Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gambling In The Middle Of Nowhere (Minnesota): Mystic Lake Casino Is Fun.

The Good: Easy to get to with shuttle service, Decent buffet, Enjoyable games
The Bad: Smoky
The Basics: A very fun casino in Minnesota, this is one I look forward to going back to, despite being smoky (there's enough nearby for when I'm done gambling!).

The story of the first major stop on my trip cross country this summer goes like this: I left New York (State) in the evening, drove through the night and found myself in Wisconsin in the middle of the next day sampling far too few cheese shops that were along the way. The first day, in addition to a hellishly long drive, involved hitting the Spam Museum (reviewed here!) and arriving at my hotel near the Mall Of America. That night, I took a nap, woke up and discovered that the Mall Of America (reviewed here!) is harder to get into at night than most places I have been. The second day involved going to the Mall Of America . . . or that was the plan.

When visiting the Mall Of America, my mother - who had wanted to go to the Mall Of America her whole life - quickly became bored and I was aware of how the trip to the Mall might have been a lot more fun on the way home, after I had made money at my yearly Star Trek convention. While I was content to go to the movies (the Mall Of America has insanely inexpensive matinees!), my mother became obsessed with the Mystic Lake Casino which had an information shop at the Mall Of America. When she discovered there was a regular shuttle service, we decided to split up. So, between my viewing of Swing Vote (reviewed here!) and our return to the Mall Of America Barnes And Noble where we witnessed the teen girls eagerly awaiting the Breaking Dawn release, my mother and then I went to the Mystic Lake Casino.

Mystic Lake Casino: came in with $0.00, left with $5.00.


Mystic Lake is a decent-sized casino located at 2400 Mystic Lake Boulevard in Prior Lake, Minnesota. This is about twenty-five minutes south of the Mall Of America and I recall seeing signs for it on our way north from the Spam Museum. Outside that, it is virtually impossible for me to provide a location: the shuttle did the driving. After the hellish drive to get out to the Midwest it was so nice to have someone else driving! The shuttle service is a real great selling point for those who want to go shopping and gambling for a couple days but might not want to stay in the smoky atmosphere of the Casino.

Mystic Lake has a large parking area near the casino and it is hard to imagine what it would look like all filled up!


The Mystic Lake Casino is a fairly large Indian-run casino in the midwest 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 one massive hotel lobby. Even the lighting is the soft, mellow lighting that invites one in out of the dark (if it were always night). The casino is spaced and dressed up like a hotel lobby. The main gaming floor is huge and situated with massive numbers of video slot machines headed in different directions to make traveling through them difficult; no matter how fast you want to get through this casino, you'll be obstructed by a bank of video slot machines if you keep moving forward.

I arrived at the Mystic Lake Casino to my usually dour mother waiting for the shuttle bus. When she saw me, she began jumping up and down cheering "I am having so much fun!" It was probably the happiest she was on the whole trip (she was up a hundred dollars). It was pretty wonderful to see her happy.

The high ceilings should help dissipate the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino, but for some reason the place still has a fairly potent tobacco scent. For those sensitive to such things, this remains a drawback to the Mystic Lake.

As for the "atmosphere" of the Mystic Lake, I don't recall seeing anyone on the floor but the dealers and security people. Most of my time, to be fair, was spent in the dining room and getting my Club Mystic card. As far as other aspects of "atmosphere," this is a relatively nondescript casino, especially on the casino floor.

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 Mystic Lake Casino worked quite well for me. I arrived, signed up for the player's club card and was given ten dollars to gamble with. I went down, worked my way back up to the free five dollars and left ahead. At that point in the trip, I had not been bitten by the video slot machine bug.

I have since become a slot machine player and I have no shame in admitting, I tend to like the ones that are more girly themed or video game-like. Mystic Lake had a very standard selection of video slot machines, including Enchanted Unicorn, the new Goldfish Gold, "Alien," Wheel of Fortune, Deal Or No Deal, and hundreds of others. The Mystic Lake Casino had a pretty decent selection and I recall when looking around upon first entering that there were several banks of virtually every game they had. The Mystic Lake is especially proud of having the new eBay-themed slot machine and my mother was particularly enamored with the Village People Party, which is how she worked her way up so fast. Given that there are four thousand video slot machines at Mystic Lake it is difficult to express the full size and majesty of this place.

For those who might be into games of chance and card games instead of the fun and controlled reinforcement of video slot machines, there are one hundred tables with blackjack. This is definitely a place not only trading on slot/video poker play as they devote a fair amount of space to the blackjack tables, though the only real differentiation in that section of the casino is now much it costs to bet at the table and how many decks of cards they are playing with. There is also a bingo hall and it was pretty well packed when we visited!

There is a player's club at the Mystic Lake, which is the Club Mystic. Signing up is easy and for signing up players are given a ten dollar bill. Yes, unlike many casinos, Mystic Lake hands you cash when you sign up! It's pretty incredible. In fact, since arriving home, they have already sent us offers in the mail (note to Mystic Lake: for players who traveled across country to visit your casino, it might be nice if the offers you mail out don't expire two weeks after you get back!). Points here are accrued based upon how much money one bets in combination with time spent at a machine. The points accrue through some mystery formula and by the time I left, I did not have many at all.

Entertainment Options

The Mystic Lake Casino boasts entertainment and there are shows that come periodically to the casino. They seem to have a very Country and Western theme, which makes some sense considering this casino is in the Midwest. Currently advertised shows include Amy Grant, Kenny Rogers and Loretta Lynn. Tickets were actually fairly reasonable as most were under fifty dollar!

Dining Options

Mystic Lake was where I did the training for my impending arrival in Las Vegas, which meant that we went for the buffet. We arrived on one of their special days and the buffet was only $12.95. $12.95 for all you can eat of at least five different styles of cuisine, a massive dessert bar, and drinks. There was a Chinese food section, Italian, Mediterranean, the pretty essential American food (it's like Thanksgiving at these casinos every day), soups, salads, and pretty much everything in between. This was an exceptional value and both of us left stuffed.

In addition, there was a coffee bar, a sit-down restaurant, and a steakhouse. In other words, for those less gluttonous than the masses, there are other options both casual and fancy, bound to satisfy anyone!

Shopping Options

Unlike Las Vegas casinos, Mystic Lake Casino is not trading so much on shopping. There is a gold course at the casino and a campground, but I did not visit them. Similarly, there is a health club and spa attached to the hotel.


Mystic Lake is fun in the Midwest and it offers a palatable alternative to those stuck in Minnesota without money for shopping. Those who like casinos will like the variety of options, though those drawn to table games might be disappointed. My mother (standing over me as I review this) is arguing that I ought to be rating it higher; to be clear, this is a fun casino. However, there is not so much to do at this one other than gamble and eat (which are both noble endeavors, to be sure!) and in retrospect, it is slightly above average, but not by much. Objectively, this is a good (not great) casino experience.

For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Mount Airy Casino
Palace Station Casino
Soaring Eagle Casino


For other travel reviews, please visit my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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