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Casinos Are Thinking Big and Going Local

The name of the gaming game is changing. Two jurisdictions in the entire country once held a monopoly on American gambling culture, but now, even the two-decade-old “new” casino areas are facing competition from the wave of even newer casinos blooming across the country.

For consumers, increased competition always brings benefits, and the current casino climate is no exception. To survive and thrive, older casino areas are shirking their old stereotypes and aiming at new market sectors, such as the trendy SLS Las Vegas that updated the historic Sahara, haunt of Frank Sinatra, into a hangout for modern-day music moguls.

In the meantime, new casinos are working doubly hard to bring something new and unique to the market. For example, Sonoma wine country’s Graton Resort and Casino has partnered with local wineries and beloved local chefs to create a food mecca to rival nearby Napa.


SLS Las Vegas

Las Vegas

As the first new property to open in Las Vegas since the singular Cosmopolitan in December 2010, the SLS Las Vegas had big shoes to fill, particularly considering that it took over the site that was occupied by the Sahara Hotel and Casino for nearly 30 years.

The SLS Las Vegas, the third hotel from SLS — which already has locations in Beverly Hills and South Beach — hit capacity in under three hours at its midnight opening and has kept the energy going since.

The design is primarily credited to luminary Philippe Starck, whose love of white and sleek lines is evident; but among the Marie Antoinette-style suites in the Lux tower and the staid refinement of the World Tower, you’ll also find a sprinkling of signature spaces designed by celebrities, among them Lenny Kravitz.

Besides the 1,622 guest rooms, the high design extravagance continues through the hotel’s lineup of nine restaurants from both domestic and international celebrity chefs and its seven bars and nightclubs, which offer experiences from poolside drinks to a simulated beach to the signature Monkey Bar decorated with primates in suits.


SugarHouse Casino


On July 22, Philadelphia’s four-year-old SugarHouse Casino broke ground on a $164 million expansion that is expected to open next fall and that will more than double the size of the casino.

The Northeast, already a casino-heavy area, has seen the number of slot positions alone double in the past 10 years, so the expansion will focus less on simply adding to the available gaming opportunities and more on rounding out of amenities for visitors.

Though the casino maintains 2,400 feet of riverfront walking and biking paths along the Delaware River, it is not currently incorporated into the casino. The new expansion will add four restaurants on the riverfront to the three now available restaurants and bars; also to be added is a 30,000-square-foot ballroom with floor-to-ceiling views of the river and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The expansion will extend the gaming area from 50,000 square feet to 85,000 square feet, most notably to add a 30-table poker room because poker is not currently offered at the casino.

SugarHouse does not have and will not add a hotel during this expansion but can work with groups to create packages with local accommodations. The new seven-story parking garage will allow for expanded parking for coaches that is connected directly to the casino.

Gabi Logan

Gabi Logan is a freelance travel journalist whose work has also appeared in USA TODAY, The Dallas Morning News and Italy Magazine. As she travels more than 100,000 miles each year, she aims to discover the unexpected wonder in every destination.