Best online casino for most U.S. players: Bovada

If you're in DE, NJ, PA, or WV, online casinos are legal in your state, and you should play at a casino licensed there.

If you're in any other U.S. state, your best bet is Bovada, not because they're good, but because everything else is even worse.  I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode where the RV salesman is telling Homer, "Simpson, you're never gonna own a finer RV.  And I don't mean that in a good way, I mean this is IT for you!"

THE GOOD ABOUT BOVADA

  1. Play the practice games without having to register an account.  Other casinos force you to register so they can market to you.  Bovada is the only U.S.-wide casino I know of that lets you play right away with no registration.  (If you see a registration box, you can cancel it and continue to the game.)  Blackjack?  One click and you're in.  And the games play right in your browser, so you don't have to download any special software.
  2. Consistent payouts.  Online gambling is mostly unregulated and if a casino refuses to pay your winnings you have little recourse.  But Bovada has always had a good reputation for paying out properly.

THE BAD ABOUT BOVADA

  1. Not licensed.  Because online gambling in most states isn't explicitly legal, no legitimate authority will license a U.S.-wide casino.  That means if you have a dispute, you have no recourse.
  2. Customer service is pretty pathetic.
  3. Phantom bets in live dealer games.  While I was watching (not playing) a live roulette game to record spin data for an article, Bovada claimed that I made two losing bets ($45 and $15) that I didn't actually make.  I complained about this, but they insisted I made those bets.  So, you probably want to steer clear of the live dealer games.

Visit Bovada


Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

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Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

Las Vegas Hotel Deals

Last update: August, 2018.

Stay for free on your next visit

Here's our best tip for Las Vegas hotels for cheap: Casinos will send you offers for free or deeply discounted rooms for your next visit if you simply sign up for a free Player's Card and use it a little when you're playing slots or table games. Sometimes they'll make these offers even if you never use the card at all. As I write this I'm staying for three nights for free, on a weekend, at a casino that I think I played maybe an hour or two of blackjack in two years ago. Sign up for a Player's Card at every casino you visit, whether you're staying there or not, and whether you expect to gamble there or not. If you do gamble, either table games or slots, be sure to use the card.

This doesn't help you for the visit you're about to make, but it's the #1 way to get a great deal on your next visit.

Timing is Everything

Weekday vs. Weekend. Friday/Saturday rates are often two and a half times as much as Sunday-thru-Thursday rates! If you're able to stay between Sunday through Thursday, by all means do so.  Not only will you save on your room, but you'll also find lower limits on table games, and the casinos and restaurants won't be as crowded so you'll be able to enjoy yourself more.

Cheap Times of the Year.  Whenever business is slow, hotels drop the rates to induce more business.  These are the best times of the year to score deals:

  • December before Christmas. Rooms at some classy hotels go for as little as $20, even on weekends!
  • July & August.  It's 100 degrees outside, so that discourages some tourists.

Expensive Times of the Year.

  • Major holidays, like Memorial Day (late May), July 4th, Labor Day (early Sept.), and New Year's Eve.
  • Superbowl Sunday (usually the whole weekend of the Sunday in February)
  • Convention times (CES in early January, and Comdex in mid-November)
Let me give you an example:  In January on the Wednesday before CES in 2011, the cheapest hotel on the Strip for Thursday night was $439.  For a Thursday!  Granted, it was a suite (because that's all they had left), but the point is, when there's a big convention and the Strip gets close to sold out, prices soar.  Book ahead.

Be aware of Resort Fees

Nearly every hotel/casino in Vegas charges a bullshit "resort fee" of $15-40 per night, that's separate from the room rate.  Also, you usually won't see that listed in the online prices.  There are a few ways around the resort fee:

  • Comps.  If you gamble, the casino might waive the resort fee if you ask.  See my comps page for more.
  • Bribes.  When you check in, sandwich a $20 bill between your ID and your credit card and ask if it's possible to waive the resort fee.  Instead, you could ask if there are any complimentary room upgrades available, which you might enjoy more than having your resort fee waived.  This bribery works at most strip hotels, most of the time.  I've done it successfully myself.
  • Stay elsewhere.
  •   Hotels without an attached casino rarely charge resort fees.  There's also Airbnb.

Location matters

The Strip -- Strip hotels are generally the most expensive.  On the strip, Stratosphere, NY NY, and Excalibur often have the lowest prices.  Circus Circus is just as cheap but dumpier and smokier.

Downtown -- Downtown digs are generally cheaper than the Strip, and downtown is only 1.5 miles from the Strip (and there's a bus that runs 24/7), so you'll never be far from the action.

Off-Strip. There are many hotel-casinos near the strip but not quite on it.  See my list of near-strip casinos.


Get a room upgrade for $20

A little-known tip is that you can usually get a nice room upgrade by tipping $20 to the front desk. Put the $20 between your ID and your credit card, then casually ask if there are any complimentary room upgrades available.  Most front desk staff will give the $20 back if they can't help you. More about this at FrontDeskTip.com.

 

Vegas Hotel Search Engines

Some of these let you search for either strip-only or downtown-only.

See my Vegas map so you can see where these hotels are.

 

Cheap & Sleazy for as little as $29/night

There are a bunch of motels that advertise $29/night Sunday through Thursday, on Las Vegas Blvd. on the one-mile stretch between the Strip and downtown, and also on Fremont St. downtown, west of Las Vegas Blvd.  Of course their weekend rates are higher, but still less than what you'd find at any hotel-casino.

Lots of the motels won't accept reservations, and they're not listed in the online search engines anyway—it's walk-in only.  If you haven't gotten a room before you arrive in Vegas you can be fairly certain that you can get one by checking the motels in the areas mentioned above. Once during the Superbowl the only rooms in Vegas showing online were $175+ per night, but downtown motels still had clean rooms for $45/night (and I got one).

 

Death of the $16 room at the Western

For years, my favorite deal was the $16 room at The Western, the sleaziest and most dangerous casino in all of Vegas.  I took advantage of a $16 room there as late as 2001.  It was $16 even on the weekends!  However, by 2007 the price had gone up to $35/night weekday and $55/night weekends, and then the whole place went out of business not long after that.

I was tipped off to the Western before my first Vegas trip by reading the hilarious story Las Vegas on $19 a day.  Here's the hilarity that ensued when I tried to make a reservation by phone.

The Gold Spike Diner

The Gold Spike was an ultra-cheap hotel/casino which sadly closed in 2013.  The table maximum was an astounding $50, and the Wizard and I once competed to see which of us could get kicked out first for counting cards.  Anyway, a friend relayed this story about the place to me:

I used to occasionally stay at the Gold Spike when the rooms were still $22, even on weekends.  The rooms are better than you might expect after seeing the casino.  With your $22 room you also got a coupon good for a free breakfast at the snack bar.  Unfortunately, the snack bar is located in the casino.  My first time there, I looked over the snack bar and decided that I'd pass on the free breakfast.

As I walked out the door, I was accosted by a panhandler. In a moment of generosity (unusual for me), I gave him my breakfast coupon.  He examined it closely, and then handed it back to me and said, "Thanks, man, but I ain't *that* hungry."


Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

You can play Bovada's games (below) right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's the mean reason Bovada is the only online casino that gets advertising space on my site.  I hope other casinos will eventually start treating their visitors like human beings rather than walking wallets, but until they do, there's Bovada.  One click and you're in.

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