There is something unabashedly over-the-top about a casino — even above and beyond it being a place where the brave risk losing a lot of money in hopes of gaining more. And as gaming culture becomes increasingly popular, the casino experience has grown into far more than blackjack and slots, often involving renowned names in the hotel, food and entertainment worlds.
While Las Vegas remains the gold standard, there are several international hot spots — both classic and new — that deserve attention. Take the endlessly sophisticated Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which is located next to Casino de Monte-Carlo, the grande dame of the gaming world. Elegant galas are hosted often at restaurant La Salle Empire, and chef Alain Ducasse runs his Michelin three-star Louis XV here.
In Singapore the entire Marina Bay Sands entertainment complex, including a casino (among countless other points of interest), is now valued at roughly $US8 billion, making it the most expensive stand-alone casino property in the world. And tucked away in the Swiss Alps is the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, with its newly renovated gaming floor, spa, two golf courses and thermal pools. The bucolic mountain setting tempers the traditionally bombastic casino vibe, proving that even when it comes to a casino hotel, you can have it both ways.
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The 2008 addition of the Water Club brought a luxurious arm to the Borgata's already buzzing complex. Its 800 rooms dropped the traditional casino vibe in favour of warm colour schemes and glossy furniture. A stay here will still give you access to many of the Borgata's amenities like Fly Borgata (its recently launched 30-seat luxury jet) and all of its restaurants from marquee chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay. (Geoffrey Zakarian is the Water Club's culinary lifestyle consultant.) Enjoy five pools and the entirely relaxing two-story Immersion Spa, which features incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Rooms start at $US90; 1 Borgata Way; 609-317-1000; theborgata.com.
It's hard to find a more iconic hotel than the 150-year-old Hôtel de Paris, which appeared in two James Bond films and is adjacent to the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the inspiration for the casino in Ian Fleming's first James Bond book,Casino Royale. The 182-room Belle Epoque hotel has a gilded lobby adorned with low-relief sculptures and crystal chandeliers. But even these pale in comparison to what is found elsewhere in the hotel. The Winston Churchill suite, for example, is done up with the former prime minister's own furniture. (He was a frequent guest.) And down in the half-million-bottle wine cellar sits a prized 1929 bottle of Château Margaux priced at $US12,000.
Rooms start at $US490; Place du Casino; 377-98/063-000; hoteldeparismontecarlo.com.
The March 2013 rechristening of the Hotel Casino Carrasco, which had been closed since 1997, as the Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa was no simple task. It took 400 working days to bring the abandoned building back to its former glory, and the taxing refurbishment is most evident on the hotel's ground floor. Architects and restorers meticulously removed layers of paint to reveal the original plaster-based stucco, tempera painting and 18- and 22-karat gold leaf. The space is now home to three dining venues, including Restaurant 1921, which specialises in French and Uruguayan dishes. To heighten the experience of staying in any of the 116 rooms and suites, guests are invited to choose their own interior fragrance and soaps made exclusively for the hotel and presented in an elegant wooden box.
Rooms start at $US340; Rambla República de México 6451; 598/2604-6060; sofitel.com.
The Crown Melbourne entertainment complex actually features three different hotels, all of which have access to its gaming floors. But the most extravagant is Crown Towers. Unveiled in 1997, the hotel -- an Art Deco -- inspired, 32-floor property -- underwent a renovation in 2009 and re-opened three years later with some of the most luxurious suites in all of Australia. The 32 Crown Towers Villas, which are favoured by top tennis players like Li Na, who stay in them during the two-week Australian Open every January, come with the best amenities in town (personal butlers, private elevators, massive soaking tubs, handcrafted furniture) and floor-to-ceiling views of downtown Melbourne or Port Phillip Bay. The Presidential Villa takes up the entirety of the building's top floor.
Rooms start at $US355; 8 Whiteman St.; 61-613/9292-8888; crownhotels.com.au
One of London's most iconic hotels, the May Fair was inaugurated in 1927 by King George V. Since then it has received acclaim for its glamorous Palm Beach Casino (one of the largest gaming venues in the city), its 201-seat private screening room, the bustling May Fair bar and the brand-new Cigar Room. Its 45 boldly designed May Fair suites are so popular, they have a dedicated website (themayfairsuites.com), making it easy to peruse the available selection of studios, duplexes and wings. The sprawling and utterly modern Ebony Suite is a favourite, with its massive terrace and straight-from-Japan Toto bathroom technology, which includes heat-sensitive basin controls, an illuminated bath and plenty of automated features.
Rooms start at $US230; Stratton St.; 44-20/7629-7777; themayfairhotel.co.uk.
Part of the harbor-side entertainment destination that is The Star (which includes David Chang's Momofuku Seiobo, a grand two-floor casino, a spa, numerous high-end shopping outlets, eight different nightlife venues and a well-known performance hall), The Darling opened in 2011 along with the complex's approximately $US810 million renovation. The 171 guest rooms are split into five categories, and while the spacious Jewel Suites are stylish enough, you'll want one of the 12 Stellar Suites, where the staff will tailor services and amenities to each guest.
Rooms start at $US280; 80 Pyrmont St.; 61-2/9777-9000; thedarling.com.au.
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