and bars. But for the biggest businesses in the Vegas Strip, you get the sort of 5-star treatment you can’t find anywhere else.

Take Wynn Las Vegas as an example. Armed with 2700 suites, spas, swimming pools, gyms, and restaurants; Wynn Las Vegas treats everyone like a VIP. Unsurprisingly, it’s the best-rated casino in Las Vegas by some outlets.

Wynn Las Vegas isn’t alone in providing impeccable services. There are plenty of amazing casinos in Sin City depending on your interests. MGM Grand, for example, has adults-only clubs, fun zones, and a place to watch TV.

On the other hand, the Cosmopolitan is famous for its restaurants. The Casino Hotel has an assembly of the best chefs from around the world, each providing cuisines conventionally found in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America.


A racino is a casino built inside a racing track. Horse and greyhound racing are the two most popular activities within a racino. You can also bet on these two sports and play slots and card games if they’re allowed.

Many states in the US permit racinos even those with strict anti-sports betting laws. The explanation is that horse race betting is a skill-based activity. Additionally, it creates little room for cheating, corruption, and doping.

In many cases, racinos provide horse and greyhound racing on a pari-mutuel basis. That means all bets are placed into a pool and winners share the profits collected after-tax and profits.

As mentioned, racinos differ in the number of games they provide. But their unifying feature is a racetrack. An increasing number of racinos now all both slot machines and card games. But there’s a trend to eliminate greyhound racing for moral reasons.

Online Casinos

The US has a rocky relationship with online casinos. They were legal in the 1990s and early 2000s. Then the Bush administration banned them in 2006. Later on, the Department of Justice ruled that states could regulate online casinos.

And Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania quickly legalized the industry. Interestingly, Nevada voted against online casinos to reduce competition with land-based establishments. However, it permits sports betting and poker websites.

In some states, there are now laws about online casinos. Due to that, people bet at offshore websites where they can deposit through Bitcoin, e-wallets, and mobile payment apps. The best licensed online casinos, though, are licensed and located in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Cruise ship and River Boat Casinos

If you like to travel on the sea, whether for convenience, team building or the fun of it, book tickets on a cruise ship with a casino. Alternatively, look out for a riverboat casino in your state:

  1. The Amelie Belle—Louisiana
  2. The Grand Victoria Casino—Illinois
  3. Casino Queen Marquette—Lowa
  4. Mississippi Belle—Mississippi

Some riverboat casinos are permanently docked. So, research around to find out what to expect from various operators. On the other hand, check prices for cruise ship casinos, some can be pretty expensive.