Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Biggest Is Not Always The Best: MGM Grand Casino Bores Visitors (My 100th Travel Review!)

MGM Grand Hotel and Casino
Book a room at the MGM Grand!
Click here for the listing!

The Good: Big, Lots to do
The Bad: Very standard, Very boring, Nothing terribly distinctive.
The Basics: Nothing terribly wrong with the MGM Grand Casino, save being one of the least distinctive and most boring casinos in Las Vegas I went to.

Despite my rather rigid rating system and my deep-seated belief that the majority of our experiences will ultimately average out, I can understand some why the "average" (4-6.5/10) reviews are not the staple of most reviewers' repertoire. It's boring to write about places and things that are adequate, but not much more than that. It's tough to get interested in writing a review where you're willing to flip a coin to determining the "recommend" or "not recommend" at the end.

I've been having that problem each and every time I sat down to write my review of the MGM Grand Casino. I was there a month ago and it was the least distinctive casino I gambled at. Was it terrible? No. Was it boring? Yes. Is it anything I can clearly define? Not so much. The best analogy I can give is this: if you've been shopping at a mall for two days back to back, the stores near the end, with their shiny lights and the same brands as everywhere else pale in comparison to the stores that still have a gimmick. The MGM is just big and it's kind of dull, especially in comparison to the other Las Vegas casinos I went to.

MGM Grand Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $15.00.


The MGM Grand is a massive hotel and casino located at 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, Las Vegas Boulevard is more commonly referred to as The Strip, the highest concentration of the most famous casinos in Las Vegas. The MGM Grand is one of the largest casinos on the Strip, dwarfing many others near it.

The MGM Grand has an equally huge parking garage next door with walkways extending from the multileveled parking structure to the casino. "Immense" would not be an inappropriate description of the MGM Grand. It is, by a fair amount, the largest casino I went in (to my knowledge or perception) while in Las Vegas. The MGM Grand boasts several thousand video slot machines and that boast is not an idle one; there were easily three thousand (if not, over five!) video slot machines on the floor of the MGM Grand casino.


The MGM Grand 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 one massive hotel lobby, save the lighting. The casino is spaced and dressed up like a hotel lobby, but the lighting is surprisingly dark. The lights from the video slot machine appear more pronounced because the ceiling lights are either so far away or so inadequate that the general feel of the casino is dark, yet spacious. There is, in some ways, a movie theater feeling to the MGM Grand as a result. 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. Believe me, I know; I went through all of the video slot machines looking for a game my mother played at the MGM Grand last year!

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 rather pungent tobacco scent. For those sensitive to such things, this remains a drawback to the MGM Grand. There is at least one nonsmoking poker room, but to my knowledge, there was no nonsmoking video slot room. One wonders if there is a Las Vegas casino that would try that; if they were able to clean out any space sufficiently, I am certain there would be a market for a nonsmoking slot area, if not an entirely nonsmoking casino!

As for the "atmosphere" of the MGM Grand, I swear, I don't recall seeing a serving woman in the casino on any of my trips to the MGM Grand. In fact, the only people I saw on the floor were two information/help people wearing a suit and a pantsuit each. They were strolling around the floor, directing people where they wanted to go, observing, etc. They were the ones who informed my poor mother that the MGM Grand no longer had the lone "Spooky Match And Win" game she played the year prior.

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 MGM Grand Casino worked quite well for me. I arrived, failed to find the video slot machine my mother had been waiting all year to return to and I sat down at Mermaid's Gold and won fifteen dollars. I cashed out then and walked around the rest of the time; my mother was pretty sullen.

I'm primarily 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. The MGM Grand 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 MGM Grand 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 MGM Grand is especially proud of its progressive slots, which offer a huge jackpot when they hit, but those are not truly my thing. This was also the casino where I saw that they had the highest limit video slots and those were pretty terrifying for a person like me who plays the penny machines!

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 several tables with table games, including a twenty-two table nonsmoking poker room! As well, they have the standard tables of blackjack, roulette wheels, seven card stud, Texas Hold-em, and Omaha. 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 sports betting segment, but that's not truly my thing.

There is a player's club at the MGM Grand, which is the MGM Mirage Players Club. Signing up is easy and there was no line when I went to sign up. There was nothing free for signing up when I went and for a casino so large, that seemed awfully chintzy to me.

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 MGM Grand Casino boasts entertainment and in the casino there was a lion cage exhibit (habitat) in the casino itself! This was pretty cool, especially after I became bored with the same old video slot machines. As well, they have a pretty impressive bevy of shows in the MGM Grand theater. In addition to being the Las Vegas home of Cirque Du Soleil, there are regular concerts by the likes of Wayne Newton, Chicago, David Copperfield, and Tom Jones!

As well, there is a Paris-themes cabaret act and a dance club at the MGM Grand.

Dining Options

The MGM Grand was part of a three casino day for me, on the first day I went there (the other nights I came to it after dinner), so I did not dine at this casino. However, the MGM Grand has at least twenty dining options, though most of them are fine dining establishments.

For those who aren't just planning to drink their way through the MGM Grand, there is a sushi bar, a chinese restaurant, a steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, as well as a Wolfgang Puck restaurant and Joel Robuchon. For cheapskates like me, there is also a casual Emeril's and a buffet. There's even a Starbucks at the MGM Grand!

Shopping Options

The MGM Grand has a few big names to shop at outside the hotel gift shop. There was a florist, a Harley Davidson clothier, as well as jewelers, men's and women's clothing (Armani, Versace), and souvenirs of the MGM Grand itself.

Like most shopping at a casino in Las Vegas, it's ridiculously expensive to shop at the MGM Grand.


The MGM Grand might well be incredible for casino enthusiasts, but after hitting several casinos in Las Vegas, each and every one had something more distinctive to it than the MGM Grand (even if what it has was negative!). The MGM Grand was huge, but the video slot machines were pretty much the typical ones everyone else had and it was, overall, a pretty bland place.

For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Las Vegas Hilton Casino
Fallsview Casino - Ontario
Vernon Downs Casino


For other destination reviews, please be sure to check out my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
MGM Grand Hotel and Casino
Book a room at the MGM Grand!
Click here for the listing!

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