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Best of Vin Narayanan

Gaming Guru

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Top-10 must-visit casinos for 2010

11 January 2010

By Vin Narayanan, Gary Trask, and Dan Igo

A new year is upon us and – like everybody else – the editorial staff here at Casino City has made its list of resolutions.

Yeah, we claim we're going to eat better, cut back on the booze and exercise more. But let's be real. Those types of promises will be broken by Valentines Day. So let's move on to some of the resolutions we made that we may actually keep – the ones involving gambling.

The great thing about playing your luck at land-based casinos is that every experience is different depending on the venue. Sure, you can have your regular places to play for superstitious reasons or simply because of geography, but it's also good to branch out and try different casinos, and that's what the three of us – Vin Narayanan, Gary Trask and Dan Igo – have pledged to do in 2010.

We have a consensus No. 1 choice that all of us hope to visit someday, and then we chose three other casinos each that we have yet to visit. As for the order of the list, we arranged the casinos by proximity to the Casino City Headquarters in Boston, Mass. with the venues furthest away sitting at the top of the list.

One final note: If you enjoy trying different casinos and like reading about your fellow gambler's experiences at casinos all over the world, there's no better place to do so than at the Casino City Facebook application called "Places I've Played". where you'll find an interactive map that shows everyone where you've gambled - in the real world and online. It's a great way to share your positive or negative experiences with your friends.

See you at the tables!

foxwoods_casino

The new MGM Foxwoods is part of the striking Foxwoods Resort Casino that sits deep in the woods of Connecticut.

10. Foxwoods Resort Casino – Connecticut – Dan Igo
I'm going with the local angle with this choice. Quite simply, there's no excuse for me to have never gone down to Foxwoods. It is a very convenient two-hour drive from Boston and it offers pretty much anything you want in a casino besides sports-betting. It has one of the largest spaces for gaming in the world (over 320,000 square feet) and boasts 380 table and poker games. There are plenty of dining options with nearly 30 different establishments to grab something to eat or drink. In 2008 Foxwoods added a $700 million expansion in the form of the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. And once again, the two-hour drive means that I could spend the day or night at the casino and not have to worry about staying overnight at the hotel (unless I've had a little too much to drink, of course).

9. Mohegan Sun – Connecticut – Vin Narayanan Most of you reading this probably looked at this and said "Huh, why does he want to go to Mohegan Sun?" The answer is simple. I've lived a couple of hours away from Mohegan Sun, which is located in Uncasville, Connecticut, for a few years, and I've never been there. So in the interest of supporting my local casinos, I think I should make a visit. To be fair, the Mohegan Sun is supposed to be pretty nice. It promises to offer $5 blackjack tables 24/7. It has more than 6,000 gaming machines (a combination of slots, video poker and other miscellaneous games) and almost 400 table games. It has a 20,000 square-foot spa, a 55-foot indoor waterfall and a 3-story crystal mountain. It also has an electrifying water wall. I'm not sure what that is, but when I go there (hopefully in a couple of months), I'll let you know.

8. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem – Pennsylvania – Dan Igo
I tried to keep it realistic with my casino options when compiling this list. I don't envision a scenario where I head to Macau or Australia anytime soon. I do envision a scenario where I head to the Philadelphia area, and that's why Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem makes my list. With Pennsylvania legalizing table games last week my trip down to Sands Bethlehem won't happen until after these games finally reach the casino floor. The casino's hotel is also still under construction. But Las Vegas Sands has proven that when they build a casino, no luxury is spared. And this casino is close enough where a weekend trip would definitely be worth it.

7. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa – Atlantic City – Vin Narayanan
I've been meaning to visit the Borgata since it opened in 2003. The Borgata is a high-end casino that prides itself on delivering a Las Vegas experience in Atlantic City, and everything I've heard about the casino from friends tells me the Borgata delivers on all counts. The Borgata's casino is 161,000 square feet and has 4,100 slot machines and 200 table games. It also has an 85-table poker room -- the largest in Atlantic City. Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck have restaurants at the Borgata. Aerosmith, Sting and Lenny Kravitz are among the top big-name acts that have played at the 2,400-seat Borgata Event Center. The Borgata also has a 54,000-square-foot spa, and both the original hotel and the newer Water Club at Borgata are supposed to incredible. Rooms at The Water Club include 40-inch, flat-panel HD televisions, bathrooms with granite countertops and 400-thread Egyptian cotton sheets. The Water Club also has its own 36,000 square-foot spa. I'm shooting for a May visit this year, so if anyone at the Borgata is reading this, hook a brother up (I'm just saying)....

CityCenter_fireworks

The Aria Resort & Casino is the centerpiece of the new CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip.

6. Casino de Mont Tremblant – Quebec – Gary Trask
I made a visit to Mont Tremblant in Canada a few years ago and had a tremendous experience. It's a haven for winter sports enthusiasts, especially those like me who like to eat and drink around the clock. There are also two highly acclaimed golf courses. So, as you can imagine, when I heard a Casino de Mont Tremblant opened in June, it immediately went on my "bucket list." If the casino is like everything else in Mont Tremblant, it's a must-visit. According to the casino's Web site, "visitors are amazed by the setting, architecture, facilities and, above all, the top-notch hospitality and customer service they receive while there." Topping off the reasons why I'm including it on my list, you can get there via a V2V Gondola ride.

5. Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino – Nevada – Gary Trask
Lake Tahoe has long been a place that I've wanted to visit. I'm a sucker for fine dining, the water, gambling and golf (not necessarily in that order) so it's a perfect fit for nearly all of my vices. After a quick perusal of the different casino offerings, this is the one that I think would best suit me, especially if I brought along the family (spa for the wife, a Kids Adventure Camp for the young'ins). The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort sits within the Sierra Mountain Range and there's plenty more to do than simply gambling. But since we're concentrating on the gambling part for this list, I looked into the Grand Lodge Casino and it seems to be my kind of place. It's casual with a mountain lodge setting and it's small (20,000 square feet) and, most importantly, it has both a poker room (that gets huge bonus points for offering Crazy Pineapple) and a sportsbook. I'm all in.

4. M Resort – Henderson, Nevada – Gary Trask
I have made a promise to myself that the next time I go to Vegas I'm going to get off the strip and make a visit to the new state-of-the-art M Resort, which opened in March of 2009 and is located in Henderson, less than 10 miles south of Mandalay Bay. Because I tend to stray and stay at my share of sportsbooks when in Vegas, the M Resort will be a natural for me since I have heard great things about the book there that is run by veteran Director Lou D'Amico and the fact that they are one of just three venues in Vegas – along with the Palazzo and Venetian – to offer in-game betting. The 90-acre property also features 13 bars and restaurants and two of them are right in my wheelhouse – the 32" Draft Bar, which has 96 different beers on tap, and the Hostile Grape, a wine cellar with a "hip atmosphere." In addition, the resort's interior was done by Marnell Corrao Associates, which is also responsible for Caesars Palace, Wynn Las Vegas and the Bellagio, so you know it's go to be first-class and easy on the eyes.

Monte_carlo_monaco

The Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco is a gambling icon.

3. Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa – Las Vegas – Vin Narayanan
Normally when I head to out to Vegas, I stay at, or near the Strip. But sometime soon, I hope I get a chance stay at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa for the classic "non-gambling gambling vacation." So what's a "non-gambling gambling vacation?" It's one where you will gamble (because what's not to love about gambling?), but most of your time is going to be spent on non-gambling, non-casino related activities like golfing, hiking and biking. The Red Rock Casino, which is about a 20-minute drive from the Strip, sits near the scenic Red Rock Canyon where you can spend hours hiking and biking trails that cut through breathtaking scenery. It's also near some great golf courses (where we know some of you will gamble), including Angel Park, Legacy and Aliante. Angel Park has 36 holes designed by Arnold Palmer and offers great views of Red Rock Canyon. And The Legacy is 18-hole course that's 7,233 yards long from the professional tees. When you're done hiking, biking and golfing, you can hit the Red Rock casino, which features more than 3,000 slot machines and over 80 table games. Now that sounds like a good vacation.

2. Aria Resort & Casino – Las Vegas – Dan Igo
Of course, no list would be complete without the addition of the most-talked about casino of the year: Aria at CityCenter. After reading Gary's musings from CityCenter's extravagant debut, I can't wait to head to Vegas and see if it lives up to the hype. Some of the numbers related to CityCenter are simply absurd. The complex is 18 million square feet and 67 acres, which is the equivalent to 12 blocks of space in Manhattan. There are 42 restaurants, bars and lounges. Aria, the centerpiece of the mega-complex, is 10.3 million square-feet with the restaurants and bars alone taking up nearly 250,000 square feet. The reviews have been glowing and many are counting on CityCenter to help revitalize Las Vegas' stagnant economy.

1. The Monte Carlo Casino – Monaco
We've read about it, we've looked at pictures and it's been used as the setting for some noteworthy movies. Simply put, Monte Carlo in Monaco is the Mecca of casino gambling and for that reason alone all three of us have Monte Carlo at the very top of our list. Monte Carlo was also No. 1 on our list of The 10 Most Beautiful Casinos in the World. Hopefully one of us will get the chance to visit this gambling icon and scratch it off our master list in 2010.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.