The Good: Atmosphere and "atmosphere," Shopping/dining options, Gaming diversity, Entertainment options
The Bad: Presence of children, Still has smoke
The Basics: This could be the ideal Las Vegas destination for adults were it not for the smoke and the children.
There are some places you just cannot go with your parents. I've nothing against my mother, but taking her around to the casinos in Las Vegas made me realize that there are just some places a single person ought to go to have fun on their own. The Rio casino is definitely one of them. After all, it doesn't matter what age, gender or sexuality one is, there's nothing that kills a good time like your mother saying, "Want to stop and watch the pretty girls dance?" This is especially true if they say it loudly . . . as you're leaving a casino . . . and the women are fabulously coiffed . . . and you actually would like to sit and enjoy the show.
Rio: the place where people go hampered by their companions and weirded out by children. I suppose they won't ever make that their slogan, but it accurately describes my experiences there.
Rio Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $5.00 (three hours later).
The Rio is a giant hotel and casino located at 3700 Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, this section of Flamingo Road is south of most of the active parts of The Strip. Many reviewers seem to complain about casinos that are not on the Strip, but I think it's high time someone note that Las Vegas is not at all a difficult city to get around. For those who go to Las Vegas to gamble, the relevant parts of the city are much like Central Park is in New York City; a decent-sized area that is surprisingly well contained. The analogy is not solid in Las Vegas, but pretty much once you've found the gambling are (and yes, sigh, the Strip) all of the other casinos are generally proximate. So, even while Rio is far away from, say, the Sahara, it's not hard to find.
The Rio casino is the mall of Las Vegas. Seriously, the Rio is best thought of as a mall and that is both its strength and its weakness to adult travelers. If one were to imagine a two-story mall, where people on the second level could look down onto the first, you have the basic layout of the Rio conceived. Shops, restaurants and access to rooms are all along the walls of the mall-like casino. And everything on the floor is gaming tables and slot machines. So, those looking down from the second level are not looking down on sprawling walkways and wandering shoppers, but rather many banks of slot machines, table games and entertainment stages.
The Rio Casino is a fairly large casinos in Las Vegas and it feels like it is capitalizing on the space it has. All of the ceilings are high, all of the carpets are clean and the place feels like a mid-sized mall. The casino is spread over one level and everything is very spread out, making it easy to get around. There are over twelve hundred video slot machines spread out over the casino floor.
The whole feel of the Rio, though, is of being in a mall loaded with giant advertisements and slot machines.
The high ceilings help dissipate the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino. For those sensitive to such things (as I am) this remains one of the better options. Moreover, with so many of the machines duplicated throughout the casino, if an annoying smoker plops down beside you, odds are there is another open machine of the same type available away from the smoke. This was one of the casinos with better-than-average air quality, though there were a few nooks I noticed where the smoke seemed to congregate more.
As for the "atmosphere" of the Rio, the serving women were all pretty incredible looking, in a very Hollywood beautiful way. The Rio had some of the youngest serving women in Vegas and much of the "atmosphere" of the Rio seemed to be geared toward the younger, sexually vibrant and active crowd. This becomes disturbing in that it also seemed like it was trying to appeal to families. Sorry, I just don't think it's a wonderful mix of having the place that does an hourly lingerie show at night being a place you're also trying to sell to families with kids (though I suppose children have to learn about Victoria's Secret somewhere . . . why not Vegas?). The women at the Rio wear little black dresses with a double slit. It has a very classic look and at least one member of the waitstaff at one of the cafes had as very different, but similarly classic white dress. That was a floor-length number, which was reminiscent of a toga, save that it wrapped around the back of her neck in a single (apparent) piece to lift, cup and display her breasts. Rio, a great place for younger people of any gender or sexuality to get an eyeful of strikingly beautiful women. Hands down, the best serving women and daily costumes of any casino I went to in Las Vegas this year. But more than that, the serving women at the Rio were constantly smiling. As I walked around, the servers were smiling, joking with one another, joking with gamblers and they looked like they were having a good time.
Add to that, the Rio had some genuine artistic expression for their servers. There are little stages throughout the casino where - at random intervals - the serving women (and one especially courageous serving guy, too!) will get up and perform a dance routine or sing. And the dancer I have the privilege of watching before my mother caught back up with me was pretty incredible and actually danced with a sense of artistic expression. Moreover, she smiled while doing it, she looked confident and she seemed to be having fun. Those who read my music reviews know that consistency and artistic integrity are exceptionally important to me. Let me say that when a performer (doesn't matter the gender) can turn an absolutely insipid song like the Nina Sky featuring Jabba song "Move Your Body" into an actually entertaining and provocative bit of artistic expression, that's saying something. Rio has a pretty impressive Wow factor for the entertainment. Unfortunately, these impromptu performances are not announced for times or locations. As a result, on my way out, in addition to being pulled away from a pretty amazing dancer, I was compelled to pass by a young woman who was very soulfully and earnestly singing "Black Velvet." And she had the pipes to back it up, but so few people were stopping to watch. I felt bad about that . . . Still, phenomenal.
Gaming Options/Player's Club
I have a very simple gambling philosophy: I sit down at a slot machine with $5.00. I work it up to $10 or down to zero. I know my limits: I can afford to lose $5.00. So, when I am above that, I'll usually work it up or whittle it down to the next even $5.00. Have a strategy, know your limits: the Rio Casino worked quite well for me over the course of the days I dropped in and out playing. All told, I probably three hours on a single afternoon playing the video slot machines. Because I have such a basic philosophy, it was very easy for me to keep track of my ups and downs. This was one of the casinos I pretty much hit and then played off my winnings for a few hours because I was having fun there.
I'm primarily a slot machine player and I have no shame in admitting, I tend to like the ones that are more video game-like, have more girly themes and/or fun bonus rounds. At the Rio, there was the best selection of video slot machines I remember seeing in Las Vegas. I couldn't name five machines that I played at the casino because there were so many and I kept moving from machine to machine. I recall playing Mermaid's Gold, which gave me the funds to keep playing for the other hours. The thing I remember distinctly about the Rio was there weren't many of any one type video slot machine. Instead, it was a very diverse play environment, much more like an arcade in that respect. There were at least five machines at the Rio that I saw only at the Rio.
I am a pretty practical gambler and I went to the Rio because it was on my mother's list of places to hit, but it had so many choices it was very easy for me to stay and keep busy and have fun for the afternoon.
For those who might be into games of chance and card games instead of the fun video slot machines, there are over eighty tables with table games, including blackjack, roulette wheels, Caribbean stud poker, craps, Let It Ride, Pai Gow poker and Asia poker (13). This is definitely a place not only trading on slot/video poker play as they devote a fair amount of space to the card/table games. There is also a fairly extensive sports betting segment, but that's not truly my thing. As well, the Rio seems to want to capitalize on Keno, one of the more lottery-style games and they seemed to have a pretty decent crowd for that.
There is a player's club at the Rio, which is part of the Harrah's casino family. The card for that chain is the Total Rewards club. Signing up is easy and the lines to get the card were always short. The workers at the desk were very friendly when signing up, and in addition to a very thorough explanation of the points (which I have since forgotten - REAL impressive dancers!) they provided me with a booklet of coupons. At the Rio, there was a coupon to redeem for free beads, so if you want to go somewhere and get a few strings of dice-shaped beads, without showing off your breasts, the Rio might be the place for you! As well, the Total Rewards club guaranteed that one would not be allowed to lose up to $100, but considering I won on some of my machines and broke even in the end, I'm not waiting for a check in the mail (if my mother gets one, I'll update!).
Points here are accrued based upon how much money one bets and for every dollar bet, a point was accrued. So, when one considers that things like a breakfast may be redeemed when one has accrued 400 points, it begins to lose some sense of value (for those not quick in math, that's a $400 breakfast!), but it is pretty much the standard kickback rate in Las Vegas.
The Rio Casino in Las Vegas is a great property to go to for entertainment outside the fun of gambling. First, there are the singing, dancing, very charmingly coiffed serving women (which can be entertainment enough).
But the entertainment is also where the Rio's appeal as a family destination becomes downright creepy. There is a bowling ally at the Rio and during the day, Lucky Strikes is open and even has some bumper bowling options. And you can take your kids bowling . . . across from the signs that have women in bikinis pouring champagne into a hot tub or possibly the most well-constructed men in the galaxy. I'm all for erotica and permissiveness and parental involvement, but the thing about Rio that bugged me was that kids were walking around the casino (and I've got to say, some of them were at a height that they were no doubt getting quite an education . . .) and there's something creepy about watching a dancing woman and looking down into a ten year-old's bug eyed eyes. Damn creepy.
Okay, besides bowling and avoiding children, there is the whole mall experience (see below). Other entertainment options include Penn & Teller, Tony n' Tina's Wedding, Chippendale's, the free Show In The Sky (a lingerie revue), and a dance club. In other words, there are show, "shows," and dancing; a lot to do in one building.
Also there is a pool (with children), a Brazilian pool (without children), and supposedly there is golfing (I saw signs, could not find it).
The Rio was part of a four casino day for me, so I did not dine at this casino. However, the Rio has eighteen different dining options and I did get a coffee drink at Starbuck's because I had won a little bit and I was thirsty (smoky environments do that to me and while this one isn't bad, it's still not smoke-free).
For those who are considering the Rio, there are extensive dining options including a pretty standard buffet and the upscale Wine Cellar & Tasting Room. In between there are all types of food from a steakhouse to a Mexican restaurant to the only Indian restaurant I saw in a casino to a Chinese restaurant. If you're going to the Rio, though, sign up for the Total Rewards club as there were many discounts in there for places to eat at the Rio!
The Rio is essentially a mall in a lot of ways and there were many shops related to the entertainment, like a Chippendale's store. The Rio is for pretty serious shoppers, though, with stores like diamond jewelry makers, expensive watches, travel luggage, bridal wear, and cosmetics. There is no Barnes & Noble (where do people go to get things to read while out at the pool in order to hide that they're really just checking people out?!), but there is a Harley Davidson shop, an art store and, rather bafflingly, a New Orleans Collectibles store.
Like most shopping at a casino in Las Vegas, it's ridiculously expensive to shop at the Rio. Of course, if you hit it big, you might be able to afford something at the jewelry knockoff shop . . . but one suspects that's what They want you to think.
The Rio is one of the few places I already am planning on stopping back at next year, though I will not go there with my mother. I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to go somewhere fun, with a lot of options. It's not as smoky as most Las Vegas casinos and it seems like it is one of the locations with the most options that were actually fun.
Just remember to bring your kid repellent.
For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Greektown Casino, Michigan
For other travel reviews, please visit my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing of the destination reviews I have written!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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