This is Part 4 in a 4-part series comparing two casino resorts in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Part 3 covered the Resort Amenities and Entertainment, Part 2 detailed the Food & Beverage offerings and Part 1 covered the Rooms. Now we talk gaming…
Comparison Of The Resort Gambling Entertainment | Lake Charles Resorts
First, if you go to a casino expecting to win, you’re going with the wrong mindset and will more often than not be sorely disappointed. Casinos aim to make money for the casinos after all.
That said, if you approach gambling as entertainment and set a reasonable bankroll (don’t gamble away your rent money, kids), it can be a bunch of fun. Winning makes it even better.
I write this because I waited to finish the last installment of this series until I’d recently gambled at both Golden Nugget and L’Auberge in Lake Charles. I took my BFF, Emily, who is the best gambling companion if not a bit erratic…violent…emotional…did I mention violent? We didn’t win. In fact, we lost. A BUNCH. I took a conservative $500 bankroll for 1 ½ days. I was done with that before the first night was over. Emily…same. We took out more money. LOST.
Thankfully, we had drunken pool time to distract. Nonetheless, we’re here to talk about gambling. I’ll break this up into short themes: the casino, hosts, and the players club.
Golden Nugget is of course newer and the design and upkeep reflects the newness. The Golden Nugget casino looks like every other Nugget…red…orange…yellow…bright…fun. But the Lake Charles casino is BIG. Wide aisles make the slot and VP space a comfortable gamble. The tables look a little more cramped, but I don’t play tables so I think any closeness is too much closeness.
The casino has neat features like the Rush Lounge (another GN signature) which is in the center of the casino and has a gambling space and bar in front that can be accessed from any side. At night, the back lounge and bar opens and adds a solid lounge act to bring up the energy of the casino.
They have a wide variety of games with a good balance between video slots and reels. The high limit lounge has a nice bar and never seems to busy (although there is always someone playing $100 machines…I. CAN’T. EVEN.)
In contrast, the L’Auberge casino claims to have the same number of machines (about 1600 each), but feels much much smaller. Their mix of games tends to lean older with a smaller percentage of games that are new, themed, or gimmicky. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you want the newest games, you might not find them here.
Video Poker is stronger at L’Auberge and the crowd on any given evening shows it. Emily accidentally hit for over $6,000 on a 50c Spin Poker machine here…accidentally…as in she meant to bet one line and bet all the lines but was dealt four deuces…oh and on bonus deuces so she held the deuces and then drew an ace…jerk. I mean, yay her.
The L’Auberge casino is also the home to four of my lifetime handpays…the most of any casino. If I had to deem one casino luckier than the other, it would be L’Auberge. L’Auberge also has free soft drinks and unusually delicious coffee at self-serve stations. That makes me feel like I’m winning. Waiting for a drink and not winning is like doubly losing. The big problem with the L’Auberge casino is that it is not clean. Lots of cigarette ash everywhere. Empty drink containers everywhere. Trash. ICK. That combined with a tighter space often makes gambling at L’Auberge more of a chore than it should be. Golden Nugget had this problem for awhile but really upped their cleanliness game. If L’Auberge would give this aspect some aggressive attention, the place has a great gambling vibe with a more intimate lodge feel and fun energy.
I’ll be brief here. Golden Nugget hosts win hands down. As a third tier player at L’Auberge for years, it was DIFFICULT to get a room comp and even harder to talk to a nice congenial host. I get it. I know your job is to create a good return for the casino, but if I have one trip with less play because oh, let’s say I lose all my bankroll in a night, my historical play should matter. And don’t give me a bad attitude as if it is an inconvenience to look up a room for me. This is why, when the opportunity arose to carry over my tier to Golden Nugget, I jumped at the chance.
While the very first host I had at L’Auberge was AWESOME, every other host since then has been bad attitude central. This includes, during last week’s trip, the woman I asked to call a slot tech when Emily’s machine froze and she told me to hit the service light and wait a minute. When I said “it’s been 15 minutes, can you call someone?” she answered with “it’s a big casino…be patient”. HOW. RUDE. PICK UP THE PHONE AND AT LEAST ACT LIKE YOU CALLED SOMEONE.
Meanwhile, hosts at the Golden Nugget have been congenial and straightforward. Every single host I’ve dealt with has been friendly and tells me when my play earns additional comps and when it falls short. No judgment. Just business. The host office at Golden Nugget is in a nice quiet room versus the host stand at L’Auberge where you feel like part of a cattle call.
In the end, this made a huge difference in my gambling experience. I REALLY DO LIKE L’Auberge but as a gambler, the gambling experience was so affected by the ambiance and emotion of the place that I dropped my tier (now only 2nd tier) to devote most of my play to Golden Nugget. There’s an opportunity there I’m sure…
Both players clubs are part of national chains…sort of. L’Auberge is part of Pinnacle’s MyChoice program. You can use your card anywhere and your account can be pulled up at any of its casinos. I know this because, on a whim, I took a bus up the mountain during a business trip in Denver and found myself at the Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk, CO. (Nice place. Great service. Clean. Copy that L’Auberge!) They pulled up my account and she noted I was primarily a player in Lake Charles. My card status did not carry over and neither did my comps. Many years prior when I wanted a room at their Boomtown property in Bossier City/Shreveport, I had to call a host at L’Auberge who then had to call another host at Boomtown who then set up my reservation, called my L’Auberge host back who then called me to tell me it was all good to go. Seems like a bit much, no?
Golden Nugget is sort of the same experience. Same look and feel of the cards at each property under the 24K Select brand for their club. And yet, I’m bottom tier in Vegas, 2nd tier in Biloxi, and 3rd tier (Chairman) in Lake Charles. It would be neat to carry over benefits between properties. Loyalty programs aren’t ever really about loyalty, let’s be clear. It’s about maximizing benefit for the business and player. When it is at its best balance, players stick around longer because the businesses do a good job of creating return. When the Return on Investment (ROI) diminishes beyond the perceived value of the investment, either party can choose to leverage the opportunity to break their “loyalty”.
WAIT. WHEN DID THIS BECOME ONE OF MY OLD SERVICES MARKETING LECTURES FROM MY DAYS AS A TEACHING FELLOW IN GRAD SCHOOL???
Shake it off.
The L’Auberge list of benefits is easier to figure out. While Golden Nugget has a brochure of benefits, the list has been nebulous. I just looked up their brochure online and it has FINALLY been updated with all benefits…as in within the last week. Prior to this, nebulous. I have only recently discovered, for example, the 15% spa discount and FREE monthly service that I can use for my wife’s mani-pedi through my Chairman status. At L’Auberge, I got a free (higher value) spa service each month. I always used this for a 50-minute massage. And their therapists have always been solid. As another side note and follow up to my previous article, I did finally try out the spa at Golden Nugget and the massage was great but the spa space itself was STELLAR. I see myself coming back here and it is definitely bigger and nicer than L’Auberge’s spa.
Again, back to the topic at hand…sigh…focus. In the end, L’Auberge’s club is still easier to follow and while it takes a bit more coin-in ($75k slots vs $72k slots at GN), the array of benefits has a higher ROI. The only real plus of the GN club over L’Auberge is that you can accrue slot points to use for retail and dining aside from points you can use for slot play. L’Auberge pulls from the same basket of points. In response, Golden Nugget’s program also has its flaws (no free play on video poker, for example) and needs to avoid low value returns in place of fewer but more appealing benefits…discounted cabanas anyone?
In The End…
So, who wins the casino category? Because Golden Nugget offers a better capture-to-release experience (i.e., how I feel from first interaction pre-trip to departure) despite similar offerings despite a lower value players club, I have to give the prize to the Golden Nugget. The casino has yet to generate a W2-G form from my play here and drink service is SLOWWWWWW. But, it’s clean, lively, has a good mix of games and keeps me happy enough. Get those bill breaking machines working better and add more servers on the floor and you’re almost competitive with Vegas.
A few notes before I make the final judgment on best casino between our two competitors. As I noted, I finally had the chance to try out the Golden Nugget Spa and it was wonderful. The men’s lounge is spacious, well-appointed and luxurious. It’s on point with some of the nicer spas in Vegas. I would visit the Golden Nugget Spa in Lake Charles over a Mandara-brand spa in Vegas (i.e., Paris) or even Bellagio’s, which has a nice spa and is spacious but has always been too bright and too busy for my taste. Whereas I still enjoy the L’Auberge Spa, Golden Nugget’s steam room, outdoor co-ed hot tub and chaise loungers, and numerous cushy furniture options make this a better option at comparable prices.
On the other hand, L’Auberge has opened a concept that EVERY CASINO NEEDS: Modern Pantry. I was worried when they closed the popular Desserts outlet (aptly named because they served sweets) to build the new Modern Pantry. WORRY UNFOUNDED. Modern Pantry has successfully created a quick-service multi-concept space that includes a prepared foods case with NUMEROUS grab-and-go food options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a dessert case, and a coffee bar (which also used to exist independently as an outlet near the main casino entrance). The space is bright with a large entrance and a wide array of offerings at a reasonable cost …drum roll please…available 24 HOURS A DAY! WHEEEEEE!!!! The prepared food options look great and aren’t stale convenience store food. Hearty sandwiches and salads, breakfast biscuits, and even sushi. Yep. This needs to exist in EVERY CASINO. Bravo L’Auberge on creating an essential food solution.
With all of that on the table, which casino resort is the winner overall? It would be easy to say that everyone is a winner…however, I am not a fan of fun, fair, positive soccer. This is how our world got into this mess! We must have people and organizations that perform better than others. This breeds competition and incentive. And as a consumer, we need to give honest feedback so that the competition is fueled and our experience continues to improve. Otherwise, complacence sponsors more complacence. What I can say, is my winner is a reflection of performance and experience at this moment in time. The pendulum can easily swing the other way with a bit of tweaks and effort. So, the winner of best casino resort in Lake Charles is…The Golden Nugget. …for now.
I’ll be happy to eat my words if L’Auberge can (literally) clean up its act and get some hosts with a little love in their hearts.
Heading to Vegas the week before Memorial Day weekend. Next write-up will be an honest-to-goodness hands-down no-holds-barred trip report…I know you miss those so I’ll be sure to drink enough to make sure the results are worth your wait. …until then…