Review written by Sophie Couard, March 8, 2016.
The El Cortez casino is located in downtown Las Vegas, and it is one of the more eccentric casinos around the Fremont Street Experience. It is also just two blocks from the bus station and two blocks north of the Strip. However, the area where it is located is somewhat shabby and hardly inspires confidence. It is a little scary at night.
However, this does not stop the casino from establishing itself as one of the legendary places in the city. It has been is open continuously since 1941. It has been extended, remodelled and renovated since then, but the original building is still there. Consequently, it really offers an Old Vegas atmosphere, and you can enjoy the retro character of the place. Unlike the giant resorts on the Strip and all the new casinos Downtown, the El Cortez has an intimate atmosphere, and it almost feels like you are at home.
The establishment was until very recently owned by one man: Jackie Gaughan. After his 90th birthday in 2008 he sold the property to his son, but he still lives at the hotel and, plays poker regularly and shakes hands with many customers.
Even more than anywhere else in Las Vegas, the El Cortez is becoming a casino for regular players. These are not necessarily all big players like they are on the Strip, but the casino pampers all their guests, even if they have a small budget.
All these reasons are what distinguishes the casino and that is has become a reference for others, and this is why it should be discovered.
A legendary casino
The games room at the El Cortex is not very big, but it offers a great selection of games, and above all it gives off a real impression of authenticity. The casino has always claimed to be the place where the citizens come to play, and it is clear that this is still very true, since the establishment attracts many locals who are tired of playing at the large tourist-oriented resorts.
The slot machines
There are more than 1,000 devices from 1 cent to $5 in the casino, and you can find:
- traditional slot machines with 3 mechanical reels,
- modern video slots with 5 reels,
- games where you can win a progressive jackpot,
- multi-game devices,
- video poker,
- video keno.
These slot machines also offer very interesting payout rates to players. This is especially true in the case of video poker. And to meet the expectations of the loyal players, most devices offer low denominations and a high variance.
The table games
The traditional games at the casino include a total of 20 tables offering:
- blackjack from $3,
- roulette from $1,
- craps from $3,
- baccarat from $5.
You cannot really find a real poker room at the El Cortez casino, but near the piano bar are three tables with limit hold'em with a minimum buy-in of $20. You can play a nice game with relatively low stakes.
It is definitely in this complex where you can find the best keno room in Nevada. It is maybe not the largest, the most beautiful nor the most classy room, but it is certainly the one that offers the most attractive payout rates, highest payout tables and the most original tickets. In any case, this is the hot spot of keno in Vegas!
There is also an area for race & sports betting. The area is average compared to other resorts in Downtown Las Vegas, and has a giant screen for important events and 24 LCD TVs for other games. You can bet on many competitions from $2.
Accommodation, dining and drinking
Just like most of the other complexes on the Strip and Downtown the El Cortez is not just a simple casino, it also offers other services aside from gambling, and I will talk about them in more detail in the next paragraphs.
However, do not expect to find a theatre or a spa here, as there is nothing else to do but drink, eat, sleep, gamble and watch a game in the sports betting room. If you want more entertainment you can walk to the Fremont Street Experience or to the Strip. However, to get there you have to walk a few blocks and the neighbourhood is rather questionable.
Despite its old age the hotel is surprisingly pleasant. You can choose rooms in several buildings:
- the old hotel (above the casino),
- the new tower (northwest, next to the parking lot),
- the Cabana suites (on Odgen street),
The rooms of the old hotel are a little smaller than the other, but they are very nice. Those in the new tower are surprisingly large and well equipped. The Cabana suites are more luxurious.
Overall, the hotel has 364 rooms that are always clean, but a little old. They have unbeatable rates on weekdays, starting from only $20, which is very good value for money.
Bars and restaurants
The El Cortez has several options for dining and drinking.
You can find the following restaurants:
- a diner (Siegel’s 1941),
- a sandwich place (Gambling Gourmet),
- a pizza place (Pizza Lotto).
The selection of bars includes:
- the Parlour Bar that has a nice lounge,
- the Casino Bar in the heart of the casino.
So, here you have a legendary place in Las Vegas!
If you want to play in a real casino, enjoy the retro feeling of the Old Vegas, and take advantage of attractive hotel rates, the El Cortez is unquestionably the place you need to visit. However if you like luxury and glitz, you want party hard, or you find history boring, you should go someplace else, as this is definitely not for you.
In any case, I love (... I LOVE!) the El Cortez and I think every real player who goes to Las Vegas has to go and experience the essence of gambling in Vegas, when the Rat Pack still reigned over the city (well before Celine Dion started her show at Caesars Palace...). However, I must also say that that the decoration is a little shabby and dated, and the neighbourhood is a little dodgy.