Suburban Casinos And The Mall Have More In Common Than You Think

Written By Steve Ruddock on August 8, 2017
shopping mall interior

There was a time when tattoos were for outlaws and nonconformists. It also used to be true that if you wanted a tattoo, you needed to go to the underbelly of the city to get it. That time has passed.

Now you can find tattoo shops in just about every community.

A similar cultural shift has also taken place around gambling. Much like the tattoo parlor, people perceiving casinos negatively is a thing of the past.

The stigma around gambling has been eroding ever since gambling began expanding beyond its old boundaries of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In 2017 there are no longer “gaming” states. In fact, the glitzy palaces of excess and excessive prices are often right in your own backyard, or not too far of a drive away.

As Washington Post Style reporter Lavanya Ramanathan noted after a trip to the recently opened MGM National Harbor , for most people, a casino is now as close by as the nearest suburban mall. It also attracts the same type of crowd.

For Ramanathan, her proximity to the newly opened billion-dollar casino was only the second-most surprising part of the casino complex.

The changing face of the American casino

What really caught Ramanathan’s attention was the shopping, dining, and entertainment available. The image of what a US casino represents is being torn down with every new MGM National Harbor that is erected.

In the modern era, resort casinos like MGM are first and foremost entertainment complexes, with a side of gambling.

That wasn’t lost on Ramanathan, who wrote:

“Which is why the MGM is what it is — 125,000 square feet of slots and card tables tucked deep inside a complex where you can also try on glittering $390 shoes peddled by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, and sup on the middle-American diet of cheese fries, lobster rolls and pizza.”

The proliferation of casinos and the changing face of the casino experience go hand-in-hand.

With so much competition, casinos need to differentiate themselves from one another. When these casinos pop up in suburban locations, they need to offer typical suburban things to do.

They need to be more than a place a gamble, since people can do that just about anywhere.

Legal gambling in the United States

Other than Hawaii and Utah, there is some form of legalized gambling in every US state, and in most cases, multiple forms of legal gaming.

A total of 44 states, plus the District of Columbia run lotteries.

Of those, 39 states have some form of non-lottery land-based gaming.

  • 25 states offer betting on horse racing
  • 39 states offer pari-mutuel wagering
  • 19 states have commercial casinos
  • 29 states have tribal gaming

There are also 22 states with some form of legal online gaming.

  • 5 states have legalized online lottery sales
  • 3 states have legalized online gaming
  • 15 states have legalized daily fantasy sports

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is an avid poker player and a veteran member of the gaming media. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including,, and USA Today.

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