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The 5 Best Casinos to Open in the Last 5 Years

By Randy Ray in General
| December 29, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Casino Icons|MGM National Harbor|Rivers Casino & Resort|The Linq Casino|Lady Luck Casino|Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino

For the average recreational gambler – folks who only visit Las Vegas maybe once or twice per year – the casino industry is defined by the old guard.

But despite their iconic status, venues like Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, and the MGM Grand which opened their doors decades ago have a tendency to show their age – especially after repeat stays.

That’s why I enjoy going “off the grid” so to speak, exploring the latest and greatest casinos which made their debut only recently. Like cars and babies, there’s just something special about being brand new, so I’ve increasingly found my lifelong tour of the casino industry taking me off the beaten path.

From the player’s perspective, the best part about a new casino facility is simple competition. Unlike the major players I mentioned in the opener – those casinos that are instantly recognizable by name or theme – newer establishments must work harder and smarter to keep customers coming through the doors.

And that means more comps, freebies, and promotional giveaways for players like you and me to enjoy.

Another reason I prefer casinos which opened in the last few years is modernity. Rather than cling to an outdated inventory of slot machines and table games, these places invariably stock the latest releases from top designers like International Game Technology (IGT), Aristocrat Leisure, and Scientific Games.

After all, why play those old Mr. Cashman slots based on a silly stock character, when you can immerse yourself in the latest pop culture hybrids like Aristocrat’s thrilling The Walking Dead game?

New casinos also smell better, owing to the smokeless policies that have become the norm in recent years. Trust me, ditching the mustiness and haze of an old school casino for fresh air is a game changer for regular gamblers.

Personally, I find that my concentration and focus improves drastically when I’m playing in a cigarette free casino.

Finally, when you visit a brand-new casino property for the first time, you can relive that sense of wonder and awe that you once felt strolling through the halls of Sin City’s more well-known haunts. Sure, there is something to be said for familiarity, but at a new casino you’ll never know what games, attractions, and amenities await around the next corner.

Part of the fun for any casino player is exploring their stomping grounds – scouting out the best bars, locating the nearest restroom, and finding your favorite game – and each new casino you enter offers a new opportunity for discovery.

With that in mind, take a look below for my list of the top five casinos which have opened to the public over the last five years. These venues aren’t limited to Las Vegas either, so I’ll be taking you around the country for a tour of America’s latest and greatest casino projects.

I’ll provide an overview of the property, along with essential information to help you plan your next gambling excursion.

1 – MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland

Not yet one year old, the MGM National Harbor is located just a few miles outside of Washington D.C. in the tiny town of Oxon Hill, Maryland.

As the name makes clear, the MGM National Harbor is owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, parent company of the MGM Grand and several sister casinos along the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM National Harbor

Not content with dominating Nevada’s gambling scene, MGM has slowly but surely expanded its scope over the last decade, acquiring Atlantic City’s crown jewel the Borgata from Boyd Gaming among several other expansions.

And after the great state of Maryland approved full scale casino gambling in 2012, the company made sure to throw its hat in the ring through the construction of MGM National Harbor.

This facility opened its doors in December of 2016, making it one of the newest casinos in the country.

At the time, MGM National Harbor general manager Bill Boasberg issued a statement outlining his vision for the ambitious $1.2 billion dollar project:

“MGM National Harbor will introduce something unprecedented to one of the country’s most popular travel destinations.

Under one roof, guests will enjoy a sophisticated hotel experience, high energy casino, celebrity chef restaurants, world class entertainment, nightlife, destination spa, upscale retail and curated art, complemented by incredible panoramas of D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

We were pleased by the positive reactions of our guests on our debut night and we are happy the resort is being so warmly received by the local community.”

With a billion dollar price tag, MGM National Harbor has a lot to live up to, but thankfully for guests, MGM knows exactly how to run a mega resort the right way.

The gorgeous hotel tower sports 23 stories and 308 rooms, and even before you ever set foot inside, the building’s sheer scope and scale suggests something special awaits.

This place is part pyramid, part NFL super stadium, as the casino itself stretches out within a massive hangar-like building designed to mimic the white marble edifices of nearby Washington D.C.

Rising above the base is that 23-story tower, which is made up entirely of glass windows to create a glimmering beacon high above the surrounding woodlands.

The casino itself spans 135,000 square feet of floor space, on which you’ll find 126 table games and 3,300 slot and video poker machines. And as I alluded to in the introduction, these are the best and brightest games that the gambling industry has to offer.

Slot spinners will find 3 and 5-reel machines, video slots, progressive jackpots, and all of the latest additions that make machine-based gambling what it is today. A few of the most popular slots offered at MGM National Harbor have been listed below:

  • Dancing Drums
  • Buffalo Grand
  • 5 Treasures
  • 88 Fortunes
  • Dragon Spin
  • Fu Nan Fu Nu
  • The Walking Dead 2
  • Lightning Link
  • Lock it Link
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Crazy Money Deluxe
  • Jackpot Inferno

Over in the table game pit, expect to find a perfect blend of classic games and new additions to the field. You’ll even notice a special gaming floor devoted to Asian influenced games like Fortune Pai Gow Poker and midi baccarat, which is a nice touch if I do say so myself.

The gambling community is highly segmented, so it’s nice to offer Asian players (and fans of Asian games) a place of their own to call home.

A full listing of table games found at MGM Grand Harbor can be found below:

  • Blackjack
  • Craps
  • Roulette
  • Fortune Pai Gow Poker
  • Midi Baccarat
  • Mini Baccarat
  • Three Card Poker
  • Four Card Poker
  • Spanish 21
  • Ultimate Texas Hold’em

And if poker is your game of choice, you’ll be pleased to note MGM National Harbor boasts one of the largest poker rooms on the East Coast with 39 tables in play.

Everything from the mainstay No Limit Texas hold’em to niche variants like Pot Limit Omaha and Seven Card can be found here, with stakes ranging from $1/$2 blinds on up the ladder.

Tournaments are also on tap here, either through the smaller ($125) daily No Limit Texas hold’em events, or the larger series known as the Potomac Poker Open.

This new addition to the live tournament circuit offers a pair of huge events, each sporting a $500,000 guaranteed prize pool, so folks who harbor dreams of becoming the next Chris Moneymaker can cut their teeth playing high profile tournaments.

MGM National Harbor offers much more than gambling though, as the resort is home to an award-winning spa facility, seven uniquely themed restaurants, a theatre space with 3,000 seats, and 27,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The wife and I especially enjoyed the Conservatory, a permanent installation of local plants and flowers designed to titillate every sense. You’ll find the Conservatory located just outside the theatre and front desk areas – just look for the happy couples strolling hand in hand through the immaculately appointed flowers and flora.

Need to Know Info

  • Address: 101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, MD 20745
  • Phone: (301) 971-5000
  • Website: www.mgmnationalharbor.com/en.html

2 – Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, New York

Another extremely recent addition to America’s casino gambling landscape can be found in Schenectady, New York – where Rivers Casino & Resort opened in February of 2017.

Rivers Casino & Resort

This place is owned and operated by Rush Street Gaming, a Chicago-based company that has made great gains in recent years when it comes to competing with the MGM’s of the world. You’ll also find Rivers Casino properties in places like Des Plaines, Illinois and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia under the Rush Gaming umbrella.

As Rush Street Gaming’s chief executive officer Greg Carlin explained when announcing the grand opening of Rivers Casino Schenectady, the company has big plans for its newest venue:

“Rivers Casino in Schenectady is opening a little more than one year after breaking ground, and I’m confident our guests are going to be wowed by the quality, the design and the overall experience of our newest entertainment destination.

We need to stay relevant, we need to make sure we keep reinvesting, that we keep changing with people’s taste. We need to make sure we provide a good customer experience and meet our customer’s wants and needs.”

At 50,000 square feet of floor space, the casino itself isn’t the largest I’ve encountered by any means, but quality certainly beats quantity in this case. Rather than force patrons to wander their way through long hallways and stretched out gaming areas, Rivers Casino opts for a more sensible and efficient floorplan.

Slot and video poker enthusiasts will find 1,150 machines onsite, which is more than enough to satisfy even the most seasoned of gamblers. And those slots run the gamut from old favorites to new releases, as shown by the list below, which highlights the most popular game titles in the building:

  • 88 Fortunes
  • Buffalo Grand
  • Ellen
  • Elvira
  • Fast Cash
  • Fu Dao Le
  • House Of Cards
  • Lightning Link
  • Lock It Link Night Life
  • Monopoly Luxury Diamonds
  • Plants V Zombies
  • Playboy Platinum
  • Sphinx 3d
  • Walking Dead 2
  • Wonder 4 Tower

When the time comes to take on the table game pit, expect to find all of your old favorites, along with several new additions to the industry. A full listing of games spread throughout the 67 tables at Rivers Casino can be found below:

  • Blackjack
  • Craps
  • Roulette
  • Three Card Poker
  • Let It Ride
  • Pai Gow Poker
  • Mini Midi Baccarat
  • Mississippi Stud
  • Fortune Asia Poker
  • Casino War
  • Heads Up Hold‘em

And be sure to hit the 16-table poker room for a full complement of No Limit Texas hold’em cash games and tournaments. My favorite event on the daily schedule was the $100 buy in bounty tournament, because the poker room pays out $25 chips directly after you bust somebody out.

It only took four eliminations for me to get my money back, which equated to a “freeroll” where I couldn’t lose a dime, and everything after that was all gravy.

A particularly enjoyable aspect of Rivers Casino is the video poker parlor, where the selection extends far beyond the usual lineup of Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. The latest model of the Game King Multi Game machine made sure I never lacked for variety, as you’ll see by perusing the full list of video game variants on hand:

  • Double Super Times Pay
  • Hot Roll Poker
  • Multi Strike Poker
  • Super Star Poker
  • Super Times Pay Poker
  • Super Triple Play
  • Ultimate X Poker
  • Ultimate X Poker Bonus Streak

One of the coolest parts about this casino property is its synergy with the surrounding Mohawk Harbor area, a mixed-use district housing retail shopping, restaurants, and residential units. The harbor itself is simply gorgeous, as are the sailing vessels and other watercraft docked on all sides.

Rivers Casino adds to the Mohawk Harbor district with a 163-room hotel complex, complete with a 600-person event center, spa and gym facility, and five world class restaurants.

For its size, I can’t imagine a casino offering more bang for your gambling buck than Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady.

Need to Know Info

  • Address: 1 Rush St, Schenectady, NY 12305
  • Phone: (518) 579-8800
  • Website: https://riverscasinoandresort.com

3 – The Linq on the Las Vegas Strip

This one’s a bit of a cheat, as the building now known as The Linq was actually constructed way back in 1959.

Back then, the fixture on the Las Vegas Strip was called the Flamingo Capri (1959-1979) before becoming the Imperial Palace (1979-2012), and finally The Quad (2012-2014).

The Linq Casino

That evolution eventually led Caesars Entertainment (formerly Harrah’s Entertainment) to acquire the Imperial Palace in 2005, with plans to demolish the old building and start fresh. But when the recession struck a few years later, those plans changed, and boy am I glad they did.

Rather than raze the property and build another, Caesars Entertainment poured $223 million into a complete renovation, removing every vestige of the old days to create an entirely new casino known as The Linq.

Gary Loveman, who serves as president and chief executive officer for Caesars Entertainment, outlined the company’s vision for The Linq in a statement:

“Our billion dollar transformation of the east side of the Las Vegas Strip is the result of the major transition in our industry from one built around gaming to a more a multi dimensional hospitality and entertainment business.

The LINQ complex showcases how hospitality is the new driving force attracting a wide array of unique customers and providing an enhanced experience for repeat travelers.”

Tariq Shaukat, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Caesars Entertainment, echoed those sentiments when describing the newly renovated venue:

“With The LINQ, we pioneered the creation of a new type of experience for the Las Vegas visitor. The LINQ Hotel & Casino continues this ground breaking approach by offering a ‘Vegas Original,’ socially minded resort at the heart of the Strip.

The resort is designed for the changing Las Vegas customer, who is seeking authentic and social entertainment experiences that cannot be found elsewhere, and provides guests with direct access to all the great restaurants, shops and entertainment available at The LINQ Promenade, including the High Roller.”

As those executives alluded to, luxury is what it’s all about at The Linq.

From the automatic valet retrieval service to the touchscreens used at the front desk, every aspect of the guest experience here has been updated for the modern age.

Among the 2,253 completely renovated and refreshed guest rooms, you’ll find 244 full scale suites that give luxury a new name. These babies stretch out over more than 1,000 square feet apiece, including a living room, kitchenette, and even a bar – all of which is fully furnished in the latest haute décor.

I’m not usually one who goes for the fancy schmancy stuff during a casino adventure, but I have to admit, I was smitten with The Linq’s commitment to luxurious lodging.

Everything about the place just has a sense of flow that many casinos, even the larger mega resorts lining The Strip, seem to lack. Plush leather seats, fine art hanging from the walls, and fine dining galore complete the elite ambience.

The casino itself is nothing to sneeze at either, what with 135,000 square feet of gaming floor to work with. That expansive space houses an astounding 140 table games and 3,300 slot and video poker machines – putting The Linq on par with parent casino Caesars Palace for sheer variety.

You won’t find a poker room here, but with a full-fledged race and sportsbook onsite, you can place a few wagers on the night’s big games before sweating the action down in the pit.

And don’t make the mistake of confining your stay to the casino itself.

Part of the appeal of The Linq is the outdoor shopping and entertainment district known as The Promenade. Here you’ll find everything from the Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas – a blend between a bowling alley and a live concert venue – to the old O’Sheas gambling hall and pub.

This Irish inspired venue has been a fixture on The Strip for ages, and thanks to Caesars Entertainment’s major investment, it looks and feels like a whole new place. The younger crowd will enjoy beer pong games at O’Sheas, while us oldies take full advantage of the lowered minimums and enhanced odds.

The star of the show, however, is the High Roller – a massive observation wheel that takes guests on a slow ride that culminates with spectacular views 550 feet above The Strip.

If you’re familiar with the famous London Eye observation wheel, take that and add a bit of Las Vegas flair to get an idea. And sure enough, the High Roller at The Linq actually surpasses the London Eye in terms of height.

You’ll step inside a large bubble-like chamber to begin the journey, before the wheel’s slow but steady revolution carries you into the heavens. Those with a fear of heights may not enjoy the show, but you’re perfectly concealed within the chamber, so this isn’t some adventure ride at an amusement park.

Instead, you can sit back and relax within the safe confines of the glass bubble while The Strip’s landmarks below grow smaller and smaller by the minute.

Obviously, the best time to enjoy the High Roller at The Linq is by night, when Sin City comes alive with lights. There’s nothing quite like the Las Vegas landscape at night, and this vantage point offers a new perspective on it all.

Need to Know Info

  • Address: 3535 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
  • Phone: (800) 634-6441
  • Website: www.caesars.com/linq

4 – Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Fayette County, Pennsylvania

And now for something completely different…

Leaving the lights and nightlife of Las Vegas behind and heading out into the wilderness of southwestern Pennsylvania takes you to the Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin.

Lady Luck Casino

Located in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, the Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin takes its name from the gorgeous Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – a five-star luxury retreat nestled deep in the forest. Before the Isle of Capri casino chain integrated the property in 2013, Nemacolin was known best for its pristine golf resorts, spa facility, and 200 acres of outdoor adventures.

This place doesn’t lack for awards and honors, including the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five Star rating and a AAA Four Diamond Rating. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s 335 guestrooms and suites were also named to the “500 Best Hotels in the World” list by Travel + Leisure magazine.

But as Pennsylvania has embraced casino gambling over the last decade, the Isle of Capri company decided to make a splash by adding the allure of casino gambling to Nemacolin’s natural charms.

Virginia McDowell, who serves as president and chief executive officer for the Missouri based Isle of Capri, explained the impetus for the move when announcing the venue’s grand opening:

“Isle of Capri is thrilled to open our flagship Lady Luck casino at one of the most magnificent resort complexes in the United States.

The enthusiasm for this project has been remarkable and we are proud to share Lady Luck with the community and Nemacolin Woodlands guests as well.”

Maggie Hardy Magerko, her counterpart at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, also commented on the casino connection:

“We are so proud to see all of the details come together to bring this new amenity to our guests.

The transformation of a building that was once a bowling alley and arcade into this magnificent casino is extraordinary. I am quite sure that our guests will be as impressed as I have been.”

The result of this ambitious expansion plan is a quaint and charming casino facility spanning just over 26,000 square feet of floor space. That’s only one fifth of the floor space found at The Linq, mind you, so Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin is certainly not your usual mega resort.

Instead, guests are treated to a gambling experience that resembles the Off Strip venues found in Downtown Las Vegas and the like – only newer, fresher, and more fun.

The property is home to 28 table games and 600 slot and video poker machines, which is more than enough variety given the smaller stature of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin. Everything is covered in the table game pit, from blackjack and baccarat to craps and roulette, along with Three Card Poker and Mississippi Stud.

And if you’re a true gambler at heart, you don’t even need the casino to get a bit of action in, thanks to a pair of 18-hole Championship level golf courses – Mystic Rock and The Links at Nemacolin.

Enjoying a game of “skins” by day, before spinning the night away on the slots makes for a more balanced gambling experience than you’ll find in more urban casino settings.

Need to Know Info

  • Address: 4067 National Pike, Farmington, PA 15437
  • Phone: (724) 329-7500
  • Website: www.ladylucknemacolin.com

5 – Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino Near the Las Vegas Strip

The last entry on the list is the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, which can be found on the north end of The Strip just to the west on Sahara Avenue.

Upon debuting in November of 2016, the Lucky Dragon became the first Las Vegas casino built entirely from the ground up to open in the last six years – so every aspect of the building is brand new.

Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino

The objective for Lucky Dragon’s operators was simple: create a casino that caters to the Asian community. To that end, no stone was left unturned, so English signage is secondary to Chinese characters, and the interior décor is made up of red tones, which are considered to be a lucky charm within many Asian cultures.

Dave Jacoby, chief operating officer of the Lucky Dragon, clarified the casino’s vision in a statement issued during the grand opening ceremony:

“Lucky Dragon in and of itself is something completely unique, not only in Las Vegas but in the world.

We didn’t want to be a caricature of an Asian resort. Most of the other casinos here in Las Vegas are very large mega resorts trying to be all things to all people. We have a different approach here at Lucky Dragon.

With our service standards, we try to make sure that we are putting the Asian cultures first and allowing the American cultures to follow behind.

Lucky Dragon staff will deliver the world class service that guests have come to expect from luxury hotels in Las Vegas. Our team will cater to guests in several languages, including English, Chinese and other Asian languages, ensuring that guests from all Asian cultures will feel at home.”

At only 27,500 square feet, the gaming floor is cozy and quaint, but gamblers still have 37 table games and 300 slot and video poker machines to choose from.

And as Jacoby made clear, those games tilt heavily toward the Asian market, meaning you should expect a healthy dose of baccarat, Pai Gow Poker, and Sic Bo. Of course, every Las Vegas casino needs its blackjack and roulette tables, but these are definitely not the main attraction at Lucky Dragon, which prioritizes baccarat above all others.

If you’ve ever spent time in a traditional casino, you’ve probably noticed a frenzy of activity confined to one corner of the gaming floor. There, you’ll find Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and gamblers hailing from other Asian countries taking part in spirited sessions of Pai Gow Poker or baccarat.

These games are louder than most, and the players enjoy their own rituals, such as squeezing their final card long and hard to extract the maximum amount of sweat.

At the Lucky Dragon, these players have a casino all to themselves, and even though I’m not Asian myself, I’m glad to see the industry recognize these high-volume players as a market that deserves full scale service.

For the American crowds, take your time to enjoy the subtle differences between the Lucky Dragon, which Jacoby explains perfectly:

“This whole place has been very specifically fengshui’d, from the color patterns, to the carpets, to where the seats are, to where the cash is. There will be no fourth floor in the hotel   that’s a superstition similar to what we have in the United States with the number 13. There’s no number 4 anywhere on the property. Our phone numbers don’t have a 4 in it.

People in the front of the house of the resort will speak Mandarin, Cantonese and other Asian dialects. Signage is in Chinese first, English second. What we’re trying to do is build an authentic cultural experience from the ground up for Asian clientele, both locally and regionally throughout the United States.”

And of course, if you come for the gambling, be sure to stay for some of the most authentic Asian inspired cuisine anywhere in Las Vegas. I particularly enjoyed Dragon’s Alley, an outdoor dining establishment modelled after the night markets that form the lifeblood of many Asian cities.

Strolling through the various stalls and trying delicacies that you’ve never even heard of is usually an experience reserved for a foreign vacation, but you can savor the same thrill at the Lucky Dragon.

Need to Know Info

  • Address: 300 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102
  • Phone: (702) 889-8018
  • Website: http://luckydragonlv.com

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a new experience, visit one of the 5 best casinos to open in the last 5 years listed on this page. New casinos seem to be popping up all over the world and each one offers many unique experiences.

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