When it comes to casinos, Florida is no Las Vegas. The Seminole Tribe, owner of six casinos across the state; and Disney, owner of, well, everything else, have been doing their darnedest to make sure it stays that way. Both pumped millions into an anti-casino campaign in 2018 in an effort to keep the competition at bay. But there are still plenty of good options for people looking to scratch their gambling itch. You just need to stay abreast of the casinos' offerings so you (and your lungs) know what you’re walking into.
Here's our list of the nine best casinos in South Florida. Good luck!
The Big Easy Casino831 N. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach
Hurricane Irma left the Mardi Gras Casino in shambles in 2017 when the storm tore the roof off the place. That's when Fontainebleau Miami Beach owner Jeffrey Soffer stepped in to purchase the casino. Under his ownership, the venue was remodeled and renamed the Big Easy Casino. Here you'll find more than 700 slots and what Big Easy claims is the largest number of video poker games in Florida. Need a smoke while you play? The patio for smokers, billed the Dog Pound, offers slot machines in addition to flat-screen TVs and luxury seating. Just don't expect to see any real dogs here or anywhere else in the casino — Big Easy is dunzo with live greyhound racing. Sunday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 a.m., Friday and Saturday 24 hours.
The Casino @ Dania Beach301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach
Regardless of whether you know what a cesta is, you should catch jai alai in person at least once in your life. There might not be a better place to watch a bunch of dudes whip the ball at 200-plus mph than this Dania Beach casino, which has been hosting jai alai for more than 60 years. Jai alai doesn't command anywhere close to the number of spectators that it did in its heyday, but the sport still has a following here, where the 500-seat court was renovated not too long ago. It doesn't hurt that you can put a little action on the competition either. Prefer to try your luck on a game you actually understand? The smoke-free casino has more than 750 slots and a 24-table card room. Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 a.m., Friday through Sunday 24 hours.
Gulfstream Park901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach
Looking for somewhere to play the ponies? Gulfstream offers live racing year-round except in October and November on its charming track, complete with a pond in the center. The kiddies will love gawking at the horses up close from the paddock and then watching them haul ass around the track. Adults and children alike will dig the 110-foot bronze Pegasus sculpture towering over the entrance, which is said to be the second-tallest statue in the continental United States. (Number one is Lady Liberty.) Admission to the track and parking are free, so there are two fewer costs to worry about when you’re getting shellacked at the track or the two-floor casino. Open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Hialeah Park Racing & Casino100 E. 32nd St., Hialeah
One of South Florida's most storied gambling venues, Hialeah Park opened to the public in 1922, when it was named the Miami Kennel Club. Back then, the spot was little more than a greyhound-racing track. Now, after a huge renovation, the site offers electronic roulette and blackjack, as well as more than 800 slot machines. A poker room on the second floor draws players from across the region to regularly scheduled tournaments. And horses have replaced the greyhounds at the venue, with seasonal races onsite and year-round races simulcast on screens in the Champions Sports Bar. Fun fact: Hialeah Park is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and as an Audubon Bird Sanctuary, the latter thanks to the colony of flamingos living on the racetrack's infield. 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Thursday; open 24 hours a day Friday through Sunday.
Isle Casino Pompano Park777 Isle of Capri Circle, Pompano Beach
There's been talk of a massive ten-year expansion at Pompano Park beginning in 2020 that would include a lake and entertainment district. Until then, visitors can enjoy live horseracing ten months out of the year, a 40-plus table poker room, and nearly 1,500 slot machines in this smoke-free "racino" (a portmanteau of "racetrack" and "casino"). And don't forget to stuff your face with shrimp and crab legs at Farmer's Pick Buffet's enjoyable seafood spread. Pigging out at a casino buffet is a time-honored tradition. Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Friday through Sunday 24 hours.
Magic City Casino450 NW 37th Ave., Miami
This Miami casino is more than just the setting of the dirty-dancing-elderly-couple video, which went viral in 2017. Magic City offers 800 slot machines and boasts that it pays more jackpots than any other casino in Miami. And, in 2018, it replaced greyhound racing (Floridians voted to ban commercial greyhound racing by the end of 2020) with jai alai. As documented in Miami filmmaker Billy Corben’s documentary Magic City Hustle, the nonsmoking casino converted former athletes from the University of Miami into Magic City jai alai players. For something completely out of the norm, check out the casino's kitschy Burger Museum, run by local blogger Sef Gonzalez, AKA Burger Beast. Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., Friday and Saturday 10 to 5 a.m.
Miccosukee Resort & Gaming500 Krome Ave., Miami
If you've never ventured farther west than Tamiami, you've probably never encountered Miccosukee Resort & Gaming. You're also definitely missing out. Here, players have their choice of 2,000 machines, ranging from new releases to classic slots. But if you want to go really old-school, head to the Bingo Hall, a resort institution dating to 1990. And, hey, if you win big (or you just throw back a few too many at the martini bar), you can celebrate by crashing at the resort for the night. Open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
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Seminole Casino Coconut Creek5550 NW 40th St., Coconut Creek
No need to hit up a machine to get your blackjack fix. Like the Seminole Hard Rock, Coconut Creek is one of only a handful of casinos in Florida legally allowed to offer live-action blackjack. (The others, not coincidentally, are also Seminole properties. The tribe made a deal with the state in exchange for a percentage of the revenue.) But if you prefer a little man-versus-machine action, the smoke-heavy Coconut Creek, which offers a nonsmoking second floor, boasts 2,000 slot machines, including the Walking Dead 2, Monopoly Hot Shot, and Wonder Woman Wild. If lady luck is your side, treat yourself to the New York Yankees-themed high-end steakhouse, NYY Steak. Open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino1 Seminole Way, Hollywood
Look for the 450-foot-tall guitar-shaped hotel — not that you can miss it from the Turnpike or just about anywhere else within a couple of miles. The gnarly guitar tower is part of the Hollywood hotel and casino's $1.5 billion renovation, which is scheduled to be completed this fall and is said to include 3,000 new slot machines, 193 table games, and a 46-table poker room. The complex also offers the best music and comedy acts among all South Florida casinos, fine-dining Japanese restaurant Kuro, and a 4.5-acre lagoon-style pool. Plus, the place is part of morbid pop-culture history: Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental prescription drug overdose on the property in 2007. Open 24 hours a day seven days a week.