It’s home to perhaps the world’s greatest gambling spectacle, yet it doesn’t have a casino.
We’re talking about Louisville, Kentucky, the pretty, historic city on the banks of the Ohio River famous for the Louisville Slugger, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a little horse race known as the Kentucky Derby, in which gamblers from across the globe spend part of the first Saturday in May to wager a combined $200 million dollars on “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”
Despite being the gambling capital of the world (for one day anyway), Louisville does not have a casino in the traditional sense of a Las Vegas-style resort with a variety of slots, craps, blackjack and other table games. Kentucky is that rare state not to have any commercial or Indian casinos.
There are some Kentucky racetracks that offer what’s called “historical racing machines,” but these aren’t slot machines and therefore we don’t count these as casinos.
As such, residents and visitors wanting to visit a casino to get their slot machine, craps or blackjack fix must go across the Ohio River to Indiana, where there is a major casino resort less than 10 miles away from downtown Louisville (as the crow flies). It’s about a 15 mile drive from downtown Louisville. (More on that below).
(Here’s the drive from downtown Louisville “A” to the Horseshoe “B”)
Closest Casino to Louisville, KY
Owning a virtual monopoly on the Louisville gaming market, the Horseshoe Southern Indiana Hotel & Casino is the only casino within 50 miles of downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
It sits on the banks of the Ohio River, next to an open field, in a pretty rural setting that is the complete opposite of the Las Vegas Strip and most other casino settings you’re probably used to.
And while it’s just a 15 mile drive from downtown Louisville to the Horseshoe, it will take you between 20 to 30 minutes to get there, on account of the fact you’ll have to drive over the Sherman Minton Bridge into New Albany, Indiana, before traveling south along Highway 111. (There aren’t any closer bridges).
Horseshoe Southern Indiana Hotel & Casino
Opened in 1998 (originally as “Caesars Indiana”), the Horseshoe is technically a riverboat, (a requirement of Indiana law). The four-story casino has over 93,000 square feet of gaming space, and is the largest riverboat in the United States.
It’s a Caesars’ Entertainment property, meaning you can use your Total Rewards Card here at any one of the 1,700 slot machines or 200-plus video poker machines. Unlike the historical racing machines, these are real slot machines, like Wheel of Fortune, Hot Shot progressives, themed-based slots like “The Hangover,” “Willy Wonka,” and the like.
Table games include Blackjack, Let-it-Ride, roulette, Pai-gow, mini-baccarat and something you don’t see in Las Vegas much, craps, with 100x odds!
The riverboat’s Deck 4 is where you’ll find the high-limit room, with five blackjack tables that offer limits up to $50,000 per hand.
More my speed are the low limit hold’em and no-limit Texas hold’em games found in the Horseshoe’s 30 table poker room. They also run satellite tournaments for World Series of Poker events.
Hotel and Restaurants
The casino and gambling have to take place on the riverboat, so the Horseshoe Southern Indiana puts its restaurants, shops, spas, hotel and amenities are on land next door. A pedestrian overpass across Highway 111 takes guests to and from the riverboat, which is permanently docked. (You won’t get sea sick).
You may however, get sick of walking.
You’ll do your fair share of walking going back and forth from the riverboat to other parts of the property. However there is a moving walkway, and employees in golf carts to help those in need.
In addition to the massive 5 level parking garage for casino patrons, guests staying at the hotel have their own large four-story parking structure. Both have indoor walkways to the casino, and parking is free.
(Here’s a look inside “The Boat” as the casino is sometimes called)
The hotel’s 503 rooms were all renovated in the spring of 2017.
In addition, to the spa, shops, bars and lounges and showroom, there are seven restaurants, ranging from a coffee bar to a buffet, to – on the fancier side – Jack Binion’s Steak. (Jack’s dad, Benny, founded the original Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas.)
Address and phone
11999 Casino Center Drive
Elizabeth, IN. 47117
Phone: (866) 676-7463
Other casinos close to Lousiville, KY
At just 15 miles from Louisville, the Horseshoe (black pin on map) doesn’t have much competition. In fact, most of the the next closest casinos are casinos outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Closest among these is the Belterra Casino Resort (green star on map), in Florence, Indiana.
Located just a few miles off of Interstate 71 across the Ohio River, it’s 66 miles northeast of Louisville, and would take you between an hour and an hour and twenty minutes to drive.
The beautiful property includes a 603 room hotel, and a 38,000 square foot riverboat casino featuring 1,200 slot machine/video poker machines, along with all the usual table games.
To the northwest, the French Lick Resort (Orange star) in French Lick, Indiana has a 51,000 square foot casino.
It’s just 57 miles away, using the closest route, however because this Highway 150 is mostly just a two lane road, Google maps says it will take you between an hour and ten minutes, to an hour and forty minutes to get there.
Other than a couple of casinos near Cincinnati, the only other casino fairly close to Louisville is the Rising Star Casino (yellow pin on map), at 82 miles away.
Historical Racing Machines
As mentioned above, Kentucky does allow racetracks to offer what’s called “historical racing machines,” (also called “instant racing machines”).
These are sort of look like video slot machines, but have outcomes based on past horse races – all in a complicated format clearly designed as a legal loophole used to sneak in games that would otherwise be illegal under Kentucky law.
There are currently historical racing machines at Kentucky Downs, Red Mile, Keeneland, and Ellis Park, but none so far in Louisville. However that’s soon about to change.
In addition to the tracks above, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Churchill Downs has been approved to open a $60 million gaming parlor on land Churchill Downs owns on Popular Level Road, just east of the airport.
The 85,000 square foot building will house 600 historical racing machines, and is expected to open sometime in 2018.
Top photo courtesy of Caesars Entertainment