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Top Casinos For Celebrity Gamblers

Forbes
Oct. 12, 2007

By Shivani Vora

Walk into the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and you'll see a poker room graced by a chandelier of glittering, handblown Murano glass. You're apt to see another kind of luminary: stars like Matt Damon, Demi Moore and Alex Rodriguez who come to the Bellagio to gamble.

What attracts the famous to certain gaming destinations?

"When celebrities are deciding where they want to go gambling, they usually stick to places which are upscale and where there are other things to do besides gamble," says Frank Fahernkopf, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. "They also tend to stick close to home, since these getaways are generally shorter than other kinds of vacations."

Experts say Las Vegas is by far the most popular celebrity gambling destination in the world. It's an hour flight from Los Angeles and has many nongaming activities such as luxury shopping at stores like Hermes and Louis Vuitton, top-notch dining with restaurants by acclaimed chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio, lavish spas including the Qua at Caesar's Palace and a thriving nightlife including clubs like Pure.

Vegas also gives stars privacy. In Sin City, they can play to the paparazzi or enjoy private gaming. "Celebs love coming to Las Vegas because the casinos are very accomodating to them," says Howard Lefkowitz, president of Vegas.com, an online travel and concierge service. "They can have a spectacle or be shielded from the public eye."

The Palms, for instance, will arrange poker, craps, roulette or blackjack in separate areas of the casino for celebrities by request. Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Jason Giambi, Ryan Seacrest and Pamela Anderson frequent this 95,000-square-foot casino, which has both a general gaming area and the Mint, a high-limit lounge offering games such as blackjack and roulette.

There is also a no-limit poker parlor where Ben Affleck (a regular) has played until dawn with $1,000 chips. Pamela Anderson has gambled at her Playboy slot machine, and Bruce Willis has been down $100,000 at the craps table in the general gaming area.

Except for Las Vegas, there were a dearth of upscale gambling places stateside until 2003, when the Borgata, a luxury hotel and casino, opened in Atlantic City. A slew of luxury stores--including Gucci and Armani--followed in 2006. The transformation of Atlantic City from tacky to tony has drawn celebrities such as Nick Lachey, Drew Barrymore, Jamie Lynn Sigler and Jon Bon Jovi to gamble at the Borgata. The upscale 161,000-square-foot casino with gleaming hardwood floors, graceful archways and marble columns has 4,100 slot machines, 200 gaming tables and a separate 85-table poker room. Popular celebrity games here include poker, craps (Jamie Lynn Sigler has been spotted at the craps table) and blackjack.

"The Borgata has revolutionized Atlantic City because it is sophisticated and classy," says Fahernkopf. "It has attracted a more upscale crowd which includes celebrities, especially those who live in New York City, since it's close by."

Internationally, stars head to the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia. With a main floor that is a third-of-a-mile long, this is the largest casino in the Southern Hemisphere and has drawn Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Justin Timberlake. Off the main floor, the casino has smaller themed rooms for games including poker, baccarat and blackjack. Andy Roddick has played poker in the designated room on several occasions.

Head to one of these top spots and you'll find that while you're not guaranteed big winnings, spotting a celebrity might make losing easier.