Lake Charles: the next generation of destination gambling?
I live in Houston, Texas. Since Texas does not have legalized Class III gaming (aka traditional casino gambling), Southwest Louisiana offers the closest “locals” casino for someone in my locale. There are some racinos (race track + casino) and even a land-based casino in New Orleans. However, the casinos that seem to draw the most business and definitely the most Vegas-like action are found in a medium-sized industrial community almost exactly halfway between Houston and New Orleans right off Interstate 10: Lake Charles, Louisiana.
I visit Lake Charles fairly often. It has a number of casinos within a 20-ish mile radius of the town, but for the most Vegas-like experience there is something special about a duo of casinos from two national chains with resorts right on the lakefront: the Golden Nugget Lake Charles and Pinnacle’s L’Auberge Lake Charles.
I thought the best thing to do, then, would be to compare across many of the variables people look for in a destination casino resort. I think I’ll even choose a “winner” for each category. However, taste and preference are individual, so if you don’t like my choice, no harm no foul. Finally, I won’t go into table games because I don’t play them. I don’t do clubs, but they don’t really have them. That said, let’s get started.
Comparison Of The Rooms
Both properties exist as resort destinations with gambling, food, pools, bars, retail, spa, and entertainment options. And of course after all the fun has drained our energy (and bank accounts), a nice place to rest is needed.
1. What Do I Get?
The rooms in both locations are high quality and have different benefits to offer. Aside from beds and showers, each has unique qualities. The Golden Nugget rooms are newer as the property opened December 2014 and L’Auberge opened in May 2005. Golden Nugget rooms all feature two things you won’t find in L’Auberge rooms: balconies and banquettes. All rooms are non-smoking so if you want to enjoy a tobacco-infused item, then the balcony is where you might do this (although signage warns against it). The banquette is a small two-seat diner-like eating space that is awkwardly placed directly in front of the television, but does offer a nice alternative to enjoying your post-drinking late-night nosh not on your bed. In contrast, L’Auberge does have smoking rooms but neither of the other perks.
Both offer free bottled water to guests in the room (although L’Auberge briefly tried charging for it) and both have substandard cable TV options as is common in most casino resorts that don’t want you sitting in the room not spending money. Internet is free for guests in both locations with options to upgrade to higher quality connectivity at both for a fee.
2. What About The Design?
Room design options vary at both, but while L’Auberge feels like a smaller property, it currently has about 200 more rooms than Golden Nugget with all recently renovated and refreshed. GN rooms have a more contemporary feel with the signature bright orange, yellow, and white pallet common throughout other GN properties. L’Auberge rooms, however, contrast with green and brown hues that match the overall lodge décor of the property.
3. What About Upgrades?
Access to mini-suite or suite options are limited. As a third-tier player at both (although not simultaneously), I have had the opportunity to receive the bottom suite upgrade in the respective properties and both offer a larger room and additional seating options but not much else. One day when I hit for millions, I’ll compare the villas. The biggest distinction in room access, however, is that Golden Nugget has a tighter hold on premium views than L’Auberge. During a recent stay, I booked at both hotels to house guests coming with us. My traditional comp at L’Auberge gave us a nice pool view with a room near the elevator as requested. The same request at Golden Nugget (where I currently have more play history and a higher tier card), got us a view of the casino roof and offer for an upgrade to a Lake view at $30 a night or a pool view at $50 a night. That said, if I needed to engage a host to bust an otherwise “sold out” night, Golden Nugget’s host team has always been professional and responsive in making the comp rooms happen whereas the L’Auberge host staff doesn’t always score high here. I’ll give more detail on that in the Gaming section.
Either way, we took the comp without the upgrade. Here’s why. The Golden Nugget pool has more of a dayclub vibe (sometimes featuring DJs on an unusually large poolside stage) and is noisy and the lakeview while ok also features a view of the petrochemical plants that also support the economy in this area. What is also interesting to note is that both rooms were fairly easy to get two weeks out on a standard comp (no special calls to a host needed) during Spring Break. In the past, this was a hard time to grab a room and now the market seems to have eased a bit.
4. And The Room Service & Housekeeping?
For the last comparison point, I’ll briefly mention housekeeping and room service. Both properties have good room cleanliness. The bath amenities at L’Auberge are a bit more subtle than the more fragrant options at Golden Nugget. Room service is cordial and professional at both properties but speed and accuracy goes to L’Auberge. Food quality, however, is disparate with L’Auberge winning the prize for tastier food including options now offered from its STELLAR pan-Asian concept I’ll detail in the later Food installment, aptly named Asia.
With all this in mind, from the perspective of a 40-something gambler, my preference for rooms in Lake Charles solidly goes to L’Auberge Lake Charles.
Next part of the Comparison Of The Golden Nugget And Pinnacle’s L’Auberge coming soon. In part 2 we’ll talk about pool, entertainment, shops and more!