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Gambling on Love  
Glamorous and inexpensive, a casino-hotel can be your best vacation bet
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By Susan Breslow Sardone

Falling in love is always risky. And getting married, well, that's reserved for the biggest gamblers of all. If you're planning a vacation or a honeymoon for the two of you -- or even figuring out how to roll an affordable wedding and honeymoon into one, staying at a casino hotel may be your best bet. Here's why:

You won't find newer, nicer rooms for the money any place else. Rates are suppressed so guests have the convenience of playing in the casino till the wee hours and sleeping over. But you don't have to; you can simply take advantage of a great room without dropping so much as a quarter in a slot machine. Tip: While high rollers get preference over honeymooners at these properties, it never hurts to let the front-desk clerk know you've just married. If there's space, you stand a good chance of getting an upgrade.
(Photo: Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino & Resort.)

Couples need privacy. After a wedding, you may not feel like leaving your room and seeing another person aside from your spouse for a while. But you will have to eat. Great casino-hotels offer 24-hour room service. So you can order breakfast at midnight, chocolate cake for lunch, champagne and a platter of shrimp at your whim. Definitely beats getting dressed and going out, when you're just not in the mood.

Sooner or later, just about every superstar performer makes his or her way to a casino town to perform. On a recent visit to Atlantic City's Tropicana, we noticed that Bob Dylan would be playing soon. In Las Vegas the days of the Rat Pack are over...but they've been surpassed by mind-boggling extravaganzas such as "O" at Bellagio. If you can't afford a big-ticket show, free ones -- like the Dancing Waters at Bellagio -- are sights to behold.

Big-name chefs have realized that opening a casino-town outpost gives travelers from all over the world a chance to sample their cuisine. In Las Vegas you can savor everything from Emeril Lagasse's spicy Cajun fare to Wolfgang Puck's smoked salmon pizza to Charlie Palmer's sophisticated tasting menu, complete with complementary wines in an architecturally splendid room. Not every night, though...unless you hit a jackpot. The rest of the time, choose from a dizzying variety of dishes at casino-hotel buffet restaurants.

Maybe some screaming Grandmas, when they hit it big. But if your idea of a romantic getaway involves adults-only pleasures, you'll be happy in a casino-hotel environment. While hotels welcome guests of all ages, casinos exclude those under 18 from entering.

Casino-hotels are smart: They know their guests -- especially the winners -- have money jingling in their pockets. So most have opened shopping areas close by the casino. My favorite is at Bellagio, in Las Vegas. Its lobby and conservatory shops include outposts of Armani, Judith Leiber, and the most fabulous jewelry store in town.

Whether you're considering a visit to the warm Caribbean or frosty Canada, there's generally plenty to do and see in the areas surrounding a casino hotel if you get out and explore. To give you an idea of what activities await those who travel to popular gaming destinations:

Atlantic City Tastings at local wineries
Las Vegas Hoover Dam, trips to the Grand Canyon
Caribbean Beaches, watersports, cruising, shopping
Monte Carlo Tour the Royal Palace
Nice, Cannes Sunbathe on the French Riviera
Montreal Explore Vieux Montreal
Niagara Falls See Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake

So if you want a relatively inexpensive vacation, consider a casino-hotel anywhere in the world. You'll luck out.

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