The Best New American Casinos in 2016

It looks like we're at the beginning of a minor renaissance in US land-based gambling. New casinos, cardrooms, racetracks, and other gambling venues are popping up from the Gulf Coast to the traditional gambling Meccas of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. I wanted to write a page detailing a few big casino openings in the year 2016. The properties listed and reviewed below are the most exciting new entries into the country's gambling landscape.

1. Whitesands Casino Samoa

P.O. Box 1865 Apia, Upolu, Western Samoa

+ 685 720 2701

http://whitesandscasino-samoa.com/

The Grey Investment Group is opening American Samo's second Western-style casino in February of 2016. This is a big deal, considering American Samoa only relaxed laws about traditional land-based gaming a couple of years ago. For much of the Samoan population, Whitesands (and its sister property, Apia Casino) is their first introduction to American-style gambling. Whitesands is set to open with 24 table games and 220 slot and video poker machines, as well as a bingo hall and plans for a small poker room in the future. Since the local population isn't all that familiar with games like craps, roulette, and video poker, the casino offers free classes in how to play all their games between 3 and 5 PM every day.

2. Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort

9380 Central Ave, D'Iberville, MS 39540

(228) 392-1889

http://www.scarletpearlcasino.com/

Gulf Coast casinos are in the middle of one of their best two-year periods since the 1990s. That makes it the perfect time for the opening of a big casino-resort property, the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D'Iberville, Mississippi. The parent company, D'Iberville Gaming, sank $300 million into the project, hoping to revitalize the area. Scarlet Pearl is as famous for providing 1,100 local jobs (in a town of 10,000 people) as it is for opening the first gaming property along the Back Bay. The Scarlet Pearl's 60,000 square foot casino floor is home to 45 table games and more than 1,600 slot and video poker machines available 24/7. The attached Scarlet Pearl Poker Room offers ten tables and a healthy tournament schedule, though the poker room's hours aren't yet posted online.

3. Buffalo Rivers Casino & Lodge

U.S. 2 & Route 75, Poplar, MT 59255

The Buffalo Rivers Casino & Lodge is a $33 million project of the Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine Tribes, in an attempt to cash in on the local oil boom. Located just forty miles from the North Dakota border, the Buffalo Rivers Casino & Lodge is designed to attract gamblers from Montana, North Dakota, and nearby Canada. With a 75-room hotel, a lounge for live entertainment, and an upscale event center with a 400-seat auditorium, Buffalo Rivers is also trying to take advantage of the fact that travelers have few other places to stay in the area beyond budget motels. This site won't feature any table games, though the 400+ slot and video poker terminals will be joined by an eight-table poker room, all of which will be available 24 hours a day. Buffalo Rivers Casino & Lodge may have picked a decent time to open, thanks to an influx of cash from oil workers and associate industries, but that bubble may have burst. The oil boom appears to have gone bust. Keep an eye on this property, as a sort of canary in the cage for American gaming. It's my opinion that as goes the Buffalo Rivers, so goes the US gambling industry.

4. Shooting Star Casino Bagley

340th Street, Bagley, MN 56621, USA

(218) 935-2711

http://www.starcasino.com/

The Shooting Star Casino Bagley is set to open in April, 2016. Few details about the number or types of games are known, but if this edition of Shooting Star casinos is anything like the other ones spread across Minnesota and the Heartland, it'll have a couple of dozen table games, 1,000 or so slots, and a poker room. The nearest city to the construction site is Bagley, Minnesota, at the very corner of the White Earth Reservation, just close enough to North Dakota and Canada to attract gamblers from those areas. A proposal to attach a 100-room lodge, with a fitness center and dining complex, has yet to be voted upon by the steering committee of the tribal groups responsible for construction. A large bingo parlor, and some unused land set aside on the property, indicate that the operators of the Shooting Star Bagley are in the planning stages, but are interesting in providing varieties of games not seen elsewhere in the state.

5. Nambe Falls Casino

17730 US 84-285, Santa Fe, NM (505) 455-4400

I'm mostly including Nambe Falls Casino as a cautionary tale of how the best laid plans of casino operators sometimes fall apart. Nambe Falls has yet to open – the grand opening is in a few weeks from the date that I'm writing this – and it's already a bit controversial. The building itself is just 16 miles north of Santa Fe, immediately south of a couple of larger and better-known properties. That was one of the first mistakes of the tribal group opening this property. The other was to include a tiny gambling space – just 8,000 square feet, with no table games or poker tables. Nambe Falls is pretty much a slot parlor with nice furniture. The reason I'm disappointed has nothing to do with the fact that the operators chose to build a boutique space, and everything to do with what they DIDN'T build. For years, the Nambe people planned to build a massive 50,000 square foot casino with a Star Trek theme. I think that would have been amazing. Instead, we get a tiny slot parlor and a snack bar.

Conclusion

The US casino scene is alive and well. The nation is still climbing out of the 2009-era recession, a time when casino gambling was just about the last thing on most people's minds. Surprisingly, increased interest in alternative forms of gambling (daily fantasy, lottery, mobile and social gaming) hasn't had the negative impact on land-based gaming that many people predicted. Judging by the properties listed above, casino gambling is still a major American industry.