Now You Can Gamble in Luxury Las Vegas Ultra Lounges

The latest Sin City nightlife trend features full-on gambling inside swanky, high-end swilleries.

Every generation gets the Las Vegas it deserves. In the 1960s and ‘70s, there was the mobbed-up and Rat-Packy Sin City. During the 1990s, it was all about theme casinos with family-friendly flourishes. More recently, Vegas has been overrun by big-box nightclubs and celebrity chef-driven eateries.

The mousetrap of the moment—designed, of course, to attract gamblers who’ll blow money by playing mathematically rigged games—is loaded with millennial bait in the form of attic speakeasies, retro-cool men’s clubs, and the tricked out rec-room of your dreams. These “gambling lounges”, according to nightlife host Jay Farber, are “cool spots bringing together everything that people come to Vegas for: partying, gaming, and socializing. No wonder they’re popular.”

The originators of the new wave of chic gambling dens are the Vegas nightlife lords behind the nightclub/restaurant amalgamation Tao. Upstairs from their bustling Lavo eatery, situated in the Palazzo (which itself is attached to the Venetian on the Strip), the Tao guys launched Lavo Casino Club. It’s a posh joint that feels like a speakeasy with blackjack and craps for good measure.

The wallpaper is tastefully trippy, the clientele are well-dressed and well-heeled, and the gaming action is high-stakes. Tao Group managing partner Jason Strauss tells me that high-rollers from the Venetian recently came upstairs to gamble there and “lost dramatic sums of money.”

But they did it while sipping craft cocktails, loading up on bottle service, and indulging in Lavo’s Mediterranean cuisine. Hopefully that took the sting out of getting spanked at the tables. “We want to provide millennials with a home base,” says Strauss. “The idea is for them to have an intimate, controlled experience with reserved tables and DJs and quality glassware.  It’s like you fell down a Las Vegas rabbit hole and found a chic ultralounge.”

Lavo Casino Club

 Next door, at Steve Wynn’s Encore, nightclub kingpin and vice president of operations Sean Christie will soon put the Wynn spin on a similarly millennial-aimed concept. Dubbed Encore Player’s Club, and debuting December 19, Christie’s offering will come with multimedia-infused tables that allow patrons to play video backgammon and chess, cruise the internet, or watch TV (eventually you will be able to gamble on these devices as well—but not yet).

If that’s not enough to keep you entertained without ransacking your gambling budget at the room’s blackjack, craps, baccarat, and roulette tables, there is also table-top shuffle board and a pool table that last resided in Steve Wynn’s opulent Manhattan apartment. Detailed in mother-of-pearl, felted in French blue, and designed by Blatt Billiards, it is not the sort of thing you’d expect to see a bunch of twentysomething gamblers banging around balls on.

But, as Christie points out, “It’s not even the most expensive thing in the room.” When you get sick of shooting stick, you can always check out the 23 flatscreen TVs, which are perfect for viewing the night’s roster of games. “For some, it might feel like a sports bar,” says Christie. “But it will be the nicest sports bar in the world.”

The Whiskey Down

Lovers of fine brown spirits will find a suitable swillery at MGM Grand’s Whiskey Down. Done up to resemble a luxury men’s club meets Williamsburg watering hole, the place is awash in smoky leather and classy wood paneling; a menu of cigars are for sale but a team of beautiful cigarette girls can be dispatched to fetch more exotic smokes from the nearby Davidoff shop.

The space features the same multimedia tables that you’ll find at Encore, 10 TVs, and an insane 200-bottle whiskey selection augmented by blends that have been made exclusively for Whiskey Down. There are four blackjack tables and distilling superstars—like Jimmy Russell from Wild Turkey—swing by to host top-shelf tastings. “We just got our Pappy Van Winkle allocation,” says Zoey D’Arienzo, MGM’s director of beverages. “It’s high demand, limited quantity, and going fast.”

As cool as it all sounds, though, does the gambling lounge have legs? Jay Farber thinks so: “You put everything in one place, make it fun, and customers will come.” Plus it’s good for the operators. “When people hang out and drink, their pockets tend to loosen up for gambling. And then, if they win, they can stick around and spend their profits on bottles of Champagne in order to keep their girls happy.”