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Nevada Ranked Gambling-Friendliest State

The personal-finance site Wallet Hub recently ranked all 50 states on their “Gambling-Friendliness”, measured by 12 factors like number of casinos per capita.  The findings are part of a larger study of “Most Gambling-Addicted States“.

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To the surprise of quite possibly no one, Nevada ranked first for “gambling-friendliness”.  The state tied with South Dakota and Oklahoma for having the most casinos per capita.  When I lived in Newport Beach, I used to road trip to the Silver State with a friend, and I loved spotting the first casinos just across the border from California.
And I loved even more seeing the Las Vegas skyline come into view.  The casino capital of the world is a playground for grown-ups.  If you like over-the-top theatrical glamour, the Strip is the place for you.

My favorite casino resort is the Wynn/Encore.  It’s elegant, and the service is outstanding.  The spa at Encore is world-class, and I’ve had the best haircuts of my life at its sister salon.  And I had one of the best dinners ever at the hotel’s restaurant Sinatra, which honors the legacy of the charismatic crooner.

Other excellent casino resorts on the Strip include:

If you’re in the mood for old-school grit, downtown Vegas is your spot.  It’s also much more compact than the Strip, good for walking around from casino to casino.  But be prepared:  It is not family-friendly.

One iconic spot is El Cortez, an inexpensive hotel with cheap slots and a fabulous cushy “Parlour Bar”, reminiscent of a Prohibition Era speak-easy, where I go once every trip to enjoy a drink or two.

Other popular downtown casino resorts include:

If you prefer places that are more low-key than Las Vegas, well, most of the world would meet that criterion.  But one such city in Nevada is Laughlin, at the Silver State’s southern tip.  It’s a little like Atlantic City, with a line of waterfront casino resorts along the Colorado River.

During my most recent cross-country road trip, I stayed at Harrah’s, a Caesars property with lots of restaurants and its own beach.  Other riverfront casino resorts include the Aquarius, Tropicana, Edgewater, and Golden Nugget.

Or you could go the opposite direction, to Reno in the northwest.  The self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World” has several museums, including the Nevada Museum of Art, and a location close to Lake Tahoe.  Popular casino resorts in Reno include:  Grand Sierra, Atlantis, Peppermill, and Silver Legacy.

South Dakota

Perhaps more surprising is the fact that South Dakota came in second.  At least, it would have surprised me before I drove across the Mount Rushmore State.


There are thousands of casinos in South Dakota, including small rooms with slot machines at virtually every gas station.  There are also several tribal casinos in South Dakota, including Fort Randall east of the Missouri River and Rosebud to the west.

All non-tribal casino resorts are in Deadwood, a town in the spectacular Black Hills with a colorful connection to gaming.

During the 1874 gold rush, about 25,000 hopeful miners swarmed the Dakota Territory spot and turned it into the quintessential Wild West.

On August 1, 1876, a former buffalo hunter named Jack McCall lost a lot of money in a saloon poker game with former Yankee spy, fabulist, and professional gambler Wild Bill Hickok.  Hickok gave McCall money for breakfast and a warning not to play again until he could afford his losses.  McCall took the cash but reportedly felt insulted.

The next day, a drunken McCall returned to the saloon and shot Hickok in the back of the head.  Hickok died instantly; McCall was hanged on March 1, 1877.  According to legend, Hickok’s poker hand included the two black Aces and Eights, now known as the “Dead Man’s Hand”.

In 1905, South Dakota made gambling illegal, and set Deadwood on the path to becoming a ghost town.  The state re-legalized gambling in 1989 in order to rescue the town.

Today, Historic Deadwood recreates the Wild West with museums, tours, re-enactments, and casinos including:  Deadwood Mountain Grand, First Gold, Historic Bullock, and Mineral Palace.


Louisiana ranked third and is home to several dozen casinos.  My favorite is Harrah’s New Orleans, a spacious resort with lots of restaurant options and a location in one of the most culturally unique cities in America, with great food, good music, and a French-Southern vibe all its own.
Most of the other casinos in Louisiana are on riverboats.  That’s because Pelican State law used to require casinos to be based on Mississippi-worthy vessels — complete with paddle-wheels.  Today these relics of a bygone time can be found around the state.

Caesars’ Horseshoe in Bossier City in the northwest comped me a wonderful two-night stay in a spacious room in its 24-storey skyscraper, which boasts seven restaurants.  And on my morning walks, I enjoyed stopping by:  Boomtown, Diamond Jack’s, and Margaritaville.

Across the Red River, Shreveport hosts casinos including Sam’s Town.   And down the state in the southeast, capital city Baton Rouge‘s casinos include Belle and L’Auberge.

West Virginia

West Virginia came in fourth-friendliest overall and tied with Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware for most lottery sales per capita.  The Mountain State also has several casinos.

I go often to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, in the eastern panhandle, a little more than an hour from Washington, D.C., and once saw America perform at its theatre.

Good luck! and think twice before you buy somebody breakfast.

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