Smarter Gambling Travel

Las Vegas: The Difference Between Local Casinos and the Strip

Las Vegas strip at sunset
Written by Joshua

If you aren’t a regular Las Vegas visitor, you may not have ventured far beyond the strip or perhaps Fremont Street downtown. That’s certainly OK, and for some that’s the point – visiting a different sort of place and enjoying one’s self.

But if you’re a gambler in search of value, you’re not going to find it on the strip, and you’ll selectively find it downtown. The locals casinos, by comparison, are going to be much more likely to provide that true value, as they have to cater to a market that’s likely more in the know about options than just about anyone else.

So, if you’ve visited Vegas a few times but haven’t ventured out of the tourist zones, here’s a few reasons why you might want to check out the locals casinos.

Better Video Poker Pay Tables

Emerald Island royal flush

The strip doesn’t offer great pay tables most of the time. Downtown, some casinos have some options for those looking for full pay tables. But many of the locals casinos have a more generous array of options, and at lower denominations, than their counterparts in the more popular areas.

An example is this penny denomination full pay Jacks or Better machine that I played at Emerald Island in Henderson. While this is on the more extreme end of what you can find, it’s not hard to find full pay options on quarters at many of the locals properties.

Better Slot Machine Paybacks

As a casino executive said on forums awhile back, video poker is a good sign of what to expect across the rest of the machines on the floor, especially slots. So for instance, a casino offering better pay tables on video poker is likely also offering better paybacks on slots.

And while slot paybacks may not matter in a small session or two, many gamblers play for hours, days or even weeks in a market like Vegas, and that will eventually add up over time.

Better Table Game Rules, Minimums

Similarly, it’s not uncommon to find better table minimums outside of the tourist zones, and better table rules too. The excellent Vegas Advantage does an annual Blackjack and table games survey, and as they note on their locals casino entry, many locals casinos offer lower minimums and better rules.

This can mean finding a $3 or $5 minimum, for instance, on games that are $10 and above downtown and even higher on the strip.

More Diverse Entertainment

Because many locals casinos are serving a different type of audience, you’ll tend to find more diverse and affordable entertainment options, like bowling alleys and movie theaters, vs. what you’d find on the strip or downtown.

Restaurant options also tend to be a bit more diverse, although you’ll certainly find high end and more affordable options at strip locations and downtown too. That said, many strip casinos’ most affordable options are basic food courts, whereas the locals casinos can many times go in more unique directions.

The Biggest Downside: Comp Program Weaknesses

If the gambling’s better, it’s not uncommon to find the comps program to be weaker, and in this case for tourists considerably weaker. Many of the locals casinos’ comp programs have shorter time horizons.

It’s not uncommon to find 6 months or even 3 months, compared to the standard calendar year tier cycle that you traditionally find on casinos that serve tourists. Given many take an annual trip to Las Vegas, it’s a long enough gap that would cause players to lose status at locals casinos.

For instance, I tiered up with Stations Casinos during my 2020 Vegas trip, but since I haven’t visited since September, and they’re on six month cycles, I’m now down to the base tier again, and all perks for being at that higher tier are now gone.

They also can penalize Video Poker players, for instance, by not allowing them to earn comp dollars or force them to be a higher level before earning anything. The strip casinos don’t really care, since their pay tables are often lower and you earn at a slower pace for video poker anyway.

Easy Accessibility is Tougher

The other downside is they’re not on the strip or downtown, where bunches of other casinos are clustered. You realistically need a rental car, good mass transit access (such as a day pass) or perhaps choose one location to hit for the day, where an Uber there and back is more achievable.

If you’re not gambling too much, whatever you benefit from better gambling conditions could be offset by the cost of getting there, so you should always factor in what makes the most sense based on your specific circumstances.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.

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