Place Your Bets...

There’s no casino gambling in Ohio – yet. But there’s still a lot of dice, card and slot action in nearby states including Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia.

And since the 60-plus pack spends one-third more cash than younger visitors, according to studies, casinos are scrambling to get their slice of the Baby Boomer pie with giveaways, free food, special room rates, shuttles and star entertainment geared to Boomer memories including the likes of Vicki Lawrence, the Marshall Tucker Band, David Cassidy and the latest “Elvis” in the spotlight.

Anyone looking for a casino lift can hop a round-trip shuttle with H&H Transportation to Hollywood in Lawrenceburg, Ind., the closest gaming spot. It leaves every two hours, 10:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., Monday through Saturday from Government Square on Fifth Street. The $20 cost includes a $7 food voucher at the casino. (The final return trip is 11 p.m.)

But many take the easier route, surrounded by friends with door-to-door service on comfy charter coaches departing from many residential, social or church facilities.

“A group leader can arrange it with the casino or we can handle the trip details,” says Mary Jo Klug of Charter Bus Service.

Joel Pieper, director of group operations at Provident Travel, says though they arrange casino day trips as part of their overall tours, it was more common 10 to 15 years ago for seniors to hop on a bus. “Today’s seniors are more active and do more of the short-distance driving themselves.”

Casino charter trips usually require a minimum of 25 guests and include door-to-casino service, with free admission and a “player card” for each casino visited. Player cards keep track of how much time players spend at machines and can be redeemed for food coupons and discounts. Frequent gamers can get freebies and coupons in the mail as well.

Riders are welcome to make their own casino arrangements, says Klug, but “if we are making the arrangements we contact the casino to see what’s being offered for the day, which can vary from day to day or week to week.” The charter provides a list of the guests so player cards and vouchers can be arranged ahead of time.

Typical day trips leave at about 10 a.m. and return at about 3-4 p.m., but they can be set to fit any schedule, even stopping at two casinos. “But a lot of casinos have minimum play requirements – usually three to four hours – before a buffet is thrown in,” says Klug, so a day trip to one casino may be most lucrative to garner “extras” for the group.

Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg is the closest to Cincinnati and often the most popular for do-it-yourself drivers. “We see charter trip requests for Belterra just because it’s a farther drive,” says Pieper, and can cost anywhere from $25 - $50 per person. “We try to keep it reasonable and can throw in another stop along the way or a show or a dinner on the way home.”

A typical trip for about 45-50 people to Hollywood Casino would be about $500 total, says Klug. “It all depends on what the casino is offering and the time and mileage.” Seniors looking for more than a day trip are the norm for Elizabeth Oliver of Lion Tours. “My population prefers to go a little farther because they can drive themselves to the area casinos.” The Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack in West Virginia and the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort in New Cumberland, W. Va., are popular destinations.

“On the West Virginia trip, we stop at the Wheeling Island for gaming and lunch then go to the Mountaineer for more gaming and to spend the night.” A $159 trip will get three meals and up to $30 of coin play and includes transportation, luggage and hotel accommodations (double occupancy) and any “comps” or extras being offered.

Detroit’s Greektown Casino Hotel and Motor City Casino Hotel are also popular at Lions. Last year Provident Travel arranged a two-night trip to Michigan’s Soaring Eagle, in Mount Pleasant, northwest of Detroit, with a stop at the Henry Foard Museum.

Tunica Mississippi’s casinos are another hotspot at Lions Tours, and at Travel America Tours. “People usually want to include more than just casinos,” says Bob Callahan, director of tours at Travel America. On their Mississippi trips “we usually stop in Memphis for shows or a stop at Graceland to see Elvis’ home.”

Provident has a two-night trip to the Greenbrier Resort’s newly-opened Tavern Casino, modeled after Monte Carlo, in Sulphur Springs W. Va, “a destination in itself,” says Pieper.

It really depends on what the group wants and the time of the year, says Pieper of their charter trips. “We do about 150 a year and that includes the casino runs.

“Most folks want a little more than just casino time in their trip.”

Hollywood Casino
(888) 274-6797
Lawrenceburg, Ind. 26.40 miles from Fountain Square, estimated driving time, 32 minutes

Belterra Casino Resort & Spa
(812) 427-7777
Florence, Ind., 50.31 miles from Fountain Square, estimated driving time, 53 minutes

Grand Victoria Casino & Resort
(800) 471-6311
Rising Sun, Ind. 38.9 miles from Fountain Square, estimated driving time, 51 minutes

Charter Bus Service
(513) 941-8700

Lion Tours
(513) 761-9524

Provident Travel, Joel Pieper
(513) 763-3080

Travel America Charters
(859) 493-5100