For the uninitiated – especially those who have never entered a casino before – the idea of waltzing into a Vegas casino may seem daunting. How do I get in? What do I do when I’m there? How does it all work? Hopefully this quick guide to casino etiquette will help allay some of your worries. If you’re more interested in an online casino, compare the best ones here.
The Basics: Visiting Casinos in Vegas
The vast majority of casinos in Las Vegas are completely free to enter – certainly all of those patronised by the average tourist are. There is no special way to enter – just walk in to any one of the dozens and dozens of casinos you will find on the strip, and in the downtown/Fremont Street area. Entrances are often vast in size, and in multiple positions, designed to easily entice you in.
Even if you have no intention to gamble or drop a significant amount of money, simply entering a casino can be an experience in its own right. On-strip casinos are often vast and plush, and are equipped with state of the art gaming materials and machinery. Off-strip, you may encounter more of an old-school, less polished vibe. Both types of casino offer a heady experience.
Note that only those aged 21 and over are permitted to patronise casino spaces. Under-21s may pass through a casino in a direct manner where needed (often casino floors connect other, more family-friendly, attractions, so the most direct route may involve passing through a live casino). However, under-21s are not permitted to stay within a casino for any other reason than to pass through it – even when accompanied by much older adults.
Note that the law US-wide in relation to minors occupying adult spaces is much more rigorously enforced than in the UK. Whilst it’s common for 16/17 year olds – or even younger – to indulge in alcohol in public commercial spaces in the UK, it is almost unthinkable in the US, and is illegal in Nevada Law. Your “nearly but not quite” under-21 year old companions will not gain meaningful access to Vegas adult spaces – casinos, bars, and the likes.
On that note – bring your ID. It will be checked before you can game and/or drink, and your very presence in a casino may be ID-challenged, even if you’re not gambling or drinking. Bring your ID even if you’re in your 30s or 40s. Unless you’re visibly dying of old age, there is a strong chance you will be ID-checked at any time.
Strictly speaking, there is no dress code in the vast majority of Vegas casinos. As long as your feet, nethers and nipples are covered (any gender), you’re good to go. At Travel Blog we’ve seen patrons in casinos wearing everything from pyjamas to ballgowns. However, informally, you should be well-presented. This does not mean that you have to don your Sunday best, or turn up in a tuxedo. Nor does it mean that you have to be a particular size, shape or level of attractiveness. Clothing such as jeans and t-shirts are perfectly acceptable. Just think before you head out – would I wear this outfit in public back home? If the answer is no, consider wearing something else.
So now you’re inside the casino – now what?!
Gaming in Vegas Casinos:
You may avail yourself of any of the gaming facilities that are open and available. Below is a quick guide to the two main types of gaming offered. Note that many casinos also offer ‘video/virtual’ forms of table games, and there may also be a sportsbook (on-site betting shop) within the casino.
As far as slot machines go, similar to online casinos, the typical casino has hundreds to choose from, covering a variety of themes. These can range from traditional fruit machine-style slots, to swanky animated banks which link to TV, movie or music genres. There’s always plenty of free machines, no matter what time of night or day. Simply select one, and get playing – paying attention to minimum/maximum bets, before you blow your budget on one spin. The vast majority of Vegas slot machines are funded by cash (notes, not coins), so simply insert your dollar bills, and away you go. Note that if you have money still left in the machine by the time you’re finished playing (either because you’ve won, or you simply want to move on), your funds are redeemed by selecting the ‘cash out’ option on your slot machine. A ticket is then produced which you then take to a cash out terminal (each casino has multiple such terminals), which converts your ticket back into real money.
This is where you find live-action gaming in Vegas, including blackjack, craps, roulette, poker and others. The exact rules/variant of each game will be printed on the green felt of the table, whereas minimum/maximum bets will generally be displayed on an electronic terminal. Note that the minimum bets involved may differ based on the time of day/night, or any other business reason. Each table is manned by a human dealer who facilitates the game – whether that’s spinning a roulette wheel, or dealing blackjack hands.
The dealer is also responsible for undertaking any financial transactions related to the game, such as buying you into the game (exchanging your cash for casino chips, which are used as in-game currency). When handing cash to a table game dealer, the cash in question should always be placed on the table for the dealer to then pick up – not placed directly into their palm. Note that if you are left with excess chips after finishing playing – whether you’ve won, or simply want to move on – those chips should then be taken to the on-site chip cage on the casino floor, where they will be turned back into real cash. A dealer cannot and will not hand cash back to you in exchange for chips, since cash transacted at the gaming table is deposited into a secure vault to which players and dealers have no access.
The Dos & Don’ts of Tables in Vegas
Although live action table gaming is incredibly fun, there are a few important etiquette dos & don’ts to be aware of:
- Do wait your turn – depending on the time of day/night or general casino busyness, a seat at your favourite table game may not immediately be available. As in any other situation, patiently wait your turn. Feel free to observe the ongoing game, without pressurising other gamers to finish up quickly.
- Don’t come equipped with no knowledge of the gameplay in question – whilst you don’t require expert-level skills in your chosen game, a general overview of how the game is played is a requirement, even if you’re not necessarily a good player!
- Do understand that the dealer’s word and decisions are final. Dealers are there to help you have a good time, but are ultimately bound by a myriad of gaming and security rules. Arguing with a dealer for no good reason will see you turfed out of a casino rather quickly.
- Don’t forget to tip your dealer. Dealers are ‘tipped employees’, whose basic salary before tips may be very low. There is a wide range of opinion as to how much dealers should be tipped, and when such tipping should take place. At Travel Blog, we prefer to tip the dealer periodically (every 30 mins or so of gameplay), with $5 here and there, whether we’re winning or losing! If you win big, up your tip! Consider your tip an extra payment for the entertainment and skills provided by the dealer. You can also choose to play a game hand for your dealer, whereby the dealer keeps any winnings won from said hand. Note that in either case, tips should be presented as casino chips, rather than in cash.
General casino etiquette:
Regardless of where – or what – you’re playing, there are a few spoken and unspoken rules associated with visiting a casino. Casinos are magical, hedonistic places, and it can be easy to get carried away in the atmosphere. However for a great time, note the following conduct requirements and tips:
- Orderly conduct: you’re there to have a good time. Casinos understand that, and want you to have the best possible experience (happy players = happy profits). However, avoid engaging in rude, offensive, overly-loud, or brash conduct – including drunkenness. Alcohol is readily available in casinos (more on that later), but sloppy drunkenness is not tolerated.
- Respect: Vegas casinos attract visitors (and staff) from all 4 corners of the globe. In just one casino visit you may encounter all walks of life, and people of all shapes, sizes, colours, religions and backgrounds. Set aside any personal prejudices or preconceptions, and enjoy the fact that everyone is gathered for one common purpose: fun and entertainment.
- Security: casinos are highly-secure environments, often holding hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash at any one time. Any attempt to subvert a game and/or tamper with gaming machinery will result in a swift eviction from the premises.
- Responsible gaming: know your limits, and only game with money that you can afford to lose. Remember that there’s a real world outside of the casino walls, and that the consequences of getting carried away can result in long-term difficulties.
Brilliant. I’m having a great time…but I’m thirsty!
Ending this article on a positive note, we’re pleased to report that drinks (alcoholic and non) are free of charge within Vegas casinos – as long as you are actively playing at either a table (including virtual tables) or slot machine. Drinks are offered for free regardless of how much you’re betting per hand, so feel free to feed the $0.10 slots.
However, whilst the drink is free, the service is not. As with dealers, Vegas casino drinks servers are ‘tipped employees’. They should be presented with a tip of at least $1 per drink – including for non-alcoholic drinks – payable upon delivery of the drink, and paid with either cash or casino chips. Failing to present this tip means that you are very unlikely to receive a second drink! At Travel Blog, we tend to tip $5 per drink for the first drink, followed by $1 per drink thereafter. Doing so ensures the drinks server that you know how this service works, and that the drinks will keep coming.
Drinks servers will do their rounds of tables and gaming machine areas on their own patch (noting that the casino may be split into separate patches, each with its own drinks server). There is no need to call the drinks server over – they can see you, and will come to you as soon as they can. Keep your order simple, and know what you want before you are approached by the drinks server. There is rarely any need to ask ‘what they have’, unless you have a unique taste in drinks, as they are working from a full bar. Do not be offended if (s)he asks to see your ID – although when playing at a table, dealers are often happy to give the nod that you’ve already been ID checked.
Be patient with your server – (s)he may have many other customers to deal with, each wanting their own ‘free’ drink. They are experts at what they do, so leave them to it and enjoy the gaming in the meantime, whilst awaiting your ‘free’ drink!