When you visit fabulous Las Vegas for the first time, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the moment. Casinos count on this too, which is why you’ll seldom notice that $29 “resort fee” tacked onto your room charge, $8 bottles of beer at the sportsbook bar, or $50 taxi rides that take you less than a mile. At the time, all you’ll care about are the bright lights and one of a kind sights that Vegas has to offer. There’s nothing quite like that first gambling trip, after all, so the added expenses are typically considered the price one pays for a singularly unique experience.

But once the initial rush of visiting a place Sin City wears off, gamblers in the know are usually on the lookout for ways to cut costs the next time they book a casino trip. When the “maiden voyage” feelings have subsided, and you’re simply looking to get your gamble on without breaking the bank, looking for low cost casino options is only natural. After all, the games remain the same whether you’re playing at the glittering Bellagio on the Strip, or a more pedestrian venue like the South Point a few miles down the road. And when it comes to inexpensive gambling vacations, your options aren’t exactly limited to Las Vegas.

Between the hundreds of casinos located on tribal reservation lands coast to coast, to casino cruises that take passengers out on the water while they wager, the gaming industry boasts a wide selection of low cost alternatives. Throw in those timeshare deals real estate companies connect to nearby casinos, and trying to save a few bucks on a discount gambling excursion can easily backfire.

To help you avoid that fate, check out the entries below to explore the many reasons a low cost gambling trip can turn into a bad idea:

Casino Cruises Usually Skimp on the Amenities

Discount Casino Cruises
One of the more interesting ways to save money when booking your next casino trip is to hit the high seas. Well, more like a leisurely ride around the bay, but you get the idea. Casino cruise boats have become increasingly popular over the years, and major cruise lines such as Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Carnival all run their own casino-themed ships.

The appeal of these high-end casino cruises is readily apparent. Folks who like to gamble, but aren’t necessarily fans of the cramped, crowded, and smoky casino floor, can combine a world-class ocean voyage with their blackjack or slot sessions. When the winning is done, casino cruisers can head out on deck to soak in the sunshine, or visit the attractions awaiting at the nearest port of call.

And indeed, if you’re able to pony up the four-figure room rate it takes to secure even the most modest casino cruises offered by the big boys, you’ll likely enjoy a great time. The major cruise companies may charge a pretty penny, but that higher cost is reflected by trained dealers and casino staff, modern equipment, and a variety of slots, table games, and poker options.

Unfortunately, casino visitors looking to save a little dough typically won’t be able to afford the larger cruise liners. Instead, they’ll wind up booking a trip with the cruise industry’s version of an off-Strip casino found way out in the middle of nowhere.

Discount casino cruise companies are a dime a dozen, especially in states like Florida and California where access to marinas and open water is plentiful. You’ll find a wide assortment of operators with names like Island Breeze Casino Cruise or Blue Horizon Casino Cruises, and they all have one thing in common – lowered expectations.

It all starts with the prices, which are so heavily discounted it borders on the unbelievable. Take the Victory Casino Cruise company out of Cape Canaveral, Florida as an example. For just $13, plus $15-$20 for dining, patrons can enjoy a six-hour cruise around the Pacific.

While aboard the Victory Casino Cruise, gamblers have access to four decks boasting more than 40,000 square feet of gaming floor. That space houses over 600 of the latest slot machines, along with 27 table games ranging from roulette to blackjack. All in all, the Victory Casino Cruise bills itself as “the most authentic Las Vegas-style casino experience in Florida” – all while charging guests less than $40 per day.

But leaving aside the company’s sales spiel for a second, actual gamblers who have experienced the Victory Casino Cruise weren’t exactly blown away by the experience. In fact, out of the 172 customer-generated reviews posted to the company’s Yelp page, 86 of them – or nearly half – rated the trip at either 1- star (54) or 2-star (32). Those low rating helped to produce a 2.5-star rating for the Victory Casino Cruise, and for whatever reason, 2.5-stars seems to be the industry average when it comes to off-brand casino cruise lines.

Here’s a sampling of those negative reviews, courtesy of Yelp user Crystal W. of Atlanta:

“Unless you’re a GAMBLER this cruise is NOT for you! The ship is old, smells like mold and cigarettes, andthe buffet is a joke. Very very disappointing and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

They should be paying people to get on their ship!”

The hits keep on coming over at the Island Breeze Casino Cruise, which counts 1-star reviews as nearly 60 percent of its total Yelp presence

Sequoia G. of the Bronx, New York is one of the guests who were aggrieved enough to post a 1-star review for the Island Breeze Casino Cruise:

“A few seconds later we noticed a strange odor in the main gambling /dining area. We decided go to another floor and it was just as bad. We soon realized that It was moisture in the carpet.To escape this rancid odor we went to the last floor to get some air. Hoping we could gamble within a few minutes, we had to wait almost two hours to play.”

And this isn’t a matter of mere cherry-picking either. Just pull up any low cost casino cruise of your choosing and scroll through the ratings from your preferred customer review website. Without fail, you’ll find horror stories involving malfunctioning casino equipment, untrained dealers, awful customer service, and a general trend to use “bait and switch” tactics.

On a final note, saving a few dollars by opting for a discount casino cruise may seem like a good idea at the time. But when a venue gets by charging a pittance to get in the door, you can bet that the facilities aren’t exactly well maintained.

In January of this year, 50 guests on the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruise out of Pasco County, Florida were forced to jump into the chilly Gulf of Mexico, after their boat caught fire. In total, 14 passengers were injured in the mishap, including one woman who later lost her life later that night due to complications from smoke inhalation.

Of course, unforeseen tragedies can occur anywhere, whether it’s a glittering casino tower on the Strip or on a small vessel combining cruises and casino chips. But when you think about the customer reviews written about the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruise before it caught fire, you can see why choosing low cost options increases the risk:

“This boat should be condemned. It was dirty, dusty…”Their website is deceptive. There is no beautiful looking casino boat in the Gulf as shown.
The casino boat [is] much smaller and older.”

Tribal and Off-Brand Casinos Offer a Mixed Bag, So Be Prepared for Anything

If you visit Scottsdale, Arizona and head out on the Loop 101 freeway at night, you’ll swear you’re seeing a mirage. Standing 15 stories above the Sonoran Desert sands is a glittering tower straight out of the Las Vegas Strip’s greatest hits.
Talking Stick Resort
Neon lights dance and advertise the nightly show, while the tower’s perch is dominated by a bank of high-end suites. And down below the 496-guestroom tower, the casino floor houses nearly 100,000 square feet of gaming space, complete with 330 slot machines, 45 table games, and a massive poker room that rivals any in Sin City.

This is Talking Stick Resort, the crown jewel of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s economic revival. Formerly known as Casino Arizona at Indian Bend, the new Talking Stick Resort opened in 2010 to rave reviews. The venue combines true Las Vegas style entertainment – from the buffets and gaming options, to daily pool parties and nightly comedy shows and concerts, and even massive six-figure progressive jackpots paid out with regularity.

All in all, Talking Stick Resort is the perfect example of a tribally-operated casino providing an inexpensive gambling option for local residents. Whereas poker players and blackjack specialists in Arizona once had to drive six to eight hours to get their gambling fix, the arrival of Talking Stick Resort brought a slice of the Strip to Scottsdale.

All in all, Talking Stick Resort would be a wonderful place to enjoy your next low cost gambling trip – if it was open that is. Back on August 11 – with over 550 players in attendance for the 14th annual Arizona State Poker Championship tournament – Talking Stick Resort was packed to the rafters with guests and gamblers. That night, catastrophe struck…

An intense desert storm known as a “haboob” rolled through town, bringing a deluge of rain and lightning along with it. This was the third straight evening of monsoon summer showers in Scottsdale, and the surrounding soil was already long since saturated. As a result, the low-lying areas around Talking Stick Resort quickly succumbed to flash flooding, and several feet of water entered the venue’s electrical generator room.

In the dead of night, with the power out and a storm still raging, casino staff were forced to relocate over 600 guests from their rooms. The ostensible goal here was safety, as the building could easily catch on fire given soaked electrical equipment in the basement below.

Even so, as guest William Malone – who was there on his honeymoon of all nights – later told the local AZ Central news outlet, the evacuation was the furthest thing from an organized affair:

“They made everybody get out. They didn’t tell anybody anything.“They left us on the sidewalk for over three hours. We had to beg to go back inside to use the restroom.

No buses; no nothing. Pouring down rain, wind blowing.” (Quote)

Dozens of other guests confirmed that account in the days to come, telling the media that Talking Stick Resort made a bad situation much worse by rushing people into the weather with no place to put them. Reports of babies wearing nothing but a diaper, and 85-year old seniors forced to flee without gathering their medical equipment, soon made the rounds.

Another concern for gamblers on the scene that night was the safety of their money. Imagine sliding a $100 casino credit voucher into your favorite video poker machine, winning a few quick hands to build it up to $200, then watching as the screen goes dark along with every light in the room.

That’s precisely what happened to Kensy Colon, a local player who was reluctant to leave his slot voucher in the machine without assurances that he would be repaid:

“I’m by no means rich, but hey, once I walk away from this machine what are my guarantees that I will recuperate this money?” (Quote)

Fortunately for Colon, and hundreds of other players left stranded in the same boat, Talking Stick Resort spokesperson Ramon Martinez worked quickly to put players’ minds at ease. According to Martinez, the casino’s fail-safes ensure that all activity on a gaming machine is recorded, so any player with missing funds will be promptly repaid:

“When the machine shuts down it all stays on record.There’s a record of everything that took place and of course we will sit down and determine what we can do better.”

And indeed, the venue has taken great lengths to make players whole in the wake of the flood. Folks who carried chips out the door with them were invited to a sister property nearby to cash them in, while machine players have already received their recompense via mail.

Nonetheless, this is the sort of calamity that simply can’t happen in a major Las Vegas casino, where backup generators and other redundancies are built in to prevent full-scale property failures. It’s not an indictment on tribal and off-brand casinos as a whole, mind you, as millions of guests enjoy positive stays at these establishments each and every year.

Please Note:

But when you choose to take your gambling dollar to a locally-operated casino that lacks corporate backing; contingencies like natural disasters, poor planning, lack of emergency funds, and other drawbacks must be accounted for.To wit, even as Talking Stick Resort hustled to make things right with table game and machine players, anybody in town for the Arizona State Poker Championship suffered a truly awful bad beat. Local media outlets heard from poker fans who travelled from as far away as Hawaii and Alaska to compete for their share of the $1.5 million prize pool.

And while they received refunds on their $1,100 entry fee, players like David Coffelt – who drove for over six hours from his home in Texas to play – lost significant sums on travel expenses. As Coffelt told Fox 10 news in the immediate aftermath, he was highly disappointed that Talking Stick Resort didn’t seem to have a backup plan – or backup generators – in place to prevent further hassle:

“Why didn’t they move the tournament to another casino that they own? There were so many things that happened that could have been done.”Travel expense, money back, voucher expenses, food expenses, and so forth.
It’s just really disappointing as a player that there’s no ‘Plan B’ in effect as to make sure these instances don’t happen.” (Quote)

Now, it’s quite clear that sudden flooding is a rare occurrence, and one mistake shouldn’t be held against the tribal casino industry. These venues are, by and large, well-equipped to offer a Vegas-like experience on the cheap, and most will go decades without a hiccup this bad blemishing their reputations.

But between North Carolina authorities raiding casinos operated by unrecognized tribes, to the feds ordering a Washington tribe’s casino to close immediately over a litany of violations – discount gamblers should know they might just get what they pay for.

The All Too Common Timeshare Trap

Another way for gamblers to save money on their casino vacations is by ditching the casino altogether.
Time Share Las Vegas
By purchasing a timeshare located near their favorite haunt, these players hope to erase those exorbitant room rates, resort fees, and other built-in expenses. Las Vegas is home to a thriving timeshare industry, with leading providers like Wyndham, Hilton, and Diamond Resorts all maintaining multiple venues around the city.

Just take a look at the list below to get an idea of how diverse the timeshare industry in Sin City is today:

  • Cliffs at Peace Canyon
  • Club de Soleil
  • Diamond Resorts Polo Towers Suites
  • Diamond Resorts Polo Towers Villas
  • Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club
  • Grandview at Las Vegas
  • Hilton Grand Vacations Club at the Flamingo
  • Hilton Grand Vacations Club on Paradise
  • Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Desert Club Resort
  • Jockey Club
  • Marriott’s Grand Chateau
  • Monarch Grand Vacations – Cancun Resort
  • Royal Vacation Suites
  • Tahiti – A Consolidated Resort Property
  • Westgate Flamingo Bay at Las Vegas
  • Wyndham Grand Desert

In each case, you can pay somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 to purchase one week of ownership in the property. And while that may sound like a pretty penny, these timeshares are usually reminiscent of a major casino resort suite, rather than a rundown discount hotel. You’ll get multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen, gym and swimming pool, outdoor patio, and everything else one needs to feel truly at home.

For gamblers who take the timeshare plunge, the argument goes something like this. You’ll be spending around $1,000 or so for a decent weekend in Vegas, and if you come twice a year, that comes to $2,000 or thereabouts annually to indulge your gambling hobby.

But by purchasing a timeshare, you can consolidate those yearly expenses into one upfront payment. From there, once you’ve visited 10 times or so, you’ve practically paid for the entire investment – leaving years and years of “free” trips to enjoy.

But there’s one catch, and it’s a big one – maintenance fees. Part of timeshare ownership is paying an annual maintenance fee that averages right around $700, according to the latest data compiled by the American Resort Development Association. And when those maintenance fees are factored into the equation, timeshare ownership doesn’t seem quite as attractive as it once was.

Eric Mohrman – who works as a financial analyst for the Leaf Group – wrote an article entitled “Are Timeshares a Bad Investment?” for USA Today which explains this point perfectly. In the piece, Mohrman coolly breaks down the timeshare fallacy from a financial perspective:

“Timeshare salespeople love to point out that a family of four can save tens of thousands of dollars over 20 years of vacations. The thing is, they like to overlook the annual maintenance fees when they talk like this. Let’s take a look at the math.In 20 years, you’ll pay, say, the original $10,000, plus another $16,000 in annual maintenance fees for 20 weeks/120 nights of vacation lodging.

How does that compare to spending perhaps $200 per night for a hotel suite? That $26,000 would get you nearly 22 weeks/130 nights in a hotel. And you’re not locked into the same week and same location every year with hotels. So, timeshares don’t look like such a hot money-saving investment, either.” (Quote)


Wanting to save money while taking a gambling trip is only natural. The odds are against you winning any significant sums over the short term, so avoiding unnecessary expenses is the best way to protect your bottom line. But while the three budget-minded options above can all be appealing in their own way, each has a fatal flaw that most players don’t detect until it’s too late. Instead of trying to outsmart the system, it’s best to use discount options like Air B&B to reduce lodging rates, while scooping up as many comps and freebies as you can to mitigate costs.

Related Articles
Leave Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *