PA/AC Trip- Part 1 of 3This past Monday, while at work, I decided I wanted to check out the PA casinos. After a little switch up and some quick research, I realized I could do an impromptu trip to the Eastern PA casinos with a side trip to Atlantic City if I drove as soon as I got off work and got back an hour before I worked on Thursday. I created my travel plans and I'm on my way... WOO HOO!
So I live in Central Ohio, and the drive to the closest casino is about 2 hours, either to Wheeling, WV or Hollywood Casino, Lawrenceburg, IN. I don't care for either option, so I normally drive 3.5 hours to Horseshoe Southern Indiana. I don't mind driving, and the Kentucky leg is a nice drive if you like a little scenery.
Driving across Pennsylvania is just as nice, if not nicer. The bad thing is it's mostly turnpikes, meaning tolls. These aren't .50 cent tolls; no the drive across the entire state is about $20! Then again, I never saw a cop so I went about 80 mph where I could to shorten the drive. You get tunnels, turns and hills, so it's not nearly as boring as the drive across the Midwest. After about 6 hours, and one pit stop, I finally arrived at my first destination...
By the way, (adding this after starting the Hollywood review), PA casinos have very similar rules at all casinos. Unless otherwise noted, BJ is all S17, Surrender allowed, no RSA. Craps is 3x,4x,5x odds, Stingy payout on the field. Roulette is 00. TCP is lousy payout schedule.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO AT PENN NATIONAL... This casino is very similar to Hollywood Lawrenceburg. The layout is very interesting, as it's a rather small casino, but divided to make it seem a lot bigger than what it is. It's VERY themed, with a ship, central park, and a huge wavy screen in the table games section. It's very pretty and flashy. I decided to play PGP, since it had the lowest minimums. First hand, I get a full house!!! Woo hoo! After that, the shuffling machines, which use the display that tells the house way for each hand, decided to give the house the BEST hands, including a straight flush. I KNOW that those machines have to be random, legally, but I'll be darned if those things always beat every player with their strange house way. After the Flush with pair of aces up and straight flush, I was done. I ended up about $7.
*Mini-Bacc was available. Craps for $10, Ultimate Holdem, Spanish 21 and some other carnival games were offered. VP had lousy paybacks. A small poker room was also available.
Overall, Hollywood seemed very nice. But now it was time to get my first taste of the Sun...
MOHEGAN SUN AT POCONO DOWNS... I've always wanted to visit the Conn. properties, as I hear they are gigantic. Alas, this property is not huge, but the game selection is surprisingly good. I got there about 3:00am, and with a lot of other places to head, I didn't want to spend too much time playing. They had a $25 Tiles table, and after watching a hand, I was surprised when the dealer invited me to the table filled with Asians. The dealer was very good, and one guy was banking occasionally, although the rest got out of the hand he banked on. I played it, and lost one and pushed the other. I collected my dollar after a short time and got up. I did see $5 craps and BJ, as well as Spanish 21 available. There were two PGP tables, but neither had the bonus bets.
Mohegan Sun has a nice circular layout. It's small but cozy and very nice... However it was time to catch some air...
MOUNT AIRY CASINO RESORT... This is one of the few PA casinos that has a hotel option. It looks very impressive from the outside, and I'm sure the rates are ridiculous, even though it's out in the middle of nowhere. The casino is up an escalator from the parking lot, and it's very colorful, with backlit bars and high ceilings. The table games are up front, and at about 4:30 am, they had a ton of $5 tables... actually, about 5 tables open and most having no action. Apparently, they over hired on dealers, and they don't care much of toke rates. After trying to figure out what I wanted to play, I decided to try some craps. This was a mistake... let's just leave it at that. There is a poker room, but it's very small, and at the time I was there, it was closed. Also available was an Asian themed room. I just poked my head in, but I didn't see Tiles available. The stuff I've read says they have it, so someone will have to confirm which is true.
The ride out there was very strange, but my next stop is the little town of Bethlehem...
SANDS CASINO RESORT... Located in the heart of a steel mill, Sands stands out with a really big sign that you drive under. My first reaction was "Whoa!" Something about the Sands logo makes me smile. It's a really cool sign. Anyways, the parking garage here looks like it's covered in asbestos. I don't know if it is, but just be aware if you stay in there too long, you might end up with cancer. Anyways, the casino is very large by comparison. The poker area (not really a room) looks to have about 30-40 tables, which seems impressive in PA. There were 4 Pai Gow Tables and (Heather, you'll be happy) 2 Sic Bo tables. There's an Asian themed area and a high limit room. Table mins at 6:00am on Tuesday morning were QUITE high, mostly $15 and $25 bacc. I think this is a bit ridiculous. While I normally shy away from $10 craps, I decided to give it a whirl... ICK! The dice hated me there, so I left after losing a bit, and decided to head on to my next destination.
I will cover the rest of PA in part 2.
Council Bluffs, IA- Casino ReviewsFor those haven't been to Iowa, you aren't missing much. There is corn, cows and of course, Iowa football (this reviewer is very biased towards Iowa football btw). However, Council Bluffs offers some interesting gaming options in what has become one of the top 30 gaming markets in the country.
For those of you who don't know, Iowa was the first state outside of Nevada and New Jersey to legalize statewide gaming. At the time, they set the normal "Midwest" laws; it had to be on a boat, the boat had to cruise when able, loss limits were in place (200 max) and they were supposed to be family destinations. Unlike nearby Missouri, Illinois and others, Iowa adapted to the climate a bit better, and now they are allowed to be on land (without necessarily being a racino), the loss limits are long gone (Missouri eliminated theirs in 2008), and they even allow free alcohol to be served, as long as it's 'comped.'
Council Bluffs was one of the first cities to see state casinos to open up. CasinOmaha near Onawa, IA was one of the first Indian gaming establishments, but after the casinos popped up, the Indian casinos had a hard time competing. Council Bluffs is directly across the river from Omaha, NE, and as such, the traffic is derived from the two cities. Omaha has relatively low unemployment, and while the people of Omaha have been begging to get casinos in Nebraska (with a possible MGM Grand proposed downtown at one point), the 45 people who live in Western Nebraska have managed to keep that evil away.
Options in CB include Ameristar, Harrah's and Horseshoe. Of course, Harrah's and Horseshoe are owned by the same people, Caesars, and they market the two as one option. Ameristar and Harrah's are both located on riverboats across from scenic downtown Omaha (jokingly of course), while Horseshoe is located off I-80 about a mile away from the Missouri River. Horseshoe is located at the Bluffs Run greyhound track, and used to be a slots only joint until Iowa allowed a provision for table games. It was the first Horseshoe that the Harrah's corporation opened using the newly acquired Horseshoe name.
All three casinos offer hotel options. Harrah's and Ameristar each operate their own hotels; both Ameristar and Horseshoe also have "partner" options nearby. The casinos are not within walking distance of each other, but there is a shuttle that runs between Harrah's and Horseshoe. All three offer buffets, steakhouses, sports bar type options and a diner option. Ameristar also offers Kid's Quest, where you can take little Johnny to play while you lose the house on the boat. So starting from the North...
HARRAH'S- This opened as a Harvey's, and converted to Harrah's after the acquisition. When it opened, it was very competitive especially in the table games department. The convention center attached offered very nice facilities. The casino, while a little gaudy, was much brighter than Ameristar and the dealers all knew how to offer a good time.
Fast forward to now, and Harrah's probably only remains open because of the company owned hotel and the concert facilities. Table games have become an afterthought, and they recently renovated the third floor to be a "Club" which is kind of a hybrid Diamond Lounge/Gaming area. It's really a bizarre combination. Most of the good dealers transferred to Horseshoe, although the employees are allowed to hop between properties, both to play and work.
BJ is standard CB rules: 8-deck, H17, DAS, DA2, NO RSA, NO SURRENDER. Table mins at Harrah's start at about $5. They used to offer $3 tables that paid 6:5, butI didn't see that option available. Craps is offered, 10x odds, and triple on 12 on the field. 00 Roulette, Three Card Poker (with 6-card side bet, no million dollar option), MS Stud, and Pai Gow Poker are the other main options. I can't remember if they have LIR, or Texas Hold Em Bonus (UPDATE WILL BE COMING). VP offers include 9-5 JoB (but watch out, machines next to each other offer different schedules).
Promotions are key at Harrah's. Check out their monthly calendar, it's posted as you walk in. They do have a lot of promotions to get people in the door. Overall, Harrah's is showing it's age, mostly because Caesars gave all the anti-aging cream to Horseshoe. However, for a quieter, yet more party atmosphere, Harrah's is a nice alternative.
AMERISTAR- First off, I used to love Ameristar. The table games were great, the dealers friendly, but not crazy like at Harrah's, and they had some good options and if you want to see the next new game, this is the place to go. Four Card Poker, Texas Shootout, Siverado Stud, Rabbit Hunter all got their start at Ameristar CB.
While the property has aged BETTER than Harrah's, it's still on a boat that is simply too small to really renovate. The lighting is ridiculously dark and the setup is crowded. I should mention here that this was the first casino in the area to offer a cashier/player's club combined services, and frankly, I HATE IT! Lines are always too long, and service is slow. All three casinos do this and I think it's a bad idea.
Ameristar is a slot parlor with table games on the side. This is apparent in all the advertising; instead of advertising their promotions, they instead post pictures of their new slots (Right now that includes one about puppies and Aristocrat's All Stars). Certain slots do accrue points faster than others, so I guess if you like slots, this is your go-to. My mom is pretty much a slot player, and she's got elite status in their club. Their player's club does reflect this, although table game players can earn cash back for table play.
Table games include standard CB BJ rules. They do offer a DD game with the same rules, but table mins are $25 in their high limit pit. There is a continuous shuffler Spanish 21 table with bad rules, H17, no redouble, Ultimate Texas Hold Em, MS Stud, TCP (with progressive), Rabbit Hunter, LIR, Four Card, Emperor's Challenge Pai Gow, and EZ Pai Gow (Go Dan, although when I was there, EZ was closed and EC was open and full). Craps offers the stingy field bet, and 10x odds. There are some table games upstairs as well, but those only open on the weekends. I haven't found anything good on VP...
Overall, if you like slot machines, you will adore Ameristar. They have new slots, hot slots and everything else you can imagine. The buffet is the best in town, and outside of those things, I'm done... I'll take Horseshoe any day... speaking of which...
HORSESHOE- As I mentioned, this is the old Bluffs Run Casino which only offered slot machines. When approved for table games, Harrah's transferred all the resources over to this property and made this the crown jewel. The casino is very nice, although pales in comparison to Hollywood's or even the new Horseshoe in Hammond. Of all the Horseshoe's I've been to, this one feels the most like it's run by Harrah's/Caesars.
BJ is 6-deck, standard CB rules. They do offer a high limit area toward the racing area that S17 on the shoe game, and the DD game is similar to that at Ameristar, but at higher limits ($50). Also included is TCP, MS Stud, Ultimate Hold Em, Pai Gow Poker, Spanish 21 (H17, redouble allowed), LIR, 00 Roulette and Rapid Roulette. Craps offers 100x odds (good) but stingy field. Mornings offer $3 mins too.
Horseshoe also offers the area's only poker room. The amenities are nice, but I have a few gripes about it. First, the rake is 10% up to $5.50 a hand. This means they rake to the .50, plus they take a dollar for a high hand jackpot. These progressives ARE more likely to hit than a BB Jackpot, but the rake is just ridiculous (but at least it's a no flop no drop policy). The card check-in is the old drop your card off and pick it up when you play. That's fine if you're cashing out chips, but if you bust out, you often forget to get your card. I have more than once got out to the parking lot only to realize I need to go grab my card. The action is pretty weak though, and I've posted a ton of winning sessions on my visits.
Overall, the Horseshoe is a nice casino, although Horseshoe Tunica and Southern Indiana blow this one out of the water. However for a good time, Horseshoe does offer a nice value.
Stay tuned for my personal reports.... possibly...
I really don't see any reason why you would not go to Horseshoe. It is easier to get to, parking is easier, and there is stuff around it, and room to move around. I see Harrah's and Ameristar becoming more like locals' casinos.
Nice report... but those 45 people in western Nebraska might argue with you whether Iowa even has a football team. I lived in Blair, NE as a kid and my dads bank gave us Huskers seasons tickets...man o man late 70's early 80's Nebraska football was insane. For anyone with kids who like baseball the College World Series in Omaha every year is a great opportunity to watch god baseball at a fair price.
Teddys- I agree that Horseshoe is the best of the three. It's just AS a Horseshoe I've come to expect more. Yesterday, I found out that apparently they do write comps like they do at other Horseshoes, although I don't know how accurate that is. I've never had anybody offer to do it there, unlike the other properties, so I guess that's why I question it.
Scotty- So you're just a country mile north then?? My Dad's side of the family is entirely from Iowa, and much of my Mom's side is (I have cousins who live in Iowa City, though ironically, they are also Kansas fans). Being an Iowa fan in Husker territory is tough, but now that they are both in the Big Ten it's more prominent. Stores in Omaha now sell Iowa gear, which is awesome.
I lived there from '78-83. Blair was a nice town (minus Ft. Calhoun Nuclear plant). Its a good football rivalry for sure. I do miss the old Big 8 though. A good friend of mine just got relocated to work in Omaha, he was bummed but I told him people are much more friendly than here in the Chicago area and there is plenty to do.... just stay away from the "runza's"
It's been so long since I've been there, does Omaha still have "The Old Market" area? My folks used to take us to a Jazz bar when we were kids.
Oh my god, Runza is terrible! Read my blog for a story of my cross-country trip where I broke down in the Runza parking lot in Kearney, Neb. and had to wait for five hours with only a Runza for nourishment!
I'm afraid I'm going to have to block both of your comments if you're going to talk negatively about Runza.
Runzas themselves are not good... but they have THE BEST fast food cheeseburgers (save Portillo's in Chicago) and their fries are to DIE FOR.
That may be true -- let me amend my comments to change that to lower case "runza" at "Runza(tm)." Wouldn't suspect the cheeseburgers to be good, but often those turn up in the places you'd least expect them: viz., your example of Portillo's (known for hot dogs) and, of all places, Del Taco.
HSI Review/Trip Report (Part 2)- 10/15-16As I left off on the last post, we were just finishing up on the Pavilion and the few amenities. Teddys commented that he did not care for the Paula Deen Buffet. I'd like to say that it isn't the BEST spread around, but there are a lot of foods on it that I like, and the decor is very nice. For me, it's great, and you rarely have to pay for it if you play at all at the casino. They send two free ones to Diamond players every month, and you can basically get one if you sit at a table and play for an hour.
Anyways, this brings me to the casino itself. First off, the casino is down on the Ohio River, and the pavilion connects behind the highway. You take the hallway that passes over the road to the security checkpoint. From there, you go down one of two escalators or a set of stairs to an adjustable ramp that can accommodate rising water levels. There's a neat pictorial history on the right explaining about Benny Binion, Jack Binion and the Horseshoe brand. (Funny, the left out Becky Binion... the one notorious for screwing it all up!). At the end of the ramp the Total Rewards Center is there with a bunch of electronic kiosks for promotions.
There is no set entrance to the boat because of water levels, but the average trip will have you enter on Level 3. This is the main table games level, as well as slots and the main cashier. Table games include BJ (H17, no RSA, Surrender available, DAS), Craps (100x odds, Fire Bet), Roulette, Spanish 21 (S17, no redouble), Caribbean Stud, Crazy 4, Texas Hold Em Bonus, Three Card + 6-card bonus (no Million Dollar promo), Pai Gow Poker (no banking), Pai Gow Tiles (only open in late evenings, no banking), MS Stud, DD Pitch BJ (H17, Double on 10,11 only, No DAS, No Surrender, No RSA), and EZ Baccarat.
Quick story I found interesting with a dealer... She deals EZ Baccarat, and said one night they had to shut the game down quickly when it was busy, as another Caesars property was getting hit hard on the Dragon with card counters. Before, the table max was $100, but it was lowered immediately to $25. Even though she is a casual gambler when she goes, she said she could totally see how it was countable.
By the way, I find the dealers to be, for the most part, very personable and helpful. There are a few sticks, but they are easy to talk to, and seem to want the players to win. Pit staff is generally good. The one GREAT thing about the property is the comps. If you are gambling for a while (at least an hour), you can basically ask the pit to write you a comp to anywhere, and they will do it. Make sure you clarify that you don't want it to come from you Reward Credits, but I have found them more than willing to write out a comp if you're gambling. If you play enough, you should NEVER have to go into your RC bank, which is HUGE HUGE HUGE for a Total Rewards property.
Level 4 is generally regarded as a high limit area, but there are some penny slots upstairs. The Diamond Lounge is located near the High Limit rooms. Table games, they have BJ (S17, Surrender allowed, DAS), and perhaps the best DD BJ game you'll get outside of Vegas (S17, Double Any Two cards, No Surrender, no RSA). There is also Single Zero Roulette and a Craps table upstairs. Off to the side is the Asian themed room, with regular Midi-Baccarat.
Level 2 has some table games open on weekends and peak times. Mostly BJ, although there is a roulette table, LIR, and 3CP. These minimums are often lower, sometimes even $5 on the weekends. This level also has a lot of VP, including 9/6 JoB and 8/5 BP. There are two Shufflemaster video BJ tables at a $5 min where the S17. JB's Cafe is also on this level. It's open 24 hours, but that doesn't always mean you'll get served quickly. The food is generally good, but the wait can turn you off the experience. I've waited as much as 20 minutes to get a simple hot dog. They understaff it to a ridiculous level...
Level 1 is entirely nonsmoking. There is a door that takes you outside so patrons can smoke. The poker room is on this level, and I will say this room is nothing short of outstanding. There is only one dealer that is not at least 3 stars, and I'd say most are 4-5 star quality. Most have dealt poker since the boat opened, so they run a smooth quick game. Most of the staff is professional, there are a few exceptions, but overall, this room will surprise you. It's not as nice as Hollywood, but when cards are dealt, that doesn't matter.
To put it simply, the casino is one of the best options as far as Caesars properties go. The rules, in general, are fair, and comps are relatively easy to come by. No matter whether I win or lose, I always leave enjoying my stay, and that says a lot. I will say the VP machines need some attention, as many bill acceptors don't work, or keys are sticky. I hesitate to complain, b/c I don't want the paytables to change.
If you get to Southern Indiana, a trip to Horseshoe is a must. You'll enjoy yourself thoroughly.
I only have two gripes with HSI: 1. Legends is dark on Monday and Tuesday. The idea that a sports bar would be closed on monday night during football season is nothing less than stupid. 2. The boat is a 9 out of 10. The hotel is a 6 out of 10. That's a strangely large disparity.
This year, Legends IS open on Mondays for Monday night football. They may even be open on Tuesdays now too...
By the way, I must correct myself. Legends is NOT open on Monday nights, but they do have a general seating area with $10 all-you-can-eat food and drinks right next to the restaurant.
HSI Review/Trip Report (part 1)- 10/15-16As anybody who has read any of my posts knows, I tend to play at a lot of Caesars/Harrah's properties, mostly because I have moved around a lot and they have casinos near everywhere I've lived. I am a Diamond member and have been now for 7 years. I value the program as it gets me more free rooms and amenities across the country than any other player club. Of course, for the most part the gaming isn't quite as good, but there is one exception: Horseshoe Southern Indiana (hereby known as HSI).
First off, a little history about HSI. It started out as Caesars years ago in Harrison County, IN. This is significant because this was legally the closest they could get to nearby Louisville, KY. Of course, Kentucky has made a big push against casino gambling in the interests of horse owners and the Kentucky Derby. For some reason, both Floyd County and New Albany was adamantly against it, so it went right across the border to Harrison County. This leaves basically a casino with no real commerce nearby. No gas station, no retail (outside of casino properties), no other hotels... nothing.
About 6 years ago, when Harrah's bought the Caesars properties, they decided to sell Harrah's East Chicago and keep the license to Horseshoe Hammond and Caesars. In a marketing strategy to make their properties branded, they decided to change Caesars (the 'resort casino') to a Horseshoe (the 'gamblers casino'). The result led to a property wide renovation and rebranding, although they stayed on the current riverboat, which is the largest to house a casino in the country. Unfortunately, the locals didn't really get the rebranding, and many got upset that they were no longer good enough to have a Caesars. As an outsider, I think the move made a lot of sense, although they should have gone onto a larger barge, IMHO...
Horseshoe Casino does have a hotel on the property. Due to an Indian burial ground and potential flooding near the river and creek that runs through the property, the hotel is located roughly a 1/2 mile from the casino. To me, this has long been the only serious complaint I've had with Horseshoe. The hotel is a little sub-par compared to nicer and newer Harrah's properties, and certainly three steps below a Caesars property, but the beds are comfortable and the rates are reasonable, given the lack of competition nearby.
As a Diamond player, I rarely have to pay a room rate. I decided at the last minute to book for Saturday night, 10/15. When I checked online on Friday night and even Saturday afternoon, I got a rate of $99.99 (Sunday was comped). I called the reservation number at 7:00pm, and they quoted me a price of $79.99. I accepted the rate, and arrived around 8:30pm. I had a two queen room. The bathroom does have a separate room for the toilet, but the shower is substandard, and there is no nice tub. One time they put me in a JR Suite, and that did have a separate jacuuzzi tub and shower, and the room was a bit larger.
They do require a $50 deposit, cash or credit. However, Diamond players get free WiFi access. They do have a pool and hot tub, but it's usually run over by children (remember, there is NOTHING for them to do here). There is a little cafe in the hotel lobby, called Aroma, and it has some nice fare, albeit way overpriced if paying by cash... (more on that in a minute).
As I mentioned earlier, the casino is a bit of a walk from the hotel, but they do offer a shuttle most hours of the day. They do have a few moving walkways to help speed the journey up. Eventually, there is a pavilion with the Paula Deen Buffet, a Graeters Ice Cream parlor, Bijoux Terner, the Convention Center, a casino gift shop, JB's Steakhouse and the sports bar, Legends. There is also a new Asian themed restaurant opening up soon, called Pearl.
I have eaten at Legends (good, two and half out of four stars), and the Buffet (three out of four stars, it's VERY rich though, as most everything has pounds of butter in it). I will say the decor of the Buffet is really nice, the furniture is very exquisite and it's set up like a house, which to me is quite unique. The food is standard Southern buffet food, but I like nearly everything on the spread, and the desserts, while minimal by comparison, are AMAZING!
I've decided to do this a two-part review, as I'm tired now and need to get to bed... more to come soon!
HSI decided to give me a lot of freebies which I've taken advantage of. I feel they have too many drawbacks, however; the location, hotel distance and poor food options are just three. (I have to disagree with you on Paula Deen's -- can't stand it). The free WiFi for Diamonds is very nice and I probably overvalue it more than it's worth. The pool also sucks, as you mentioned.
Is the I-64 bridge still out?
If its a Casino in a Cornfield it will draw gamblers. The trouble is that gamblers have wives and kids and there is always going to be a need for some sort of amenities. A pool, an arcade, a movie theater, an upscale shop that a wife can at least walk through for awhile, something. Distance to the hotel can be cured by a shuttle and a jovial driver, but a dearth of non-gambling opportunities condemns the casino to a customer base of gamblers. That is great for the casino in the short term but eventually the wives will put their foot down and end it. Perhaps an air conditioned shop with a glass wall that overlooks the kids in the pool? Perhaps a teen arcade? Perhaps a good selection of premium TV channels? Perhaps a spa?... but there has to be something.
The I-64 bridge IS out, and will be for at least another 6 months. I'll cover this more in part 2, which I hope to write this evening. However, the casino is hurting, BIG TIME, because of it.
I can't see them expanding shopping outlets or an arcade, as it really isn't a family destination; this is part of the reason it's a HORSESHOE instead of Caesars now. It's in the weird position of being more than a locals casino (as the distance is just too far from Louisville to be local), and a destination casino (because there is nothing there to bring the people in). As far as a shuttle, I'm sure there would be no problem from Indiana, but Kentucky has actively fought against the casino, and in fact, there's a law out there that would arrest everybody aboard if the boat were to cross the Kentucky line. I'm sure someone would fight a shuttle there from Louisville.
Belterra UPDATE Review- 10/15I will be covering my trip specifically in a later post, but thought I would give an update on Belterra, as I decided to stop by quickly on 10/15.
First off, Belterra is in/near Florence, IN, across from KY and on the Ohio River. The EASIEST way to get there is to take I-71 South to exit 57, then cross the river there. However, if you're doing the "Southern Casino Tour," you'll take highway 56 down from Hollywood and Rising Star. It seems a lot farther that what you might think. I always feel like I'm getting close when I hit Patriot, IN, but the way the road bends and turns, you don't see it until you pass a cemetery in Florence and then it's like, BAM, a casino!
Anyways, Belterra is a Pinnacle property. I have found that Pinnacle tends to be pretty upscale and very reserved. They aren't going to be too party-like, and perhaps more importantly, you might feel as though you're under-dressed when you first walk in. The pavilion/hotel is remarkably like Bellagio, although they don't have QUITE the high-end stores... but they do HAVE stores, which is really weird for Indiana. They also have a Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Buffet and Cafe, as well as Ben and Jerry's and Starbucks.
Although I didn't stay at the hotel on this pass through, I have stayed there in the past. The rooms are pretty nice, definitely the nicest in the Indiana market. They feel like a mid-level strip property or one of the nicer Harrah's as a comparison. The player's club is MyChoice, a non-linked (yet, they tell me) club that has 5 or 6 levels, with the second level being quite easy to achieve if you're a slot player. I hit the second level just by playing Spanish 21 for 8 hours one time.
The boat is very crowded, and you have to wonder why they don't remodel and go larger. It's only two floors, the lower level being slots and VP only, and the second being slots, Table games and something they call a poker room (More on that later). The cashier is off the boat, and I find the lines to move relatively quickly, probably because most people don't know where they are at. For those in the know, there is a cashier window downstairs, but since there are no table games down there, the hours are spotty as to when they are open. There is a little cafe down on the one end of the first floor that serves mediocre food.
Sadly, the one good about Belterra is now a thing of the past: MOST OF THE BJ TABLES NOW HIT SOFT 17. I REPEAT, MOST OF THE BJ TABLES NOW HIT SOFT 17 What's kind of funny is that in July of THIS YEAR they were running big ads near Horseshoe about how all the tables Stand on 17. I'm guessing the research found that most casual players don't care. That being said, the new carnival poker pit they set up has two BJ tables, one $25 min, the other a 21+3 that both S17. As in most IN casinos, the high limit room S17 as well.
If you are a craps player, they do allow you to buy the 4-10 without prepaying commission. The other thing I like is that there is no Fire Bet, Sharp Shooter, etc. On a busy Saturday night (Frankie Valli was performing there), they had a $5 table, $10 and a $25 table. 10x odds, except one time a while back I saw a $15 min. with 20x odds posted.
The thing they call a poker room is off to the side, and has about 6 tables. I will say these tables are the WORST I've ever played on; there is a strange linoleum piece between the rail and the center that makes it tough to see your cards. The cards are basically the type they use on the floor, so they bend quite easily and start buckling within a few hands. The betting line is too close to where the chips are, so an accidental swipe can put you all in if you're not careful. The staff is very reserved, but you don't see the fights like you do at Hollywood. And there's a nice slot area if you're into that too... yeah, Belterra is not a place to play poker at all.
I did not play at all this trip. I was so bummed that they now H17, that I just couldn't bring myself to support their business. More to come soon... right now, I'm staying at HSI again.
I find Belterra to be blah. They gave me a free room, once, and it was very nice. They have decent video poker on the first level. I see no reason to gamble there, really.
TCP payouts vary from casino to casino. Hollywood is the worst, really jacking the PP bet; PP is 1/3/5/25/35. Mohegan's PP is 1/3/6/30/40. Sands is 1/3/6/30/40, plus the mini-royal at 50. Mt Airy pays the old, good pay table: 1/4/6/30/40! House edge on PP at Mt Airy, 2.32%, not bad for a carny game.
I'm glad you enjoyed your time in eastern PA, even if the dice were unkind. Mohegan is our "home"' casino. We go to Sands and Mt Airy a couple times a year, but Mrs Mosca plays slots and she can't find any games at those two that engage her imagination.