The World’s Most Unusual Casinos

Casinos are known for being lavish and over the top. While some casinos attempt to replicate iconic locations from around the world or be doused in luxury, others stand out for entirely different reasons, like offering unique and unusual experiences.

Whether gambling underground or in the Arctic, the following casinos offer something truly unusual that sets them apart, even in a world where unusual and showstopping is the norm.

North Cadbury Court (Somerset, UK)

When you think of an underground casino, you picture shady back rooms at the back of a questionable business or striding through dark alleys littered with trash to a door concealed in a wall. But, in the case of North Cadbury Court, the term underground is far more literal.

The basement of this old English countryside manor has delivered an underground casino. The manor, having been built in 1580, has a basement that isn’t like one most of us are familiar with today, where we’d expect to find spacious rooms, high ceilings, and windows. Instead, it better fits the term cellar, a space that truly is below ground level and, at one point, was more than likely nothing more than dirt walls and floors used for cold storage.

Of course, with this being a luxury estate, they aren’t inviting guests to play casino games in a muddy cellar. The space has been polished and refined, turning the tell-tale signs of a root cellar, like low ceilings, no windows, tiny rooms, and dirt walls and floors, into an intimate, lavish space in which games are played. (Though in some spots, you still need to duck to avoid hitting your head on the ceiling.)

Casino (Esperanza Base, Antarctica)

Antarctica isn’t the most likely place in the world for a casino, yet this barren, frozen landscape offers one. Or, at least, that’s what the name of the base’s community center, the Casino, would have you believe.

In the Antarctic, the Casino offers a space to escape the feeling of isolation. It is a community hall where Esperanza Base inhabitants can come together for food, games, and general company. So, it isn’t the traditional idea of a casino, with slot machines and table games, but if the residents wanted to, they could use the welcoming space to host games with one another or simply hop onto to play against others anywhere in the world.

Rivers Casino (Chicago, United States)

Until recently, Chicago only allowed casinos to operate on the river, and they had to actually be sailing if any gambling took place on board. This opened up a market for riverboat gambling, which, while fun, was limited for operators. 

However, by the early 2010s, these strict regulations had been reduced, and one casino decided to take full advantage of these regulatory updates. In order to have a larger footprint and more offerings to its guests, this casino found a loophole in 2011 that allowed it to essentially create a land-based casino by building over a water basin — so it was, technically, operating on the water. This loophole offered more space and flexibility in what it could build compared to the restrictions of a riverboat. 

That casino was the Rivers Casino, and it has been one of the top-performing casinos in the entire region. Today, you’ll find live entertainment, sports betting, slot games, table games, and a range of restaurants within it.

Prison Casino (Nevada, United States)

Nevada, home to many unique and show-boating casinos, has also been home to one that was completely unusual and unexpected: a prison inmate-run casino that illegally operated from 1932 to 1967. Wardens would turn a blind eye to the gaming operation, which offered table games like blackjack and poker as well as sports betting.

While this certainly would have made for a different kind of gambling experience, the casino was shut down when the State Legislature prohibiting gambling in prisons went through. Shortly after, the prison board stepped in and shut down the whole operation.

Taxi Cab Casino (London, UK)

This casino was exactly what the name implied: a gaming space in the back of a taxi cab. The cab’s patrons could enjoy a game of blackjack, along with a selection of drinks, on the way to their destination. It was the world’s smallest casino and the smallest travelling casino.

Being such a small venue meant that blackjack was the only game that could be comfortably played, but the novelty of the whole experience made that a non-issue. The Taxi Cab Casino was around for a short time in 2016 and has since stopped operating, but you never know — maybe one day it’ll return to the streets of London.

Desert Cave Hotel (Coober Pedy, Australia)

Coober Pedy is a unique town in Australia known as the opal capital of the world, but what truly makes it stand out is that it’s home to a vast array of underground or cave amenities, including the Desert Cave Hotel. At the hotel, guests will find their rooms below the surface of the earth, as well as shops, bars, and casino games.

Casino games can be found at the hotel bar through what the locals call “pokie machines.” These machines allow people to play poker while enjoying the bar atmosphere. It’s a unique, novel experience highly rated by those who’ve participated in it.

Casino Ideas That Didn’t Quite Pan Out

Unusual casino ideas have been plenty, but few have made it past the ideation stage. For instance, many ideas have surfaced around turning long journeys into gambling havens. 

In Las Vegas, a train casino was pitched to add excitement and a taste of Vegas to travelers heading to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. This idea even reached the planning stage, intending to launch on New Year’s Eve 2013. Unfortunately, the train casino never came to be.

Another idea pitched but never realized was to create casinos in the sky by providing gaming options to travelers on long-haul flights.

Gambling Alongside the Unusual Offers Novelty and Fun

For many, casinos are all about the fun experience and a change of routine, so adding an element of the unusual or unexpected only adds to the appeal of casino outings.