10 States Every Casino Gambler in the USA Should Visit

Casino gaming in popular US culture – mainstream movies - tend to sensationalize seedier connotations long associated with gambling subculture. The reality, however, is far different. Recent polls, for example, reflect Americans' overwhelming support of casinos as benefits to local economies and as a viable source of entertainment.

Over 80% of people polled indicated that casino gaming was an acceptable form of activity for themselves and others. Polls also indicate that the vast majority of casino visitors gamble responsibly.

For example, at least 83% of gamblers reported they enter casinos with budgets and over three quarters stated they spend less in casinos annually than they do on other hobbies or forms of entertainment. Over half of gamers polled stated their typical budget was less than $100, and just under 10% indicated a budget of $300 or more.

These levels of comfort with casino gaming as a viable and respectable form of entertainment are reflected in the increasing number of states allowing casino gambling. Since 2004, a total of eight states have changed legislature to allow casinos to be built.

Overall, studies have estimated that the American gaming industry generates nearly $240 billion in economic impact and supports more than 1.7 million jobs – more than the US airline industry. There are 510 commercial casinos operating in 23 states. Note that these figures do not include the 474 casinos operating on the reservations of 28 states.

According to the American Gaming Association's most recent State of the States Report, revenues reported for 2012 rose 4.8% to $37.34 billion over the previous year. These were 2nd only to revenues posted in 2007, which was the highest in history. The amount casinos return to their communities has risen likewise. Gaming taxes rose 8.5% over the previous year to $8.6 billion. States with the largest increase in revenues in 2012 were Kansas 604%, Maryland 142%, Maine 66.9% and New York 43.1%.

Gross gaming revenues continue to rise nationwide. While intensifying of interstate competition and increased variance (for example, reservation casinos) has made growth uneven, figures show that, overall, casino gaming has increased by over 40% since 2001, and has surpassed pre-recession numbers.

Below we will take a look at some of the success stories in casino gaming in the United States.

1. Nevada

The Silver State continues to rank as the casino gamer's Mecca of America and is what many people associate with casino gambling. While part of the mission of this post is to expand this perception, let's take a look at what makes Nevada head and shoulders above all other gaming states.

Nevada's 265 casinos attract over 52.3 million visitors per year. In the past fifteen years, Nevada's percentage of gross gaming revenues reached 35% of the country gross. As competition from other states increases, Nevada's percentage in recent years has taken a slight decline. Revenues for 2015 were $11.1 billion or 27% of the national gaming gross. However, this is still enough to eclipse the combined revenues of the next three leading states - New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

Combined, Nevada casinos contain 158, 660 machines. In 2015, the district providing the highest percentage payback on slots was the Boulder Strip, at 94.4%. For Megabuck machines, North Las Vegas paid back 88.5%.

It has also been estimated that, as of 2015, commercial casinos in Nevada offered over 4000 table games, including 2750 black jack tables. The 42 casinos on the famed Las Vegas Strip contained, in 2015, 2284 table games, with 1399 black jack tables and 136 three-card poker tables. The total number of tables in 2015 was the highest of the past ten years. Baccarat has enjoyed an increase in popularity among casino visitors over this time frame, increasing from 247 tables in 2006 to 410 tables in 2015 – almost a 7% increase of share of all tables.

The Las Vegas Strip is also home to fifteen of the world's 25 largest hotels by room count. There are over 62,000 rooms on The Strip alone. However, Nevada gaming is not restricted to Las Vegas. The City of Reno, Nevada, with its much smaller and cozier size and close approximation to Lake Tahoe also has much to offer. State-of-the-art gaming facilities include The Peppermill Resort and Casino. Reno also provides many world-class and world-class sized hotels, including the 1,995 room Grand Sierra Resort, the 1,720 room Silver Legacy Resort and the multi-towered, 1,572 room Circus Circus.

In 2015, Reno Megabuck payback percentage was 88.6%.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

2. New Jersey

New Jersey ranked 2nd in the American Gaming Association's ranking of the country's top 20 casino markets, an impressive number considering it is supported by a mere 12 casinos, all located within the city that has become as linked with casino gaming as Las Vegas or Monte Carlo – Atlantic City.

A quick look at the numbers indicates that gaming in New Jersey is going in a direction opposite to the generally positive direction in other states. For example, New Jersey's gaming revenue figures for 2001 accounted for 15% of the national gaming gross. In 2015, that percentage had diminished to just over 6% of the national total.

However, the gaming enthusiast should not misinterpret these figures and trends as suggesting that the quality of casino gaming is on the decline in The Garden State. These figures are more indicative of the surge of gaming options throughout the nation in general. Specifically, neighboring regional locales, such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut have also boosted their shares of regional and national gaming revenues. For examples, the AGA reported that, in 2012, nearby Philadelphia was ranked 1st in the nation for racetrack casino revenues. Similarly, Connecticut was ranked 5th largest casino market in the US, gained solely from slot machine earnings. Also, gaming in New York obtained a huge boost with the opening of Resorts World New York, in Queens.

Atlantic City remains among the world's premiere gaming hosts. It's twelve casino-hotels provide the world-class, state-of-the-art attractions and venues the world gaming traveller expects, all steps and minutes away from the its ocean namesake and the iconic Atlantic City Boardwalk. Over 27 million gaming enthusiasts will pass through Atlantic City casinos in a year.

There are 26, 883 gaming machines in New Jersey, with the best payback percentages in 2015 allotted to Harrah's and the Borgata, both providing an annual payback average of over 91%.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

3. Pennsylvania

As one of the 13 founding states, the Keystone State offers the gaming traveler with a casino experience couched within rich, cultural and historical settings. Pennsylvania entered the casino gaming market in 2006, and within a few years had established itself among the top revenue makers in the country. It is generally held that the chief source of competition to Atlantic City over the past ten years has derived from Pennsylvania's quick accession as a gaming destination.

In 2015, Pennsylvania ranked in the top three for gross gaming revenues at $3.2 billion. Philadelphia was ranked the 6th largest US casino market with revenues over $1.17 billion. The 2nd largest casino market in Pennsylvania is the region referred to as The Poconos (Bethlehem, Mt Airy, Wilkes-Barre), with 2012 revenues over $902 million and 9th nation-wide. The 3rd largest Pennsylvania market goes to the Pittsburgh/Meadowlands area where, in 2012, with $636 million in gaming revenues.

There are a total of 12 casinos in Pennsylvania – four stand-alones, two resorts and six of which are racetrack casinos. There are 26, 476 electronic gaming machines in the state. According to 2015 averages the casino providing the highest payback percentage for slots was The Meadows, at 92.3%.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

4. Louisiana

The state of Louisiana cleared the way for casino gaming in 1991 and since has established itself as one of the premiere states for gamblers. 2015 revenues for casino gaming were over $3.2 billion, providing Louisiana the first-time distinction of top rank behind Nevada in this category.

Louisiana casino gaming is broken up into four regions. The regions and respective casinos are as follows: Baton Rouge (Belle Baton Rouge, Hollywood Casino, L’Aubrege, Evangeline Downs); Lake Charles (Isle of Capri, L’Auberge du Lac and Delta Downs); New Orleans (Amelia Belle, Boomtown, Harrah's (land-based), Treasure Chest and Fairgrounds Raceway); Shreveport/Bossier City (Boomtown, Diamond Jack's, Sam's Town, Eldorado, Horseshoe and Harrah's Louisiana Downs).

There are over 19, 900 gaming machines in Louisiana. According to the American Casino Guide the region providing the best overall paybacks for slot play was Lake Charles, at over 91%, though all regions averaged an overall payback of over 90%. Baton Rouge provided the highest figure for payback, at 94.95% for $5 machines. These percentages for machines included video poker and video keno.

Given the relative lack of casino gaming options in the American south, Louisiana stands out as a gambling hotbed. Highlights include the many riverboat casino options.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

These round out the top four casino states in the US, in terms of annual gross gaming revenues, market share and reputation for providing a rich and varied gaming experience. Next, we will take a quick look at some other interesting alternatives that may not yet be on your gaming destination map, but may well be worth looking into. Some of the following states are somewhat evenly ranked, each capturing around 4% to 5% of the national gaming revenue market share.

5. Ohio

Perhaps the most impressive of this 2nd tier group is Ohio. In 2012, Ohio's inaugural year for casino gaming, gross revenues were just under $430 million. In 2015, Ohio gross gaming revenues were over $1.6 billion, capturing just over 4% of national gross. Those figures represent an almost 4-fold increase in gaming revenues in just four years.

Gaming in Ohio is divided between four city centers with one land-based casino in each – Jack Cincinnati Casino (formerly Horseshoe Cincinnati), Jack Cleveland Casino (formerly Horseshoe Cleveland), Hollywood Toledo and Hollywood Columbus. In addition, Ohio has seven racetrack casinos.

There are 9,023 machines in Ohio. The most recent figures for payback averages ranks the Horseshoe Cleveland at the top, at 92.46%, though all casinos payback percentages were over 90%.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

6. Colorado

In 1991, the people of Colorado voted to build casinos in three of its ghost-towns. At first, the intention was modest, and so the bill allowed only for up to $5 wagers, though in 2008, this has since been increased to $100 maximum bets and 24-hour casino access.

Colorado has 41 land-based casinos, which contain a total of 14, 744 gaming machines. 2015 gross gaming revenue was $794.8 million, with just under 2% of national market share. Colorado's gaming is divided into four main areas – Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City. These do not include the reservation gaming located in the southern, Four Corners region of the state.

The original, historical town of Black Hawk may be the least populated city in Colorado with only 65 residents, but it is also home to 18 casinos which generate over 75% of Colorado's total gaming revenues. Perhaps the most impressive of these is the Ameristar Casino and Luxury Hotel. It is certainly the largest gaming facility, providing almost 1500 slot machines and a 20 table poker room. There has been some controversy over whether Black Hawk has diminished its heritage by attracting Las Vegas-style casino development. However, situated in the heart of the Rockies, none will disappoint in terms of providing a modern and diverse casino experience in an exceptionally unique setting.

The remainder of Colorado's state casino's are located in Cripple Creek and Central City. Cripple Creek, with an estimated population of 1,172, it is also the home to 16 casinos. Cripple Creek has a reputation as hosting a more genteel form of casino culture, with smaller ventures that still feel part of the community, rather than the large, glamorous structures imported by Black Hawk.

Central City, situated just north of Black Hawk, with a current population of 685, is another near-ghost town that the 1991 ratification was designed to rejuvenate. In total, Central City casinos house 2246 slot machines, 26 poker tables, 11 blackjack tables, 4 craps tables and 4 roulette tables. If you prefer the mega-style casino experience, there are two in Central City: the Reserve Hotel Casino and the Century Casino Hotel.

According to the Colorado Division of Gaming, the most recent annual average of slot machine payback in the state were highest overall at Cripple Creek casinos, with a percentage of 93.6%. This included a leading 95.18% for 25 cent slots. However, Central City led the way in three categories - $5, $1 and 5 cent games.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

7. Illinois

Illinois made a landmark in 1991 by being the first state to legalize riverboat casinos. Since then, according to revenues, Illinois has been one of the top middle tier gaming states. In 2015, Illinois generated over $2.3 billion in gross gaming revenues, placing it 5th overall in the country behind Nevada, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to the most recently available figures, Illinois attracts over 16 million visitors to its casinos each year.

There are 10 casinos in Illinois which, in total, contain 11, 298 slot machines. According to the most recent figures, the casino offering the highest slot payback was Casino Queen, with a payback of 92.67%. All other casinos provided at least 90% payback, with the exception of Rivers Casino and Harrah's Metropolis.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

8. South Dakota

Perhaps surprisingly, South Dakota ranks 3rd in the nation with the most casinos, at 35. In 2015, South Dakota's casinos generated just over $101 million in gaming revenues, which also ranked it last in gross gaming revenues. Similar to Colorado, originally South Dakota limited wagers to $5 maximums and, like Colorado, later changed that to $100 max bets.

The first casinos began operation in 1989, in Deadwood. All casinos must comply with the city's historical, late 19th century architecture. The names of Deadwood and No. 10 Saloon will resonate with you if you are a history buff. Deadwood is the location of The No. 10 Saloon, and the No. 10 Saloon is where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down whilst holding what became thereafter known as the "the dead man's hand" – black aces over black eights. His burial site is also in Deadwood, in the same graveyard that contains the remains of another notorious figure from that era – Calamity Jane.

There are 3,761 machines in South Dakota. According to the latest figures from the Commission on Gaming, the highest payback percentages were in 5 cent slots, at 93.66%, whereas the overall average payback percentage was 91.32%.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

9. Mississippi

Casino gaming in Mississippi has a long and complex history. Gaming was always accepted as an entertainment outlet and means to support local economies. During the mid-20th century there was organized political hostility towards the casino industry, based on the belief that casinos eroded family values and were also supported by organized crime.

The current modern era of gaming in Mississippi has never been healthier. In 2001, Mississippi's market share of nearly 10% of annual revenues was second only to Nevada. In these days of intensifying interstate competition, Mississippi's market share has declined to a still respectable 5.2%.

Mississippi has 30 casinos and 32,414 machines and is broken up into three regions: Coastal Region (Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay Saint Louis); North Region (Tunica, Greenville and Lula) and the Central Region (Vicksburg and Natchez). Each area payback percentages for machines are fairly similar, all being with half a percentage point within range of each other, the highest overall payback percentage being 92.46% (Coastal). The highest individual types of slots typically payback in the range of 94% to over 95%.

Recent figures estimate Mississippi's casinos attract 24.8 million visitors per year.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.

10. Missouri

In 1992 The Show Me State became the 5th state to allow riverboat gambling, thus ushering Missouri into the world of casino gaming. Until recent years, Missouri consistently posted year-over-year increases in revenues. In 2015, Missouri gaming revenues exceeded $1.7 billion, or 4.23% of the national market share.

There are thirteen casinos in Missouri which attract over 24 million visitors a year. The most common form of casino is the riverboat. Until 2000, riverboats were required to cruise for a 2-hour session minimum that included a $500 session limit. Since then, however, that requirement has been revoked, along with the betting limit. Riverboats now are typically located on barges on riversides, allowing continuous access.

There are 18,336 machines in Missouri. According to the Missouri Gaming Commission, for one-year averages ending in June, 2015, the Isle of Capri – Booneville and River City casinos provided the highest payback percentage of 91%.

Note that the legal age limit for casino gambling in Nevada is 21.


More and more Americans are discovering the excitement in responsible casino gambling. More and more states are discovering the economic and tax benefits to allowing gaming licenses. This combination is creating a trend of growing casino venues across the country. As this report attempted to show, there is much more available to the gambler than Las Vegas-style, mega-sized casino-hotels, though there are plenty of those if that is your forte.

Whatever your tastes and preferences lead you, you are sure to find plenty of options available when considering your next casino gaming destination.