The Ultimate Guide to Casino Dress Codes
Published on August 11, 2016
As a guest at a casino, you’re expected to dress a certain way. Not only should you honor the casino’s request that you dress a certain way, but you should do so out of respect for the other gamblers in the casino. While not every casino has a specific dress code, more and more gambling venues are requiring that guests wear certain items of clothing.
This is especially true at higher-end casinos. The word “casino” means different things to different people. Some casinos are hallowed halls of gambling, marble and dark wood-paneled cathedrals to classical European games of chance. Others are little more than roadside convenience stores with a few aisles of slot and video poker machines. Clearly, the dress codes at these two venues will be vastly different.
If you want to fit in, feel comfortable, and impress the other guests on your next casino visit, this ultimate guide to casino dress codes was prepared with you in mind. We start by covering the basics of the various attire categories you’re likely to come across. We’ve included a section on the clothing items that every gambler should have in their wardrobe.
This is a special category of formal-wear, sometimes called Full Evening Dress. It’s considered the most formal style of dress in all of Western fashion. The history of Full Evening Dress goes back to the late 1700s, as men abandoned their breeches, flowing blouses, and multi-colored topcoats in favor of a style of dress more recognizable by today’s standards. Strangely enough, this new “minimalist” style of formal wear was styled after the notion of “the country gentleman.” In essence, when you dress for a White Tie event, you’re dressing up as an 18th century hick.
These days, White Tie dress is limited to things like state dinners, royal events, major prize ceremonies, and the occasional formal party. You’re not likely to find a casino that requires White Tie formal dress – but you might find yourself invited to a private event at a casino that requires it.
For women, a White Tie dress code calls for just one thing – a floor-length evening gown. Long gloves (usually white) are optional, as are accessories like tiaras, clutch purses, and elegant jewelry.
For men, attending a White Tie event is a little more complicated. Men are expected to wear:
Black Tie is another style of formal dress, a rung below White Tie, but still very formal. The invention and popularization of the dinner jacket in the 1880s was the first big change in men’s fashion in more than a century. The jacket that we’d recognize today as a tuxedo was then considered a relaxed style of dress. Compared to the ridiculous restraints of White Tie dress, a tuxedo is a pretty simple set of garments.
Black Tie is only worn to events after 6 PM, by tradition. The style of dress is sometimes called “semi-formal,” to honor the vast difference between Black Tie and White Tie. We want to emphasize, however, that it’s still an incredibly formal style of dress compared to casual or semiformal styles. The history of Black Tie is fascinating in part because it was spurred on by The Great War. The end of that war had a relaxing influence on just about everything, even men’s fashion.
Women’s Black Tie dress code has relaxed considerably over the past twenty-five years or so. The only real requirement for Women’s Black Tie is that they were evening shoes. Once upon a time, women had to wear ankle- or calf-length sleeveless evening gowns, as well as a wrap, gloves, and jewelry. These days, women’s Black Tie wear can include everything from a ball-gown to a cocktail dress or even a pantsuit with a palazzo cut.
For men, Black Tie requires:
Take note that if you’re on a cruise, in the tropics, or outside in the summer, most experts recommend that you change your Black Tie affair accordingly: you should wear a white dinner jacket, along you’re your traditional black tuxedo trousers and the rest of your black tie wardrobe.
How likely are you to have to wear Black Tie dress to a casino? If you’re touring Europe, planning to stop in at a place like the Casino Monte-Carlo, you’re very likely to need Black Tie clothing. If you’re attending certain VIP events at the big casinos of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, you may be asked to dress Black Tie. In other words, it’s not totally out of the question.
“Black Tie Optional” is a common dress code request for events like weddings and receptions. It’s a relatively-new term of art for the fashion industry. It basically means “you can wear a tuxedo if you want, but if you don’t own one and don’t want to rent one, just dress as formally as you can.”
We’ll admit right out front that we don’t know of many casinos that advertise themselves as “Black Tie Optional,” though we’ve been to many events that listed the designation. Most of the details of Black Tie Optional are identical to the information in the Black Tie section above, except that you have the right to skip out on some of the more formal aspects if you’d prefer.
For women, Black Tie Optional means you can choose to wear a formal full-length evening gown or you can dress less casual in a nice cocktail dress, provided the hemline isn’t too short. Since women’s Black Tie standards have changed so much over the years, there’s almost no difference here.
For men, the Black Tie Optional dress code means you can choose to follow the Black Tie guidelines above, or you can dress down a bit, wearing:
The lesson here is that even when you can’t dress fully formal, you should still try to blend in. Notice the emphasis on the dark suit, the white shirt, and a tie that doesn’t call too much attention to itself. Thankfully, these days, Black Tie Optional has been pretty much replaced by terms like “semiformal” and “business casual,” which are a bit easier to follow.
For events with a level of protocol between informal and formal, the “semiformal” category was invented. Since many morning events are by nature less formal, it’s common for events that take place before noon to follow this style of dress. Thankfully, semiformal attire is the same regardless of the time of day.
For women, semiformal attire is a bit more complicated than other forms. Women can pick from:
The emphasis with women’s attire in this category is on formality – strange for a category called “semiformal,” but that’s how fashion has evolved. While semiformal is a bit of a chore for women, it’s still easier to dress for than traditional formalwear, with its color, length, and style requirements. We’d consider this acceptable clothing for a night out at a flagship casino or any property that requires formal dress.
Men’s semiformal wear is also pretty close to what we’d consider appropriate attire for an evening at a nice casino, even if they ask for formalwear. It includes:
You won’t probably see the word “semiformal” listed as a casino’s dress code. You’re more likely to see the word “formal,” and, if pressed, the conditions of that dress code would closely match what we’ve just laid out here. So long as the woman is wearing a dress or a dressy skirt, and the man is wearing a tie and a suit, you’ll get in the door.
The easiest way to describe “business formal” is “work clothes.” This category refers to the sort of attire you’d wear to work, clothes that fit within your company’s dress code and make you look presentable. Business formal attire is technically one rung less formal than semiformal, though sometimes the distinction between the two is difficult to make.
For women, business formal means wearing a suit or business-style dress, with a jacket and stockings, as well as heels. According to a couple of sources on the subject of business etiquette, these days the heels and the stockings are optional.
Here’s a big secret for men – business formal and semiformal are the same thing. It wasn’t always this way – once upon a time, men needed a morning coat and an evening coat, and the arrangement of these coats with their other pieces made the distinctions trickier. Now, so long as you have an appropriate set of semiformal clothes, you’ve also got business formal gear.
Like we said with the semiformal category, we think the attire outlined for this category is perfect for a nice evening at a casino, pretty much regardless of its caliber. You may want to skip the tie for the man and the jacket for the woman if you find yourselves at a lower-end venue, just to be comfortable. But, for the most part, these clothes would be totally acceptable at any casino in the world.
Ah, business casual. The most common dress code category. We think most people know a business casual outfit when they see it, though it can be a little hard to define. If you’re trying to prepare to dress for a casino that has a dress code, and they say its “business casual,” it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. That means no stockings or hose for women and no ties for men. Most of us are simply more comfortable dressing in business-casual attire, whether we’re gambling or not.
For women, the definition of business casual is pretty narrow. Women can wear a skirt, khakis, or pants. They should wear it with a collared shirt, knit shirt, or sweater, making sure to show no cleavage. They could also choose to wear a more formal dress or cocktail dress so long as it isn’t too short, too revealing, covered by a jacket.
For men, business casual gets pretty casual:
The big deal here is that, for the first time, the man’s tie is optional. The removal of the man’s tie is a pretty big step in terms of formality – dressing this style might keep you out of some areas of some of the fancier casinos around the world. We know of some VIP areas in Atlantic City that require a tie; the same is true in some parts of Vegas.
We’re not trying to warn you away from business casual – in fact, many casinos these days use the phrase to describe their preferred style of dress. Just make sure you aren’t going to be out of place (or out on the street) without a necktie or bowtie. Heck, even a bolo tie will do in a pinch.
The biggest mistake people make when packing clothes to wear to a casino is misunderstanding the word “casual.” It’s tough to define this category, since these days we think it means any old thing we have lying around. The word casual doesn’t mean “come as you are;” there is a standard, and it’s important to follow it if you don’t want to get embarrassed by a casino host at the door.
Casual dress is most often defined by what it isn’t rather than what it is:
Notice that the emphasis is still on clean, nice-looking clothing, with a new emphasis on expression. Since there are fewer rules about what you can’t wear, you have room wear brightly-colored, wildly-patterned, colorful clothing, where before only certain colors would work.
For women, casual clothing might be:
For men, casual clothing includes:
The majority of US casinos require only casual wear. But please take note that they don’t have to let you in no matter what you’re wearing. Some casinos will ask you to change out of a t-shirt if it has a distasteful slogan or picture on it. Other casinos may have a hard and fast “no flip-flops” or “no t-shirts” rule. The trick here is to call ahead and make sure that “casual dress” includes the items you’re planning on bringing or wearing.
Now that we’ve gone over the various dress code definitions and shown you what items to pack for a gambling trip, it’s time to get realistic. The truth is, modern casinos are (mostly) casual places. So long as you’re on the general casino floor, and not trying to enter a VIP section or a section with a dress code, they don’t care how you’re dressed. This is especially true if you’re actually gambling.
To that end, we wanted to share three basic tips to help anyone prepare for a gambling trip to a casino. So long as you follow these three tips, you’ll never be improperly dressed:
Since the majority of casino floors in the world require nothing more than casual dress, it’s okay to dress for comfort. If you need a lot of props with you when you gamble, like strategy guides, notepads, pencils, etc., then make sure you wear something with ample pockets. If you tend to get hot, you’re in luck, since most casinos are a bit on the cold side. If you tend to get cold, consider an extra layer, something you can take off easily in case it’s too much.
Things to avoid – overly revealing clothing, clothing with offensive images or slogans, and any clothing that can be used to conceal your appearance. Also, don’t let “comfortable” mean “unhygienic.” You’re probably going to be in close quarters with a lot of other people while you’re gambling, so please, shower and take care of your basic hygiene needs.
So long as you have money to gamble with, casinos aren’t going to care what you wear. The one exception? Special sections of the casino that require a certain kind of dress – sometimes this means VIP sections, sometimes it means the poker room, sometimes it just means certain bars or restaurants in a casino complex. There’s not a worse feeling than being rejected for what you’re wearing, so avoid the trauma and check the dress code before you visit.
We like to advise people against wearing flip-flops, sandals, and open shoes in general to casinos. Not every casino rejects people for their footwear, but enough do that you may as well skip the slip-ons and wearing something a bit nicer. If you just really don’t want to wear socks, go for a pair of loafers or boat shoes.
When the sun starts to go down, the nice clothes come out. We’re not sure where this tradition started, but even in the case of formal wear, people wear different items at different times of day. If you’re going out and you plan to be out much past 6, you should dress up a bit. That means swap out a button-down for your t-shirt (if you’re a dude), or slip a sweater over your shoulders to go with your cocktail dress (if a female).
You can “dress up” an outfit a number of ways, from adding nicer shoes or accessories to simply switching tops and giving your face a splash of cold water. So long as you’re adjusting for the different atmosphere, you’re doing it right.
Based on the descriptions of appropriate attire and the real-world advice we gave you in the sections above, we’ve prepared a short list of clothing items that you have to pack if you’re planning on visiting a casino. We’ve made a list for men and a list for women.
Jeans aren’t always going to cut it. Khaki pants go with everything. If you don’t love the color – some men’s skin tone doesn’t work well with it, particularly Asian and Middle Eastern men – then substitute a soft gray or very dark blue. The trick is to blend in, to avoid bright colors or patterns. If you’re travelling to a particularly hot climate, you can consider a pair of khaki shorts, but you shouldn’t try to wear them to any nice events or at all after 6 PM.
A nice pair of clean blue jeans with no holes is appropriate attire for most places in modern casinos. But there are some important rules. Don’t try to wear your beat-up Wranglers, your punk-rock relics full of holes and safety pins, or anything crazy like that. Try to pair your blue jeans with a nice shirt, and consider a shirt with a tie for a mixed-formal look. Either way, consider the fact that you’re wearing jeans, and try to pretty it up a bit.
You’ll probably wear sneakers on the plane or in the car on the way to the casino, but you should consider wearing loafers, boat shoes, or other semi-casual shoes. Not only do they look better, they look more formal, and you’re way more likely to get the thumbs-up from the casino host if you’re wearing a nice pair of shoes and not the sneakers you play basketball in. You can find slip-on versions of these shoes if comfort and convenience is your thing. Don’t depend too heavily on sneakers, please.
Most of the time, plain old athletic socks will do. If you’re going to a nice dinner, or if you’re headed to a VIP area or a particularly-formal casino, you’ll need dress socks to go with your loafers. Some shoes can be worn sock-less, but you should check with the casino’s dress code before you consider that move. Some places will frown on any sight of bare feet.
You don’t have to wear a plain white button-down shirt to gamble in, in fact, you probably shouldn’t. What we mean by conservative is – no Hawaiian print, no large slogans, no symbols, etc. A patterned shirt with buttons is fine. The sleeve length is up to you – some are more comfortable in long sleeves, some get too hot and need short sleeves. It’s all about your personal preference. Generally, the nicer the venue, the more you want to wear long sleeves. Also, in some cultures, short sleeves is work attire, and you may be mistaken for a casino employee. That’s embarrassing. We always suggest you default to long sleeves, unless climate is a concern. Las Vegas in particular gets very hot in the summer.
Again, by “conservative,” we don’t mean you have to look like Nancy Reagan. Most casinos frown on showing too much skin, so that means that your hem should be on the longer side of short, and your neckline shouldn’t be too revealing. A nice cocktail dress like the type you’d wear to a wedding or to a relative’s birthday party will work in almost any casino or resort setting. Black is a great color, but you’ll no doubt already have a “little black dress” packed, so maybe avoid that color for now. Match the color to the season and the climate where you’ll be gambling.
If you need to formal-up your cocktail dress a little, because the sun is setting or because you’re moving to a nicer venue, you can always add a wrap of some kind to cover your shoulders and dress up the outfit. Not to mention, it’s often cold on casino floors, so you may be glad to have something. This is an item you can avoid altogether if you know for sure that you’re not going anywhere remotely nice, but don’t overlook the value of a quick costume change.
Skip the heels – we live in the modern casino era where old rules about women’s footwear have gone by the wayside. Of course, we’d love to tell you that you can wear sneakers, but that’s probably not a good idea if you plan on doing anything besides sitting in front of a slot machine. A pair of comfy flats will work in all settings, just like your cocktail dress.
Everything we wrote about blue jeans in the section for men counts for women. If you want to avoid the gown/dress/skirt argument altogether, pack a nice pair of blue jeans. Consider that you’re probably going to be wearing them pretty often, so avoid worn pairs or those that just aren’t comfortable.
If you’re on a days-long casino adventure, you may not have time to change. That’s why you’ll want a nice plain blouse that you can wear in the morning, at lunch, at night, or any time. This will match with a pair of jeans, a skirt, or anything else you might wear. Just consider temperature issues, both the potential heat and cold of the area where your casino is and the cold temperature inside most casinos. While you’re at it, pack another blouse, in an opposing color, in case you get a comp for a nice meal.
There’s no dress code on the casino floor of the Bellagio, but if you want in to the casino’s exclusive nightclub, The Bank, you’ll need to dress the part. From the website: “… gentlemen should make sure to wear a collared shirt and / or sport coat to The Bank. Always be mindful of wearing nicer shoes and avoid anything that can be considered sportswear: track jackets, jerseys, sports shoes, hats, etc. Remember, if you are unsure if something will work or not, play it safe.” You’ll notice there’s no dress code for women – that’s fairly typical. As far as we can tell, so long as an outfit isn’t casual and isn’t too revealing, they don’t care too much what women wear.
ARIA is one of the better-reviewed Vegas resorts, in part because it’s brand new, and in part because it is home to a number of well-reviewed clubs and restaurants. The casino floor staff has been said to frown on the wearing of flip-flops and sandals, especially if they’re of the ugly “worn-in” variety, and especially at night-time. ARIA’s fine-dining restaurants require a coat, but not a tie. If you’re going to stay here, gamble here, or eat here, we suggest you stick to business formal.
The Borgata is another example of a place that doesn’t necessarily exclude gamblers if they’re not dressed to the nines, but they certainly discourage super-casual clothing. Most of the Borgata’s restaurants (Bobby Flay’s steakhouse, the haute-Italian Fornelletto, and Wolfgang Puck’s American Grille in particular) have a strict “no jeans and no sneakers” rule, so if you plan to eat while you play, you may as well avoid those items. The staff will treat you better at a place like Borgata if you’re dressed better, so, again, we suggest you stick to something like business casual or business formal.
In the historic gaming rooms, only “appropriate dress” is required. That means, according to the website, no “shorts or flip-flops,” and nothing more. A pair of blue jeans, a button-down shirt, and sneakers will get you in the door at the famous Monte-Carlo. But the casino’s private rooms, where most of the real action occurs, require a coat at all times and a tie after 8 PM. Also, no “athletic shoes” are allowed in these VIP rooms. Planning to gamble at one of the world’s oldest casinos? Plan to pack a coat and pair of loafers or dress shoes, and the socks to go with them. If it’s getting late, bring a tie.
The Venetian in Macao is the world’s largest casino, and one of the world’s busiest. A gambling haven for the China’s nouveau riche, Macao is becoming an international gambling Mecca, even as the local economy struggles. One general rule of thumb in Macao – don’t wear shorts, at any time of day. It can get incredibly hot in Macao, but even then, you shouldn’t expect to be allowed in wearing shorts. To our way of thinking, that also means no flip-flops, and you may as well skip out on sneakers. As usual, our suggestion for Macao gambling is a pair of khakis, a button-down shirt, and a pair of loafers.
If you’re a big-spender, you can probably wear your flip-flops and Bahama shorts to the VIP tables and the casino won’t blink an eye. But until you’re earning comp’d suites and handing over six-figure checks to the casino, you’ll need to abide by the casino’s dress code. On this page, we’ve tried to demystify the process of preparing for and dressing for the gaming floor. Dressing to impress means different things in different venues. Now, you can walk into any casino, from Las Vegas to Macau, with confidence, knowing that you’re the best-looking gambler in the room.