As a casino value seeker both by inclination and by bankroll, I look forward each year to the new edition of the American Casino Guide and the member's rewards booklet from the Las Vegas Advisor.
Both are on my desk now, and I look forward to plotting out how best to use the coupons they contain.
The American Casino Guide is a solid resource for players. It lists every casino in the United States, along with their amenities, websites and phone numbers. The guide is broken down into states, with a short history of the casino industry in that state along with a current status report.
Much of the information is practical, such as the distance from airport to casinos in Atlantic City and the cost of a cab ride, or where to find coupons and fun books in Colorado. In states where statistics are available, the Guide breaks down slot machine payback percentages over a one-year period.
Players looking for a basic how-to guide can find it here, too, with publisher Steve Bourie chiming in on the basics of blackjack, baccarat, craps and roulette. Jean Scott and Linda Boyd chime in on video poker, Max Rubin and H. Scott Krause on comps, and I contribute an article on slot machine trends.
The value seeker's portion comes at the back of the book, with more than 300 coupons that include dining, room and show discounts along with gambling offers from casinos throughout the United States.
The guide is on special for $11.75 at americancasinoguide.com.
The Advisor, a monthly guide to all things Las Vegas, was my inspiration for starting to write about casinos. Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, if I could bring the kinds of tips it gives Las Vegas players to other markets? The publication still remains a favorite, well worth the $37 it costs for an online membership or $50 to get a copy in the mail each month.
Of particular interest to me over the years has been a section of the monthly newsletter called "Couponomy." Every month, it tells readers where the bargains are and how to get them. In the days when my wife and I used to go on three-night casino trips with $400 to make last for the duration, the Advisor's tips were a must.
The monthly tips remain a great value, and the member rewards booklet puts it over the top. Even a once-a-year Vegas visitor should be able to more than make up the subscription price with this collection of 129 coupons for dining, shows, rooms and gambling. One that intrigues me this year is Fitzgerald's, where you can get $5 in free play for every 50 points earned in a 24-hour period, up to a $100 reward. Go to lasvegasadvisor.com.
Farewell, John Busam
For the last 16 years, I've written regularly for Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine and spoke four or five times a month to its publisher, John Busam. Often, it would be about story ideas, and he'd always preface his request by telling me he wanted, "The usual ... you know, award-winning, original, never been done before."
And he laughed before we got down to the details of just what I was going to write for the next issue.
He was my friend as well as my publisher, and often our talks would just be about the casino industry in general rather than specific story ideas, and about our families.
John died unexpectedly, of pneumonia, on Jan. 16. My sincere condolences to his family. I feel the loss, too.
Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski's weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.