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Travelers are flocking to Australia to do more than pet a kangaroo or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. Apparently the majority of tourists are going Down Under to scream "Winner, winner, Chicken Dinner!" Yeah, we're talking about placing big bets.
Gambling and casinos are legal in Australia and the pastime has become part of the fabric of the culture. Think of it as a smaller-scaled Vegas, but an entire country. Just like their counterparts in the US desert, many casinos in Oz are mega-resorts that attract the entire family, but with areas dedicated to high-rollers wanting more than the thrill of winning (or losing).
Sex Travel / Nude Travel / Macau Travel / Playboy / Gambling / Casinos / → All Tags
Forget Dubai. Even forget Las Vegas. The place that all the clubs and hotels and tourists in the mood to spend big money want to be is Macau. We've been and loved it; the former Portuguese colony tucked under China is only a hour's hydrofoil ride from Hong Kong, and since gambling has been legal these since the 1850s, it's got a fully developed reputation as a destination for good times. This continues to today, as the Playboy Club Macao is due to open atop the Sands Resort on Saturday.
It will be 12,000 square-feet of dining, entertainment and gambling, but of course all complimented by the Playboy bunnies who will be outfitted in the usual minimal costume, although specially designed with an "Asian flair" for this club.
The timing couldn't be worse for the ACES train. New Jersey Transit is launching its New York City - Atlantic City service on February 6, providing a long-awaited rail link between the east coast capitals of money-making and money-taking, but it looks like the money is drying up on both ends. As the AP reports, revenue at Atlantic City's eleven casinos was down dramatically in December, falling nearly 19% as compared with a year earlier and marking a bleak end to a disappointing year. Not only is everybody broke these days, but those who have a few bucks left have more options than ever to gamble them away, with new slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York and big pushes by Connecticut casinos continuing to siphon away visitors.
It seems like only yesterday that communities across the United States were clamoring for casinos, anxious for the boost in employment and tax revenue that they seemed to promise. Today, it's a different story. In the latest case of NIMBY (not in my backyard), state and city officials are pushing for a 3,000-slot-machine casino to be built at the edge of Philadelphia's small but vibrant Chinatown area, a move that has many residents hopping mad. The developers of Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia say that the project would revitalize a long-neglected area a half block south of Chinatown, helping rather than hurting local businesses. Opponents of the casino, however, fear that having a gambling den so close to home would exacerbate the problem of compulsive gambling, which has caused great damage in the Asian-American community in recent years. The Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, for example, estimated that nearly a third of its 40,000 daily customers were Asian, a far higher ratio than seen in the general population. We're not opposed to casinos on moral grounds - people are free to do dumb things with their money if they like - but we do feel like they put up a bit of a false front. Take any casino in Atlantic City, for example. Based on the advertisements, you'd expect to see James Bond wearing a tuxedo and playing baccarat. What you get instead are obese guys wearing sweatpants and oxygen tank-toting grannies on Rascal scooters feeding quarters into slot machines until their eyes glaze over. It's not a pretty picture. But things aren't looking good for Chinatown, as the City Council recently dedicated the area an entertainment district, paving the way for construction to begin. Until it's built, though, residents can always gamble away their life savings in the stock market.
While the world has been wrapped up in Obamamania for the last couple of days, there's other election news worth talking about from a travel perspective.
One issue that has been showing up increasingly on ballots is gambling. See, when state lawmakers face the tough decision of whether or not to save their budgets by allowing casinos, they do what politicians do best: Decide nothing and pass the issue on to voters in the form of referendums.
So Election Day has lately become Christmas morning for the gambling industry. This year, the gambling forces found little luck at the polls, with voters rejecting proposed casinos in Maine, Ohio and even Guam. The only victory for gambling was in Maryland, where voters gave the OK to slot machines at five locations around the state.
· Md. Voters Give OK to 15,000 Slots [Baltimore Sun]
· Western Maine Casino Proposal Shot Down by Voters [Forbes]
· Casino Bet Fails [Toledo Blade]
· Guam Voters Reject Casino Gambling [Pacific Magazine]
· Travel Referendums coverage [Jaunted]
Some Las Vegas restaurants promise the world. Others skip the $200 steaks and back-lit neon waterfalls and get right down to what you really want from a Vegas establishment: Drunkenness and gorging.
The latter is the case at T&T, the newest restaurant at the constantly evolving Luxor Hotel and Casino. The first T is for tacos and the second T is for tequila, which sounds like the right recipe for fueling any Vegas weekend, if you ask us.
Of course, this is still Las Vegas, so don't picture a rustic roadside cantina. The 8,000-square-foot restaurant includes a circular bar area designed to resemble a bullfighting arena, a freestanding daiquiri bar and a design theme that incorporates "the five icons of Mexican culture": The sombrero, the bullfighter, skeletons, seductive women and....the shot glass. Of course. Still, for Vegas? Works for us.
Vietnam / Casinos / Beaches / → All Tags
Are we the only ones who think that the name of a huge casino strip planned for southeastern Vietnam could have been better thought out?
The Ho Tram strip will be built in Ba Ria, a city 78 miles southeast of Ho Chi Minh City. No doubt the name sounds perfectly fine in Vietnamese, but we're just seeing all the rich, foreign tourists adding a "P" to the end and taking plenty of happy snaps.
The development includes two five-star hotels, a Vegas-style casino and a Greg-Norman-designed golf course. Developers are proud that the resort has "proximity to one of the finest unspoiled beaches in the world," which we can only presume is about to be spoiled after all.
[Photo: Bung Phe]
Casinos / Gambling / Restaurants / Sex / → All Tags
Why are we not surprised that this news is out of Vegas? Caesars Palace is starting up summertime lunch-and-booze service at its Italian restaurant, Rao's. But rather than just have grilled food outside, the place is stepping it up with bocce courts and some Bocce Bellas, ostensibly hanging out to help you with your game.
The food menu is on the simple side, channeling that barbecue vibe with sausages, burgers and chicken wings. The specialty drinks sound a little sweet for our taste, but you can't really go wrong with pitchers of sangria.
The bocce bar menu is set to be a seasonal thing, starting this Thursday and running until just after Labor Day. And, yes, we have a gratuitous photo of the Bocce Bellas after the jump.
We're not afraid to admit that Biloxi, Mississippi has never been high on our "To Visit" list. True, it does host killer Kid Rock concerts, but that alone won't get us on a Skybus flight to the Gulf Coast.
Budget Travel magazine, though, thinks we should reconsider. Biloxi's done a lot of rebuilding since Katrina smashed the city in 2005, and big casinos are a major draw. So too is bingeing on seafood: The city was once the world capital of oysters and shrimp.
We're not too taken by the couple of museums BT suggests, but that's no big deal when there are 26 miles of beach around to enjoy. Cruising on a replica of a turn-of-the-century schooner sounds pretty cool, too.
The Consumer Electronics Show is wrapping up in Las Vegas, which means all the tech geeks and fameballs are clearing outta town. That means it's up to you to find the cheapest blackjack tables and spend, spend, spend. And when you're playing the three dollar tables, you can play all night.
Temporary Gridskipper correspondent Jordan Golson took a C-note to the Sahara to see not how much he could win but how fast he could go broke. Turns out, not fast:
After six hours, I'm still up $52. I have to do something to break the monotony. I vow that if I am up $100, I'm walking away, and I start playing badly. Of course, I win...
After six and a half hours, the casino is almost deserted, save for my hugely bored dealer, the cleaning staff, and a busty young woman who called to me from the slots, "Hey handsome, come see me when you're finished," as I returned from the bathroom.
If the glamourous life of $3 tables and prostitute solicitation is for you, your best bet is at older casinos. The Sahara is one, Sunset Station is another. Also worth a try is Imperial Palace. Not into blackjack? The ever-shady Ellis Island Casino and Brewery has an off-menu $5 full steak dinner.
· Dying to Lose in Vegas: The $3 Blackjack Death March [Gridskipper]
· The Sahara [Official Site]
· Sunset Station [Official Site]
· Imperial Palace [Official Site]
· Las Vegas Travel coverage [Jaunted]
Great Britain just got its biggest casino with the opening last week of Isle Casino Coventry. It's the first overseas casino for the Isle of Capri Casinos gang who are gambling on Brits being big gamblers. A cascading indoor waterfall, 30 slot machines, a 12-table poker room, and 50 roulette stations fill the 100,000 square feet of the new casino.
Coventry, England's ninth largest city and nearly a hundred miles northwest of London, was until now famous for being further from the coast than any other British city. Whether its fortunes will go up or not with the new Isle casino might just be a matter of chance.
· Isle Casino at Coventry Opens [CNN]
· Casinos coverage [Jaunted]
· Coventry hotels [HotelChatter]
Casinos / Gambling / Kazakhstan Tourism / Borat / → All Tags
It's official: President Nursultan Nazarbayev, no longer busy vogueing for his country's tourism commercials, has passed a law requiring all casinos to be located in one of two approved cities: Kapchagai or Shchuchinsk. Kazakhstan is gambling crazed, and though the move reads like a negative blow at first, it could draw in some major dough. Kazakh officials hope to turn the cities into tourist draws, and major investments have been proposed by Chinese companies. Kapchagai could well turn into the Las Vegas of Kazakhstan (that's where the largest Chinese-proposed complex would be based) and Shchuchinsk its Atlantic City--not a bad deal, considering we feel far more comfortable at least trying to pronounce Kapchagai.
Kapchagai is close to Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city and former capital. We've never really felt compelled to visit Macau, but should Kapchagai turn into something better, you might be surprised to learn that you'd be able to reach it fairly easily. Almaty airport is served by several international airlines, including Turkish, KLM, and Asiana and Lufthansa, in addition to those with more highly questionable safety. Start saving those tenge!
[Photo: NYT via IHT]
· Kazakhstan gambles on casinos [IHT]