The traditional view of a casino building might involve the bottom floor of an enormous hotel, with ranks of slot machines at the front, a series of roulette and blackjack tables in the middle, and poker rooms at the back. This Vegas-style experience is how we have come to expect a casino to look like. And yet, in the real world, casino games can be played in all kinds of unexpected places, and the venues themselves can be just as diverse. Some of them are not even set up in actual buildings! Read on to learn about the weirdest casinos on earth.
Base Esperanza, Hope Bay, Argentina
The most southerly casino in the world is located on the most northerly tip of Antarctica. Base Esperanza (Spanish for ‘hope’) was named after 3 Swedish explorers who were shipwrecked there in the 1900s. They built a shelter and were eventually rescued a year later, never giving up hope that they would be saved. Today it is one of two permanently manned bases on the continent, with 60 residents enjoying tinned food, powdered milk, and a tiny orange casino which is the most significant entertainment venue. Blackjack and craps are played for real money by the camp’s residents, but we don’t know what the biggest win has been.
Casino Pyongyang, North Korea
While the so-called hermit kingdom of North Korea might seem the most unlikely place to have a casino, it actually boasts two of them. The weirdest is found in the basement of the Yanggakdo International Hotel in the capital of Pyongyang. Although it is barred to citizens of the DPRK and only caters to a few tourists, the casino has a wide range of games, including slot machines, blackjack tables, and a roulette wheel. It even accepts a wide range of currencies – you can deposit US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Hing Kong Dollars, and Chinese Renminbi. The country is desperate for such hard currencies, so you might have a hard job converting your casino chips back into banknotes you are familiar with.
Underground Casino, Coober Pedy, Australia
The town of Coober Pedy was set up as an opal mining operation in the 20th Century in the Australian Outback. Located roughly equidistant between Alice Springs and Adelaide, the landscape is hot, desert-like, and unforgiving, so the miners built their houses underground to escape the sun’s rays. These days the town is a major tourist attraction, mainly thanks to the subterranean vibe, which includes an underground desert hotel with a casino attached. If you don’t strike it lucky playing poker or roulette, you can always chip away at your hotel room wall, as this area is still known for its deposits of precious stones.
North Cadbury Court, Yeovil, UK
The world’s smallest casino is another underground affair. Located in the beautiful Somerset countryside, North Cadbury Court is a typical English stately home, complete with gardens and an enormous ballroom. It is available for venues such as weddings, corporate events, and other celebrations, and is perfect for those looking to experience the Downtown Abbey vibe, just for a weekend. The piece de resistance is the basement casino, which features a full-size gaming table and room for just a dozen players. What goes on afterward no-one knows, but North Cadbury Court is rumored to hold the wildest poker nights this side of Macau.
Grosvenor Taxicab Casino, UK
So far, we have only discussed casinos set up in fixed structures. Although one can find plenty of casinos on riverboats, and there are frequently mooted plans to offer casino games on trains and even planes, the only casino we know of one four wheels is a taxicab in the UK. Set up by the local Grosvenor casino operator in 2016, this black cab had room for two passengers and one dealer, offering hands of blackjack, as well as alcoholic beverages. The cab toured London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow, letting hundreds of punters enjoy mobile gaming in the most literal of senses.
Rivers Casino, Illinois, USA
In 1990, Illinois legislated that casinos could only operate above water, with the clear intention of allowing riverboat casinos, and nothing else. However, the Rivers casino lawyers deemed it legal to dig a pit in northern Chicagoland, fill it with water from the nearby North Shore canal, and then construct a fixed casino building above it. Although it clearly broke the spirit of the law, amazingly, Illinois state gave this ‘casino on a puddle’ the green light. Nowadays the Rivers casino is the most frequented gambling establishment in northern Illinois, with almost 150,000 square feet of gaming space, including slots, poker, blackjack, and roulette.
Nevada State Prison Casino, USA (now closed)
Perhaps the saddest entry on this list, but we even see unofficial casinos getting set up in prison systems across the world. But did you know that between 1932 and 1967, the US state of Nevada had a legally sanctioned casino in their state prison? This casino was run by inmates and was open to both inmates and correctional staff, who whiled away their time enjoying games of blackjack, craps, poker, and other card games. Legend has it that even sports betting was allowed (in most states of today, this is still banned). A portion of the winnings was kept for an inmate welfare fund, and cheating was strictly policed. This rather weird arrangement came to an end in 1967, when the Nevada legislature in Carson City banned prison gambling throughout the state.
Decentraland Casino (somewhere on the internet)
The oddest casino on the list is a purely virtual one. The Decentraland metaverse has grown in popularity along with the rise of the blockchain and cryptocurrencies and is now the premier virtual world on the internet. The Tominoya casino is a full-fledged gambling provider where players can bet on poker, blackjack, roulette, and more, using Ethereum to play against the dealer and against each other. This casino has become so popular that Decentraland Games has even started poaching croupiers from the big operators in Vegas, in order to give players the most authentic experience possible.
The selection of weird land-based casinos (as well as online casinos) above shows that casino games hold a perpetual grip on the human psyche. If two or more people want to bet on games of chance, the likelihood is they will create a venue to do so wherever they are – even at the ends of the earth! Which of the weird casinos above would you most like to visit?