Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Gambling Options for Texans: Louisiana (Part 2: Other options close to Houston)

The following is a fairly comprehensive look at casino gambling options for people who reside in the State of Texas.  Now that the 84th Legislature has completed, and Tillman Fertitta has completed the Golden Nugget: Lake Charles, the expectation is that casino gambling is a long-way from coming to our State, if ever.  Of course, that doesn't mean you don't have options if you want to get your gambling on, only that each of them have plusses and minuses that should be considered.


Louisiana Part I: Lake Charles

Unlike the section covering Lake Charles the reviews of the other casino options are going to be quite different.  For all practical purposes, the Golden Nugget: Lake Charles and L'Auberge are mirror images of one another.  Once you pull out of Lake Charles however the casino options vary greatly from big, to tiny, to limited.  I'll try to address all of that here.

Delta Downs Race Track and Casino

Calling Delta Downs a "casino" is a little bit generous. I'm not sure what the proper term should be for a slots-only facility but casino never has felt right to me.  To my way of thinking, to be a proper casino you need slots, table games, either a race or sports book and Keno. A poker room is optional but doesn't hurt either.

The new term for facilities such as Delta Downs, where slot machines are coupled with a horse track and off-track-betting facility is 'racino' which I dislike strongly and am desperately trying to find a substitute.  In effect, Delta Downs is a small race track attached to a medium sized slot house. While they do have some video poker machines I have not been able to find a "full pay" machine on multiple visits. 

Their slots are regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board who mandate that payouts must be at least 80% and no higher than 99.9%.  This probably explains why you won't find full pay video poker because the payouts on those can eclipse 100% with perfect strategy. This is a case where the regulatory body is actually enforcing a policy that hurts both the casinos and players alike.

The horse track at Delta Downs is basically set up for quarter horse racing, with some limited thoroughbred action considering the short distance. They have an off-track betting facility that is pretty Spartan, and has fewer televisions, showing fewer tracks, than almost any that I've seen.

The OTB room is also terribly smoky. To be honest, if you fancy a little horse-race gambling you'd be better off either visiting Sam Houston Race Park or the Dog Track down South.

Coushatta Casino and Resort

Perhaps the best Louisiana bet for Houstonians, is the Coushatta Casino and resort in Kinder Louisiana. It's further away, about an hour additional drive than Lake Charles, but it's a much bigger casino, has more gaming options than anything in Lake Charles, and the payouts seem to be reasonable on slot machines. 

I've had reasonable success, on my visits there, finding blackjack tables at both the $5 and $10 minimum bet level, which allows you to not have to bring such a large starting bankroll as to be prohibitive*.

Over the years, Coushatta has really beefed up their poker room to the point that they have one of the best outside of Shreveport/Bossier City. The room has 20 tables, although (as with most Louisiana casinos) it's rare to find a game other than 4/8 limit, or 1/2 or 2/5 no-limit Texas Hold 'em. Their website states that they offer Omaha, so my guess is that, the times I've visited, there was just no demand.  The only thing, in my mind, that would make this better would be the inclusion of a 7-card stud table.

Coushatta caters to a more moderate gambler on slots, offering playing levels from pennies to $50, although with multiples you can wager as high as $500, machines in their high-limit salon.  One of the marketing gimmicks that Coushatta promotes is that their slots are "certified looser" than any published slot payouts in Lake Charles. I'm not sure if this alone makes it worth the additional drive, but it doesn't hurt.  They also run several promotions and have a fairly robust comp system (more on those in a later post).

Of all the casinos, I believe that Coushatta has the best video poker options for visitors. Yes, they're still limited by the silly LGCB regulations but they seem to be a little bit better in terms of finding a machine with a decent pay schedule.

One big plus at Coushatta, is the presence of a very sizable non-smoking gaming area. This is something that you won't find at many casinos (Isle of Capri has a very small area, that's not really properly segregated from the smoking area) and is a big plus if you have allergies or just don't like sitting next to a chimney stack when playing.

Outside of blackjack, Coushatta offers roulette, something they call "20X odds craps" and a variety of carnival games like 3 & 4 card poker, Let it Ride, Mississippi Stud, Pai Gow and mini Baccarat.  They also have an arcade area for the kiddos should you want to bring them along.  Unlike some other casinos, they also have an off-track betting parlor and live BINGO. Although I'm not a player myself, I understand that this is a draw for some.

Coushatta has a fairly varied dining program on-site, including 9 options for either sit-down dining or on-the-go eats. They have three hotels at or near the casino, and a nice pool with a lazy river. They also have a host of amenities including a play area for children, spa services, golf, tennis courts, a dog park and fishing on their stocked lake.  Koasati Pines is a decent golf course as well.

The main downside to Coushatta is that it is, literally, in the middle of nowhere. Once you get to the casino there's very little to do off-property. For a short, overnight, trip, this is OK, but if you're looking to spend a little longer time on vacation I'd recommend either Lake Charles or a longer trip to Shreveport/Bossier City.

In the next section, we'll turn our focus to options for Dallas gamblers, or Houstonians who want to take a longer break and endure a longer drive.

Cash Magic Casino

This is a truck stop with slot machines. It's OK for a lark if you need gas but I would not recommend making the trip just to play here.  There are much better options right down the road.

Lucky Longhorn Casino

The same as Cash Magic. This is a slot-house with nothing more to offer than a smoky gaming option, some slots and video poker.  Also, it's just a bit seedy looking from the outside.  Considering it's only about a mile further to Delta Downs I recommend you bypass and stay at the horse track. 

Both of these are OK to stop in and play on a lark though, just to say you have.

*When mentioning bankroll I'm talking about having enough money to minimize your Risk of Ruin (ROR).  ROR is the probability that you're going to lose all of your bank-roll on any game. It varies from player to player, but I believe, on blackjack, that you need to have at least enough of a bankroll to cover 20 bets in order to ride out the swings that are inherent in the game.  This is why finding lower table minimums is key.  For a $25 minimum table I want to have at least $500 at the onset. Whereas at a $5 table I can play with $100 or a $10 table $200 etc.  For a 3-day gambling trip only having $25 minimums means that I would need to have at least $1500 walking into the casino to feel comfortable. This is a very important consideration when planning where you will play depending on your risk tolerance and how much of your bankroll you want to risk.

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