Whether you’re a blackjack player, enjoying throwing some dice, or just like taking a seat at the poker table, there are numerous options for some gambling fun either at a live “real money” or online casinos. From Las Vegas to Monte Carlo, there are casinos of every type and for every style of player.

However, some properties stand out for their uniqueness and location. These aren’t exactly what someone might think of when heading to the Las Vegas Strip or another gambling location. These casinos feature some of the strangest locations one might find in the gambling world.

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1 – Nevada State Prision

A casino available to murders, thieves, and other criminals serving time may not seem likely, but that was the reality for prisoners at the Nevada State Prison. Obviously the state has a long history in the casino and gaming industry, but allowing craps and blackjack in a prison? That just seems too unlikely.

It’s not. The facility became the state’s first full-time prison in 1962 and housed some of the state’s worst criminals. The prison began carrying out death sentences starting in 1903, first with hangings and later with firing squads beginning in 1910. The facility then became the first to execute a prisoner using lethal gas in 1925. Lethal injection became the preferred method in 1985.

Prison officials stressed work and community service for inmates to pass their long hours of boredom and to help rehabilitate themselves. Work opportunities were plentiful including the prison farm, constructing roads, or in the auto shop.

But there was one other unique work opportunity – the prison casino. Gambling became legal in Nevada in 1931 and prison officials apparently believed learning the trade might serve the incarcerated men as well. Prisoners could also stay busy with something other than plotting crimes, fighting, antagonizing guards, and other acts that might take up their day.

The casino ran from 1932 until 1967 and was originally held in a solid rock room carved from the sandstone surrounding the property. Known as the “Bull Pen,” the gambling den certainly became a unique feature.

An average day was similar to one might find in a modern casino, except for the gamblers. A night in the casino saw players of every age, race, and criminal record. Players gathered around the craps, blackjack, or poker tables. There was even a sports book. The operation was run by and for inmates, but local businessmen and other  guests from outside the prison even came to play on occasion. 

Prisoners engaging in some gambling could actually win real money, this wasn’t a free-to-play learning experience.

“To facilitate the games, prison officials authorized the use of Nevada State Prison-issued tokens that came to be known as ‘brass,’” the book Images of America: Nevada State Prison notes. “Brass was issued in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents as well as $1 and $5.

“In the 1930s, prison brass could be used to buy items in the prison store, or it could be deposited in the prison office, where it could be backed ‘dollar for dollar.’ A checking system on par with the banking industry was in place, whereby the inmates would get a statement each month showing deposits and withdrawals.”

Unfortunately for the prison’s gamblers, a riot in 1967 led to the closure of the Bull Pen. A new warden brought some changes to the property. Prison gambling was soon replaced by braiding, painting, and beadwork – quite a change from rolling dice, playing cards, and making a parlay bet.

 

 

2 – The Desert Cave

The town of Coober Pedy is located about 500 miles from Adelaide, Australia. The mining town is known for its underground dwellings because of constant wind and dry, hot weather. One of the town's citizens, Umberto Coro, hoped to bring a little news and economic benefit to his town by opening the Desert Cave Hotel.

Coro passed away in 1986 but his son completed the project two years later. As the name implies, much of the hotel is located underground (although above-ground rooms are also available). The hotel even features a casino carved out of the rocky terrain, where players can play slot machines (known as pokies in Australia) or some blackjack in this man-made cave.

And while this gambling hall may be “underground,” it’s certainly not illegal. Players will find a unique experience when heading down for some gaming.

“People fond of playing casino games can enjoy an altogether different type of casino gaming experience here,” one visitor notes. “It’s not without reason that this hotel is known to offer one of the most exotic gambling experiences to the world.”

 

3 – Cadbury Court

Like the Desert Cave, this unique property offers the chance for some “underground” gambling, albeit in a completely different atmosphere. Many travelers may dream of a trip to the British countryside and the North Cadbury Court offers visitors a chance to do just that – with some casino gambling also part of the trip.

This amazing 16th-century country home features 1,500 acres for weddings, corporate events, family getaways, special celebrations, and many other events. The estate features 25 bedrooms, a large dining hall, ballroom, lawn tennis courts, roof-top golf tee, indoor swimming pool and spa, and a lake on the grounds. This is a once-of-a-kind vacation with brilliant views of the surrounding rural setting just a two-hour drive from London in the Somerset countryside. The area also includes Cadbury Hill Fort, believed to be the home of King Arthur's Camelot.

On-site activities include swimming, golf, fishing, tennis, croquet, archery, and much more. Gamblers looking for blackjack, roulette, and poker may be more interested in the casino. The owners of the house completely renovated the basement, which now houses one of the smallest casinos in the world. The venue can host only about 30 people at a time, but players will find a cool, stylish experience.

This isn’t the Las Vegas Strip, and players will find a subdued and sophisticated gambling experience – thin more high-end than T-shirt and shorts. North Cadbury Court offers a great opportunity to connect with nature mixed with a boutique casino experience.

4 – Casino di Venezia

This casino’s inclusion may have more to do with when it was founded than where it’s located, although the location is pretty unique as well. When many gamblers think of old casinos, downtown Las Vegas and some of the city’s classic casinos may come to mind.

But those properties don’t even come close to the longevity of Casino di Venezia. This is the oldest gambling house in the world and dates all the way back to 1638. The famed property is located on Venice's Grand Canal and offers quite a trip back in European history.

The venue originally functioned as a theater when it was built in the 15th century, but 138 years later also opened a wing for gambling during intermissions of theater productions. Casino di Venezia now offers a complete casino experience in an amazing European atmosphere.

The decor features rich and ornate details with much of the same look one would have found hundreds of years ago including large wooden doors. Getting to the place also comes with quite a unique transportation option. Jump in a gondola and enjoy a relaxing casino trip down a canal as this unique gambling experience awaits.

 

5 – Saloon No. 10

Dead Man’s Hand is one of poker’s most well-known hands – as well as the events that preceded this infamous combination of cards. On Aug. 2, 1876, famed lawman, gunslinger, and gambler “Wild Bill” Hickok played in a Five Card Stud game at Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon in the Dakota Territory.

The mining town offered plenty of gambling and other endeavors that might please a young worker with some cash to spend. Hickok only recently moved to town and found some card games to hopefully win some money.

That night, a gambler named Jack McCall entered the saloon and later positioned himself behind Hickok, then raised his pistol and fired. The lawman died instantly at only age 39. Players claimed he held two black Aces and two black 8s at the time. The hand, since known as Dead Man’s Hand, and the story remain a huge part of poker history.

Like Hickok, poker fans and casino gamblers who appreciate a bit of the Old West can still head to Deadwood, located in South Dakota’s picturesque Black Hills National Forest. A stop at Saloon No. 10 is a must. It’s a  recreation of the original saloon where Hickok was struck down.

The venue is part museum, part saloon, and part casino. Visitors will find thousands of artifacts, antiques, and historical photographs of Deadwood’s wild west past. The property hosts historical re-enactments (including the shooting of Wild Bill), live music, a steakhouse, and of course, plenty of whiskey.

And just like Wild Bill, saloon goers can also take in a little gambling. The property features blackjack, poker, and slot machines. At just 3,000 square feet Saloon No. 10 won’t be confused with a Las Vegas MGA resort, but that’s part of the fun.

Gambling houses in the Old West were located in bars and cantinas. A cowboy, miner, or someone passing through could pop in and gamble a few hours while sipping a whiskey or beer. Those heading to Deadwood can still do the same at this property, only without the gunplay one might have found in the old days.

 

6 – The X-Train

Las Vegas has numerous casinos all over town. From the world-famous Strip to more vintage properties downtown to more “locals” casinos around town, there is a property for every type of player taste and bankroll. One company is planning not only to bring more gamblers to town, but also allow them to bet on casino games while they make the trip.

The X-Train, officially known as the Las Vegas Railway Express, would create a high-end train line running from Southern California to Las Vegas. Developers envision 16 passenger cars, 12 of which will be first-class service. The train would include televisions, a bar area, and even a casino. Owners were expecting to refurbish and update several carriages at a price of $1 million per carriage.

The project has been underway since 2010 with the official start of construction pushed back several times. The train is now expected to officially begin construction in 2023 with a downtown Las Vegas station and eventual service starting at five days a week. The entire project is expected to cost $8 billion and take three years to complete.

The X-Train is expected to reach 180 mph, allowing Los Angeles gamblers a high-speed rail option to get to the gaming tables and slot machines. Artist renderings depict a posh gaming carriage with several tables and a bar with slots and video poker games built into the bar as at a land-based casino.

The L.A.-to-Vegas trip is expected to take about 3.5 hours and when the train gets rolling, this railway casino offers impatient travelers a chance at some gambling before the X-Train even reaches Sin City.

 

7 – Mile High Casino Club

This unique casino brings a bit of a different meaning to the term “high roller.” The Casino Jet Lounge is actually only a design at this point from the French companies Airjet Designs and Designescence. The design is based on the interior of a Boeing 777 jet and accommodates fliers who may prefer playing some blackjack to napping or reading a book.

The goal is to provide “new social travel experiences for the long-haul traveler,” AirJet founder and creative director Jean-Pierre Alfano tells Robb Report.

The concept brings back the idea of airline flight being a social experience, complete with lounge seating and casino gaming tables. The casino concept hasn’t been incorporated yet in a jet, but some aspects of the idea have been used in other aircraft since the unveiling of the design.

 

 

8 – Genting Highlands

Developers envisioned something more than just a casino at Genting Highlands. The Resorts World Genting casino highlights the resort, but there's much more than just casino gambling in this massive property on the peak of Mount Ulu Kali in Malaysia.

The resort is a virtual city complete with amusement parks, restaurants, shops, apartments, housing areas, a sporting center, a concert hall, a Buddhist temple, and much more. The city is an all-encompassing resort destination at about 5,900 feet elevation complete with cable cars.

The destination is located just a short trip from the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The property also offers guests some brilliant views of the 150 million-year-old rainforest below. A visit to the Genting Highlands offers a one-of-a-kind gaming experience with so much more to check out beyond the casino.


*Credit for the cover photo in this article belongs to AP Photo/Michelle Rindels*
 

About the Author
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Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, PokerNews.com, HoldemRadio.com, and other platforms.