Before there was written history, there was gambling. In the book Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling, author David Schwartz writes about how clergy members rolled objects in attempts at telling the future. The objects the priest rolled? Sheep and goat anklebones—casting a new meaning on rolling the die. Soon, rolling dice crossed over into secular games. Cards first appeared in China around the 9th century. Already in the Tang Dynasty, playing cards were linked with drinking games. Some things never change.
During the pandemic, even gambling looks a little different. Alcohol service ends at 11 per a Louisiana State mandate. Prior to entering casinos, staff and guests will undergo a health screen that includes temperature checks. Masks are a must, though many places will provide them if necessary. If you don't cheat on the precautions, you might be able to safely squeeze in a game for National Card-Playing Day, which is Monday, December 28. Here are five casinos where you can try your luck.
Located in the heart of downtown NOLA, Harrah's Casino has been a gleaming beacon by the river since 1999. Recently, Harrah's made headlines for announcing plans to transform to Caesars. The change is slated for 2024, and the $325 million update is sure to make structural changes to the iconic building (fun fact: It was designed to invoke the architecture of the 1884 World's Fair held in New Orleans). Inside, the place is spectacular in its detail, including a decorative French Quarter display. Harrah's boasts 2,100 slot machines and more than 90 table games. Even during a pandemic, Harrah's is open 24/7. 228 Poydras St., (800) 427-7247, caesars.com/harrahs-new-orleans/casino
Kenner's Treasure Chest is a 24,000-square foot floating casino on Lake Pontchartrain. There's an undeniable allure to a riverboat casino, but there, the charm is only a secondary feature. States along the Gulf Coast wanted to limit the construction of casinos. In compliance, a glitzy loophole was born in the form of riverboat game-houses. Treasure Chest has 36 tables open daily, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Game availability may vary, but the selection includes roulette, mini-baccarat, Mississippi stud, Texas hold 'em, and pai gow. If slots are more your style, Treasure Chest has you covered. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. 5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, (504) 443-8000, treasurechest.com
Just hearing the name Boomtown Casino brings to mind the rich history of the California gold rush of 1849. Located in Harvey, this casino has an impressive offering of 1,100 slot/video poker games and 31 tables. For the time being, the legendary poker room remains closed. For health and safety, Boomtown notably boasts of deploying a disinfecting fog machine. Sadly, the sanitizing fog is only deployed while they are closed. Boomtown's hours are 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. 4132 Peters Rd., Harvey, (504) 366-7711, boomtownneworleans.com
Just over an hour's drive outside the New Orleans area, Beau Rivage Casino is Mississippi's finest. The casino has over 1,800 slots, including Game of Thrones, World of Wonka, and Cher—whatever your pleasure, they've got it. For those new to tables, Beau Rivage promises that "there's no reason to be intimidated by the action. [Their] dealers are happy to show you how each game works, and soon, you'll be playing like a pro." Their safety protocols appear standard-issue, with the futuristic mention of "digital innovations." Beau Rivage is open 24/7. 875 Beach Blvd. Biloxi, MS, (888) 750-7111, beaurivage.mgmresorts.com/en/casino
L'Auberge Baton Rouge
In the good old "Red Stick," our capital city, is the decadent L'Auberge Casino. With their "approximately 1,400" slot machines and video poker games offered, what more could you ask for? In fact, L'Auberge recommends electronic tables for newbies who might find themselves intimidated sitting at a table. You can even play outside on the terrace, warmed by a radiant heater—ideal for COVID-19 times. Alas, the Red Stick poker room remains closed. L'Auberge lists a detailed health and safety notice on their website, which includes valet attendants who are required to wash their hands every 30 minutes. L'Auberge is open 24/7. 777 L'Auberge Ave., Baton Rouge, (225) 215-7777, lbatonrouge.com
Struggling to game responsibly? Please call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at (800) 522-4700.