Win big when betting on a gaming getaway

Start rubbing your lucky rabbit’s foot, get your game on, and head for the border. Good times begin just across the Texas state line during a winning getaway stay in Louisiana.

With nearly 30 casinos dotting the Louisiana map, from Lake Charles to Shreveport to New Orleans and all the pretty parishes in between, Louisiana is a high-roller paradise that’s growing, changing and getting better all the time. If it’s been a while since you visited, it’s time to return. New gleaming casino towers are springing up in cities all across the state, and even your favorite longtime casino resorts are undergoing multimillion-dollar expansions and renovations, adding new restaurants, pools, spas and luxury amenities.

But even if you think all casinos are alike — gilded and gaudy and just not your style — you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Louisiana’s spectacular casino resorts, for it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy lounging by a lazy river, seeing your favorite band in concert, enjoying a massage in a spa or private cabana, dining in a fine steakhouse, shopping in distinctive boutiques or simply checking out all the food, fun, ornate architecture and unique culture of Louisiana.

Louisiana offers  much more than casinos, of course, but casino properties there offer much more than gaming, too. Besides boasting restaurants showcasing Louisiana’s world-famous culinary delights, these casino resorts offer some of the finest hotel lodging and entertainment options in Louisiana. Each property is unique, which means there is a casino resort for everybody, of any age or background — a place that could be a real game changer for your next vacation getaway.

SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA

L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles: Even those who generally don’t like casinos love L’Auberge, and more than 400,000 visitors go there each month. L’Auberge’s enormous lobby looks like an upscale Wyoming lodge or Aspen ski resort. Towering timbers frame high ceilings, and roaring fireplaces flank the lobby lounge of this 1,000-room resort. Stroll down the carpeted corridors of this sleek Western-style property and pop into boutiques, cafes and coffee shops set apart from the casino floor. The pool features a long, lazy river, hot tubs and cabanas, and you can relax even more at the hotel’s Spa du Lac.

Enjoy golf at Contraband Bayou Golf Club, an 18-hole championship course, then dine at one of L’Auberge’s many restaurants, including Ember Grille and Wine Bar, styled in the manner of a modern American steakhouse. Or enjoy fresh Asian-fusion cuisine and sushi at Asia. You can also dine at the Le Beaucoups Buffet, Favorites Southern Kitchen, or the new gourmet market and food counter, Modern Pantry, offering quick-serve delicious menu items such as pastries, soups, salads, gelato and Louisiana’s own PJ’s Coffee. Then two-step on over to Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill before retiring to your suite — complete with a stand-alone tub that fills from a jet in the ceiling. Catch a famous touring band in L’Auberge’s 1,400-seat event center, or dance the night away at a pool party on a summer night.

Of course, there is great gaming, too. Contained within an enormous glass dome under a vaulted ceiling, the casino has more than 80 table games and 1,600 slots. From blackjack to baccarat — and most other popular casino games — L’Auberge delivers high-stake thrills. This year, L’Auberge will begin a $7 million renovation of its high-end Garden Suites. Best of all, it’s set in Lake Charles, a vibrant, fast-growing city with fine restaurants, cafes, museums, historic homes, alluring architecture, a university and the scenic Creole Nature Trail. With so much to do and see there, always make Lake Charles your first stop in Louisiana.

Coushatta, Kinder: With more than 100,000 square feet of gaming and an 18-hole championship golf course, Coushatta is the largest casino resort in Louisiana. Conveniently located outside the town of Kinder, just 22 miles off Interstate 10 near Lake Charles, the family-friendly resort features an outdoor heated swimming pool, a summer water park, an award-winning championship golf course, 10 dining options, more than 900 luxurious hotel rooms, an RV resort with a dog park, dog-friendly chalets and all the best favorite slots and table games, including live poker and bingo. There’s even a large nonsmoking slot section and free live entertainment every weekend in the casino’s nightclub. Owned and operated by the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana, this property focuses on gaming getaways and family fun. Best of all, inexpensive bus trips to Coushatta are often offered from San Antonio.

Golden Nugget, Lake Charles: Golden Nugget is the newest casino resort in Southwest Louisiana, opening only a year ago next door to L’Auberge Lake Charles. The 740-room/suite resort has become so popular that construction is already underway on a new adjacent hotel tower with 300 additional rooms. Golden Nugget has an 18-hole championship golf course and country club; extensive retail options; a pool, private beach front and marina; and a number of Landry’s, Inc. signature restaurants. The casino features 77 table games, a poker room and 1,600 slot machines. Golden Nugget’s décor is sleek and contemporary: a nice complement to neighboring casinos offering an altogether different, though equally attractive, ambience.

Isle of Capri, Lake Charles: The newly renovated Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles stands against the scenic backdrop of Prien Lake and offers nonstop gaming and solid dining choices. Rooms with a view of the lake in the beautifully renovated tower and in the Inn at the Isle hotel are sure to draw new guests. This is one of the first casinos you’ll spot when driving into Lake Charles. Be sure to exit before you cross over the Interstate 10 bridge.

Delta Downs Racetrack, Casino and Hotel, Vinton: One of the first casinos you’ll reach after crossing the Louisiana border is Delta Downs, an American thoroughbred and quarter horse racetrack, casino and hotel near the town of Vinton, not far from Lake Charles. With 1,600 slots and video machines, it offers a restaurant, buffet and food court and the Delta Events Center with touring headliner acts and concerts. Bus tours from San Antonio are sometimes available, and Delta Downs offers a casual casino stay rather than a luxury getaway.

BATON ROUGE

L’Auberge Casino Resort Baton Rouge: Possibly Louisana’s best-kept-secret casino property, L’Auberge Baton Rouge opened in 2012 not far from the LSU campus. Although the sophisticated casino resort shares the same name/owner as L’Auberge Lake Charles, Pinnacle Entertainment, the 12-story hotel with 205 rooms, a rooftop pool and a fitness center, has an entirely different style of architecture and décor. Upscale, modern and stylish, it boasts a 74,000-square-foot casino with 1,500 slot machines, 50 table games and a poker room. L’Auberge also has a café, a sports bar and a buffet, but it is best known for 18Steak restaurant, serving prime cuts of beef and perfectly paired wine in a dining room with big burned scotch and whiskey barrels adorning the ceiling by the bar.

NEW ORLEANS

Boomtown New Orleans, Harvey: Located on New Orleans’ West Bank, Boomtown caters to loyal locals on its sprawling 54-acre Pinnacle Entertainment property. With over 30,000 square feet of gaming space, it’s home to Louisiana’s largest riverboat casino. Offering more than 1,200 slots and video poker games and 30 table games, as well as Boomer’s Nightclub, it has a 500-seat entertainment venue and four dining options. In 2015, Boomtown added a $20 million 150-room hotel, featuring deluxe king and queen guest rooms and 17 suites.

Travel-Harrahs

Harrah’s Hotel and Casino New Orleans: Just steps from the alluring French Quarter with rooms overlooking the Mississippi River and the picturesque Crescent City Connection bridge, Harrah’s is a gleaming casino resort rivaling the best properties in Las Vegas. The hotel is set in a 26-story tower linked by an underground passageway to the casino across the street. Adorned with understated touches of New Orleans style, this AAA Four Diamond award-winning property features 450 large rooms and suites with ultra-comfortable beds. Near the convention center and just a few blocks from the Superdome, Harrah’s stands in the central business district. Its 115,000-square-foot casino offers nearly 2,100 slot machines, more than 90 table games and a poker room, and good food is easy to find at Harrah’s, with buffets, cafes and fine dining. Its finest feature? Celebrity chef John Besh’s restaurant, Besh Steak. Since its opening in 1999, Harrah’s has been Louisiana’s “official gaming establishment,” the state’s only land-based private casino with table games.

To learn more about Southwest Louisiana Casinos and Lake Charles, visit www.VisitLakeCharles.org.

By Janis Turk