There is nothing quite like a night at the casino. It’s almost half a century since we were first introduced to “Bond, James Bond” and where did we meet him? Why at the baccarat table in a swanky casino on the French Riviera, of course. That scene and countless others since have helped establish the casino as the place to go for a night of sophisticated fun and drama.
We know our readers are as eager as anyone to follow in Bond’s footsteps from time to time and to enjoy an exciting night out during their travels. With this in mind, we spoke to gambling expert Jacob Hayes of CasinoBlox and asked him to tell us about the casinos he has enjoyed the most over the years. The result is a blend of world-renowned classics and real left-field surprises.
Casino Square, Monte Carlo, Monaco
You can’t talk casinos without talking Monte Carlo. Casino Square is simply the most iconic venue on the planet, and has featured in numerous movies and books. You don’t even have to step inside to soak up the atmosphere – the Square itself is constantly filled with beautiful people in their beautiful supercars. You would be hard pushed to think of a better place in the world for sitting at a café and watching the world go by.
Casino Café de Paris, Monte Carlo, Monaco
Every visitor to Monte will pay a visit to the casino square. But if you actually want to play the slots or table games in a relaxed atmosphere, head down the road to Casino Café de Paris for a more Vegas-style experience. This is actually the largest casino in Monte, with more than 500 machines on its neon-illuminated gambling floor.
Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, United States
Speaking of Vegas – it is overrated and doesn’t even make the top 10! Atlantic City provides all the games in more authentic surroundings, and the Trump Taj Mahal stands like a beacon at the centre of it all. Yes, today it is actually called the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, but despite, or perhaps because of, its controversial history, the “eighth wonder of the world” will always be associated with its original owner.
Casino Lisboa, Macau
Macau is another “Vegas alternative” that is frankly better than the real thing. The playground of Asia has been through some financial turbulence in recent years, but the drop in visitor numbers from mainland China has forced it to work all the harder on attracting punters from the west. Casino Lisboa is where it all began in the 1970s. It might not be on the scale of its competitors, but this hotel and casino complex has a unique atmosphere, and you are guaranteed a warm welcome. The hotel is the perfect home from home, while in the casino, even non-gamblers will be unable to resist a few games of sic bo, a dice game that is immensely popular in this part of the world.
The Venetian, Macau
From the 1970s, we jump straight to the present day, with a hotel and casino complex that really does look as if it has been airlifted from Las Vegas Boulevard. That’s not surprising, as The Venetian is owned by the Vegas-based Sands Corporation. It is the second-largest casino in the world and boasts more than 2,000 slots, including dozens that you can’t play anywhere else. If you can drag yourself away from the gaming floor for an hour or two, The Venetian stands right alongside Macau Palace, which is a fascinating place to visit to learn about Macau’s culture.
The Hippodrome Casino, London, England
If you thought London casinos were stuffy, unwelcoming, and stuck in the mid-20th century, prepare to have your preconceptions blown away at The Hippodrome. Situated in the middle of Leicester Square, it boasts three floors of gaming, live shows, and a choice of sports bars all in relaxed, informal surroundings.
Casino Baden-Baden, Baden, Germany
Here’s a real hidden gem. Marlene Dietrich described Germany’s oldest casino as “the most beautiful casino in the world” and you wouldn’t argue with her. Luxury and opulence are the order of the day here. It has all the splendour of Monte Carlo, but without the billionaire, poseurs spoiling the atmosphere. You’ll find all the classic table games like roulette and blackjack, plus a good selection of modern slots. To learn more about the history of the venue, the guided tour is absolutely fascinating.
Sun City Casino Resort, South Africa
It might be another resort city modelled on Las Vegas, but Sun City has a uniquely African twist. The casino is famous for its progressive slot machines that will periodically deliver in a big way. Elsewhere, there is just so much to do at the resort, from golf to safaris to an immense artificial beach, complete with six-foot waves.
Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore
The Resorts World brand has become a magnet to those who like a modern casino experience that is integrated with other leisure activities and a range of dining options. The venue in Sentosa describes itself as a “Lifestyle Destination” and a family could easily spend a week there doing something new each day. With the kids in the safe care of the childminding service, the adults can enjoy all the latest games at the Genting-operated casino. There’s literally something for everyone, from the retro-style 2-cent slots to the VIP tables where high rollers play million-dollar hands.
Casino di Venezia, Italy
From the modern wonders of Singapore, we finish at a classic destination for thrill-seekers that predates even Monte Carlo and Baden Baden. The canals of Venice have always fascinated well-to-do travellers, and the city boasts the oldest casino in the world, with a history that dates all the way back to the 1630s. Back then, it was accessible to only the wealthiest guests, although the strict dress code of “three-cornered hats and masks” for gamblers seems tinged with irony today. Almost 400 years later, the air of exclusivity remains, although nobody will count the corners on your hat. If you want a casino where you can dress up to the nines and feel like you have taken a step back in time, this is the place to do it.