As an avid gambler, I’m sure you’re familiar with the casino scene in several parts of the country. Maybe you’ve made multiple trips to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Or perhaps, you’ve enjoyed a few nights spent down in Mississippi or Louisiana.
Either way, you’ve likely been to casinos in the US and know exactly what to expect. But what does the casino gambling scene in Mexico have to offer the casino gambler?
Here, you’ll learn about casinos in Mexico and what you can expect when you visit this exciting country.
Mexico Has Over 200 Casinos to Choose From
Compared to the United States, Mexico has a smaller number of casinos to choose from. You can find at least 1,000 different casinos in the US, many of them in Oklahoma and Las Vegas.
Still, though, the casino gambling scene in Mexico is robust. They only have a couple of horse racing tracks and a single dog racing track, but they also have 150+ sportsbooks in the country.
Most of the casinos in Mexico are small and don’t have a hotel attached to them. The number of casinos with actual hotels attached number is less than a dozen.
Table games aren’t a big thing in Mexico either. I’d be surprised if you found more than 50 table games throughout the entire country. Poker is also not a big game, not even 10 tables in the entire country.
Gambling in Mexico is all about the slot machines in the smaller casinos throughout the 80 or so cities in Mexico offering gambling.
The Biggest Casino in Mexico Is Caliente Casino Hipodromo de Tijuana
Caliente Casino Hipodromo de Tijuana is just a 20-minute drive from San Diego. They offer more gambling products than any other casino in Mexico, including a casino, horse track, off track betting, and a sportsbook.
It’s a historic casino, too. In its previous incarnation in the 1920s, it was a hot spot for San Diego gamblers who wanted to drink and gamble during Prohibition. It’s not only right next to the greyhound park, it’s also close to Caliente Stadium, which is the professional soccer stadium.
They offer over 1,100 different slot machines, a full complement of casino table games, and a lovely restaurant (Mujeres Divinas).
They also serve great mixed drinks and premium beers.
Caliente Casino Hipodromo de Tijuana claims to have the loosest slot machines in Mexico, but you can probably find the same claim at every other large casino, too. Still, with 1,100 electronic gaming machines, they have plenty of variety to offer.
Many of their games are “wild play” games, which means you have the opportunity to double (or triple) the size of your prize after a winning spin.
And yes, they do offer progressive jackpot games, too.
They’re also justifiably proud of their sportsbook, which is as impressive as any book in Vegas. San Diego sports bettors spend far more time betting on games here than they do in Vegas, and not just because of the proximity either.
You can bet on any kind of professional sport you can imagine here, including baseball, basketball, boxing, football, Formula 1, golf, hockey, MMA/UFC, NASCAR, and soccer.
Like any modern sportsbook, the Caliente offers huge TV screens and comfortable seating. You can order food and drinks while you watch the action on the screens. You get up to 60 days to cash in your ticket, and Mexico doesn’t charge any taxes on sports betting wins.
The table games include all the usual favorites like baccarat, blackjack, craps, and roulette.
The racetrack has a long and fascinating history. During the ‘20s, you could watch some of the most famous horses in history (like Seabiscuit) in races here. Now, it’s a dog track, but you can bet on greyhound races every day. They start their 13 daily races at 7:30 PM. On the weekends, they also have matinee races at 2 PM.
Did I mention that the casino is open 24/7?
Hipódromo de las Américas and Royal Yak Casino Is Also Notable
Hipódromo de las Américas and Royal Yak Casino is located in Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City. They feature mostly video slots, but they do have progressive jackpots of around $200,000. They also feature electronic bingo and electronic roulette games.
They feature a handful of table games like roulette and sic bo. The racebook and sportsbook is also popular.
As with most larger casinos, Hipódromo de las Américas and Royal Yak Casino has food and beverage service. They also have a stage at Yak Studio where you can catch live comedy and music acts.
The History of Casino Gambling in Mexico
Of course, gambling is prevalent throughout ancient history, so it’s no surprise that the Aztecs gambled. More recently, what we’d recognize as modern gambling came to Mexico in the 1800s via the French. When the French were still trying to colonize Mexico, they built various small casinos across the country.
In 1911, after the Mexican Revolution, real money casino gambling halted until the 1920s. The legal situation in the United States made it so that Americans were looking for places to gamble (and drink) during Prohibition.
But in 1935, casino gambling became illegal again under President Lazaro Cardenas. The laws banning gambling grew even more strict with further laws passed in 1947.
People have argued about whether to fully legalize casino gambling throughout Mexico ever since. The hotel industry, of course, supports legalizing casinos. Their hope is to increase tourism.
People on the opposite side argue that broadening legal casinos will bring in foreign entrepreneurs who will get mixed up with organized crime. Casinos are notorious vehicles for laundering money.
On top of that, many Mexicans have traditional moral values that frown on casino gambling on principle.
The Mexican government lightened up on gambling restrictions in 2004. The Ministry of the Interior in Mexico is responsible for oversight of the industry. Casino operators must obtain permits from this branch of the government to be able to operate legally within the country.
None of the laws on the books specifically address online gambling in Mexico. That’s likely to change in the future, as most offshore casinos ignore existing laws that could be interpreted to outlaw online casinos.
Baja California Is Home to More Casinos in Mexico Than Anywhere Else
Tijuana is in Baja, California, Mexico, and that’s where the bulk of casino gambling in the country is centered. Caliente Casino Hipodromo de Tijuana, which I profiled earlier in this post, is located there. You can find roughly three dozen casinos in Baja, California.
Notable among these casinos are San Nicolas Hotel and Casino and Caliente Casino Jai Alai Zona Centro, both of which are among the only casinos in the country offering poker cardrooms like you’d find in the United States.
More than 80% of the casinos in Baja, California, Mexico have fewer than 200 slot machine games in them. A lot of them also offer bingo, but for the most part, the casinos here are smaller affairs, especially compared to the mega-casinos in the United States (especially the Las Vegas casino resorts).
Video Gambling Machines in Mexico
The 2004 laws didn’t legalize what you and I think of as slot machines. The video gambling machines in Mexico are more like the bingo-based slot machines in Oklahoma or the skill-stop games you might find at some casinos in Nevada. They must include a skill element, even if it’s a small one, to be legal under the new laws.
The payback percentages that I saw reported online for these games was between 94% and 96%. I have no firsthand experience with such games, so I don’t know how accurate this is. I do know that casinos could make plenty of profit with an average house edge of 5%, but such paybacks in the United States are almost unheard of except on high limit slots on the Las Vegas Strip.
Bingo is at least as popular as it is here in the United States. The big difference is that Mexican bingo halls usually also have gambling machines in them.
They also play the lottery in Mexico. Scratch off tickets are especially popular.
Sadly, cockfighting is still a popular type of gambling in Mexico. You can’t bet on these events through the sportsbooks in the country, though. Cockfights are private affairs.
This isn’t to say that cockfighting is legal. It’s just largely ignored by Mexican law enforcement.
Another event that people bet on in Mexico is bullfighting. Compared to the United States, this is unusual indeed. We still have bullfighting in the United States, but it’s not the same as in Mexico. I’m sure it gets action here, too, but it’s far more popular south of the border.
They have a vibrant gambling culture in Mexico, but the legal and cultural differences between casino gambling in Mexico and the United States is dramatically different. Even though Mexico has a lot of casinos, many of them are only barely operating inside the law. And in terms of large casinos with hotels attached to them, Mexico only has a handful. Most of their casinos are just small slot machine parlors.
Remember to keep this in mind and do your research before planning any gambling trips. And as always, good luck!
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …