The first time I ever went to Circus Circus was in the late 80s, and then again in the early 90s. Back then, it was one of my favorite casinos. The casino had a fun vibe to it. It wasn’t until later, as a much older adult, did I hear other adults grumble about the kids running amuck at Circus Circus. Just for nostalgia’s sake, I decided to visit Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Circus Circus is located on the north end of Las Vegas Blvd, aka ‘the Strip’. While the north end of the Strip has a reputation for being decrepit and run down, it’s starting to make a come back. Nearby is the ultra luxurious Wynn. Resorts World, which is another high end mega resort, is being built nearby, too. After SLS is sold and rebranded, there actually might be an uptick in traffic to the north end.
I called up a female friend and asked her to accompany me to Circus Circus. As an older adult, I felt a little weird going into Circus Circus by myself, since there are so many families with little kids walking around. She refused to accompany me. Her excuse: it’s old and run down, and there are too many little kids running around. She insisted on Venetian.
So I called up another female friend in one of the gambling forums and bribed her into escorting me around Circus Circus. She agreed, but asked why not go to Wynn?
So many judgmental people! Sheesh!
We ended up at Circus Circus, and my first friend was right. When I went to Circus Circus in the 90s, I remember kids running around, but today there were more kids than what I remembered.
Tons of parents with strollers. I have never seen so many strollers in a gambling joint, or really anywhere. On a per square foot basis, I’m willing to bet this casino has more people pushing strollers than Disneyland. Witness…
But guess what? Circus Circus is one of the most profitable casinos in the MGM portfolio: https://www.reviewjournal.com/business/casinos-gaming/circus-circus-on-las-vegas-strip-still-makes-money-after-50-years/
TL;DR…the article says Circus Circus is hugely profitable.
And yes, the casino is run down and quite old, but there’s a good reason why it’s so profitable. It’s the rare casino that truly caters to families; where mom and dad can go with their little kids, engage in a little bit of escapism, and no one there will pass judgment on mom and dad. On an interesting side note, Circus Circus is allegedly the only Las Vegas strip casino without a mortgage, so earnings at Circus Circus go straight into the MGM’s bottom line.
The gambling is also very cheap and forces it’s gambler to low roll. So mom and dad can take $100 to Circus Circus and have it last all day long.
Circus Circus has a party pit that has no go-go dancers. While there are no go-go dancers, there is the presence of very loud rock music…then followed by pop music. It’s a weird musical mish mash.
The craps is a measly double odds, $5 minimum. This sounds stingy, but the low roller isn’t going to bust a $500 bankroll in a single day. The $5 minimum and 2x odds means that you will be betting low, and a cold streak will not wipe you out. Not to mention, there are almost no casinos left on the Las Vegas strip that have $5 minimum limits. Circus Circus has $5 minimum limits.
The blackjack is mostly 6-5, with one 3-2 table, $5 minimum. I verified with the dealer that all the tables were 6-5, except for a lone 3-2 table.
Roulette is has a higher limit at $15 minimum and a lower $5 minimum.
The drink service is relatively fast. I ordered 3 drinks in about 30 minutes.
My friend and I played craps for an hour, caught two hot shooters and won about $200 each. That was at a $5 game with double odds.
Circus circus doesn’t have the most number of slot machines, but most other popular brands and slot machines are on the floor. In keeping with the circus theme, there’s a carousel of slots that slowly revolves, as if the slot player was on a circus carousel.
My friend loves roulette, so we next went to the roulette table. We sat and played next to a guy who was smelling like weed. His wife comes up and says, ‘it’s your turn to watch (the kids)’. So he gets up, leaving his chips there, and she sits down, orders a drink and starts drinking and playing. She gets really excited when she hits a 28 straight up for $2. Later he comes back to relieve her (or is it she relieves him) and the cycle repeats.
After playing at Circus Circus for a few hours, the place started growing on me. It all made sense to me. As a little kid, my parents took me to the local circus that would make semi-annual trips to our small town. The traveling circus had this old gritty feel and smell to it. If you’ve ever been to an actual circus, you would understand. Except for the performers in the trapeze act, nothing at a real circus is glamorous or five star. Every circus has a cheesy and retro feel to it. That’s part of the appeal of a real circus. It’s part of the small town nostalgia of many people’s youth.
By design or accidental happenstance, Circus Circus captures the low budget nostalgic charm of a traveling circus. Circus Circus genuinely feels like…a circus.
The other component of Circus Circus is that no one will judge you for engaging in adult activities with your children in the proximity. If you go anywhere else in the country, and you tried combining vices, such as gambling and drinking with children, the Puritans would have a fit. At Circus Circus, it’s all normal. I mean, look at the liquor store near the entrance with a kiddy circus theme. No joke:
And that’s the reason I think Circus Circus makes money for MGM and is packed. Families with young children feel safe and accepted doing something that would otherwise be frowned upon anywhere else. They won’t be judged. And they can do it for cheap cheap cheap.
That’s the charm of Circus Circus. I hope they never tear it down. We have enough high-end fancy joints in Vegas with $15 and $25 minimums. Las Vegas needs a Circus Circus type casino.
I like Circus Circus enough, I decided to make a craps video of the Circus Circus craps game. I wanted to capture a game at Circus Circus in case one day they tear down Circus Circus to build another high-end mega resort. Stay tuned. The video is coming soon.